We thought she would surely live to greet Moshiach.
The petirah of Mrs. Hinda (Edith) Tress, sadly, marks the end of an era. This matriarch of an empire of Torah, askanus and chessed exemplified the ideal ezer k’negdo and eim b’Yisrael. She encouraged her husband, the legendary Reb Elimelech Gavriel (Mike) Tress, zt”l, in his relentless hatzalah work, youth leadership and building of a strong and proud Orthodoxy in America.
Firmly sharing his values, she stood by him as he exchanged the life of a well-to-do businessman for that of full-time osek b’tzarchei tzibbur b’emunah, mortgaging all his personal assets — which could have engendered a comfortable life for their large family — to help Agudas Yisrael grow in strength and viability, doing more and more to serve the individual Jew and the broader klal.
Mrs. Tress shared her husband’s emunas chachamim; her reverence for the Gedolei Torah who often graced their home, and whose decisions guided their lives, matched his. While Mr. Tress traveled abroad for hatzalah work, met with Roshei Yeshivah and askanim on burning matters of the klal, and engaged in countless projects — from raising funds for refugee children in Eretz Yisrael, to facilitating kosher food packages for Jewish American servicemen, to seeking suitable sites for Camps Agudah and Bnos — she raised their family and managed their home, thereby enabling him to do his vital work secure in the knowledge that his children were well cared for, that his worthy partner in life was capably at the helm on the home front.
Mrs. Tress, née Bagry, was born 98 years ago. She grew up in Philadelphia as part of an extended family that was known for maintaining an uncompromising Torah-true stance when most of American Jewry was shedding Yiddishkeit in favor of acculturation. Her father passed away when Hinda was young and her uncle, Reb Kalman Drebin, z”l, became her father figure.
Hinda went to public school and received her Torah chinuch at home, since no afternoon Talmud Torah met Uncle Kalman’s exacting standards. He would not allow the children to be educated by teachers whose personal Yiddishkeit was lacking.
Instead of public high school, she attended a girls-only business school, acquiring skills that served her well.
The wedding of Mike Tress and Edith Bagry, held in 1939 at the Empire Mansion in Brownsville, Brooklyn, marked the beginning of a new bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael, one in which 11 children, each of whom would ultimately contribute much to Klal Yisrael in his or her own way, would be raised al pi derech Yisrael Saba. Mrs. Tress’s choice to wear a sheitel was an anomaly at the time, as was the couple’s decision to have separate seating at the wedding. They were pioneers, in the noblest sense of the word.
Reb Elimelech Gavriel Tress was niftar in 5527/1967. For 47 years, his wife continued to live as the refined and pleasant ovedes Hashem that she was. Her emunah, tefillah, savlanus and ne’imus were living lessons. Her empathy and understanding of people were deeply-rooted. Her einiklach esteemed and adored her; Baba Tress was their queen, and it was an indisputable honor to be in her presence.
Summers, after her workweek, she spent Shabbos at the bungalow colony where several of her children stayed; they animatedly vied with one another for the privilege of hosting Baba. For the rest of those in the colony — who treasured her as well, relishing her pleasant company and savoring her abundant brachos — it was an awesome, unforgettable phenomenon.
When her son, Harav Avraham Gershon Tress, z”l, son-in-law of Harav Chayim Mordechai Katz, zt”l, an outstanding talmid of Yeshivas Telshe, Cleveland, and later a Rosh Yeshivah at Yeshivas Kol Yaakov, Monsey, suffered from a devastating disease, she was a bulwark of strength to the family. It was only after his passing that she allowed herself the release of copious tears.
She illuminated her surroundings with the golden light of her ahavas Yisrael; her innate wisdom; her tznius and humility. Even in her last years, when she was frail and her children cared for her, constantly and devotedly, that love and light exuded from her. Her passing brings a loss that is keenly felt by the thousands who were privileged to know her.
Mrs. Tress is survived by, ybl”c, her brother, Harav Yidel Ackerman of Yerushalayim; sons, Reb Shmuel Boruch, Reb Tzvi, and Reb Mendel; daughters, Henie Meisels, Eska Reidel, Leah Bloch, Donya Pichey, Shevy Jundef, Devorah Tropper and Basie Rosenblatt; and grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren who follow her illustrious path.
Yehi zichrah baruch.
B’ezras Hashem, a more comprehensive tribute will be featured in a weekly edition of Hamodia.