Reizy Morgenstern called her mother on Monday from Arizona, where she was vacationing with three close friends, raving about the scenic views.
“It’s so beautiful, it’s such niflaos haBorei,” Reizy, 22, told her parents. “Mommy, don’t worry. I’m safe and sound.”
Hours later, as they were riding on a highway damp from a recent downpour, a horrific head-on crash with a tractor trailer took the lives of Reizy, a”h, 22, and Hindy Spira, a”h, 26, two teachers from Boro Park, stunning the Jewish community worldwide. Two other girls, Miriam bas Gittel and Faiga Sarah bas Bracha Chaya, sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were hospitalized in Los Angeles. They are, baruch Hashem, doing fine.
The levayah of Hindy Spira, called by a family member “the apple of [her parents’] eye,” was scheduled for Tuesday night in Shomrei Hadas chapels. She came from a respected Gerrer family in Boro Park. Kevurah will be in Skver, near her grandmother.
The levayah of Reizy, described by her mother as her “very special flower,” was scheduled for immediately afterward, at 11:00, in Shomrei Hadas. She belonged to the Klausenburger and Burstyner kehillah. Kevurah will be in the Monsey beis hachaim.
The accident sent shudders throughout the Jewish world, as two young women lost their lives in their prime. Chai Lifeline dispatched Rabbi Yaakov Klar, head of their Project Chai bereavement program. Rabbi Klar spent all of Monday night and Tuesday shuttling between the families.
“According to what I heard,” Rabbi Klar said, “these were especially good girls” who were in the car.
Reizy, the daughter of Reb Moshe and Ruti, worked hard the first half of the summer, going around the mountains with her music and preparing for the upcoming school year. For the second half, she and three close friends planned a trip to the Southwest.
The girls looked forward to their “nature” outing, as they referred to it, staying in Los Angeles for Shabbos. They planned one last visit to the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Ariz., before their return trip home.
According to Lt. Jack Arend of the Holbrook police department, the Jeep Cherokee driven by the girls pulled out of an intersection and was “broadsided” by the rig.
“This was in an area where one state route stops and another state route starts,” Arend told Hamodia. “So this was a big intersection.”
Arend estimated that the accident was caused by a mixture of the truck driver not noticing the Jeep and the slippery road making it too difficult to stop soon enough. The truck driver was hospitalized with light injuries.
Goldie Spira said that her sister-in-law, Hindy, “was a super-responsible, dedicated person. Whatever she did was with all her heart. … These are girls who took life seriously; these are the cream-of-the-crop girls.”
Mrs. Spira said that her sister-in-law had a sunny personality, “just radiating friendliness and happiness.”
Hindy, who studied in Tomer Devora for both elementary and high school, taught in Bais Yaakov of Boro Park for the past few years and ran their after-school program.
Rabbi Osher Ehrenreich, the longtime principal of Bais Yaakov, recalled Hindy as a dedicated teacher who was the address for girls who needed to talk to someone. He said that her untimely petirah was a huge loss for the students.
“She was dedicated and really concerned about her students,” Rabbi Ehrenreich said. “She established relationships with her students, she was able to listen, she had tremendous tolerance for all human beings. People with problems used to come speak to her.”
“This is a tremendous loss for the school, for the students who could have had her,” he added. “She was very competent. She ran a very organized and efficient program. The students enjoyed being there. They derived a lot of important experiences.”
Hindy was enormously devoted to her parents, Reb Yitzchok and Sarah Leah Spira, said Goldie Spira.
“The kibbud av v’em she showed them was exemplary,” she said. “She was the apple of their eye.”
There was a period years ago when at various times all four of Hindy’s grandparents required help. “There was nothing that my parents-in-law would not do for their parents. And my sister-in-law grew up seeing this,” Mrs. Spira said.
Hindy’s bright smile, sunny personality and cheery little gifts and notes she distributed daily lifted the spirits of any person she came across.
“She always had a smile on her face,” said Mrs. Spira, who also worked with her sister-in-law in Bais Yaakov. “Whatever was happening in her life no one would have known. She always came to school with a smile.”
Hindy was supremely devoted to the welfare of both her students and the teachers who staffed the afterschool program.
“She cared that the food for the students should be fresh and the kids should like it,” Mrs. Spira said. “She made sure that the after-school teachers should have snacks, since they were usually seminary students who came straight from school. She would attach a cheery note — ‘hi, just letting you know I’m thinking of you!’”
Hindy’s co-teacher, and supervisor of the after-school program, Bassheva Alpert, recently started a program to incentivize children to answer Amein or not to speak lashon hara as a zechus for her comatose daughter, Chaya Malka bas Bassheva. Hindy frequently helped her out, both on the school work and in the program. She would give out the prizes, announce the winners and speak on the hotline.
“‘I would do anything for Malky,’ she would say. She did all this for her, even though I know that deep down it was hard for her,” according to Mrs. Spira.
Mrs. Spira said that all the dozens of nieces and nephews were crying over Hindy’s tragic passing that she was like their only aunt. She bought special chasunah and baby gifts for her married nieces and nephews, and loved coming over to see their newborn babies.
Hindy, the youngest of nine children, was conscientious about her private avodah, not missing a day of her seder learning with her parents hilchos tznius, lashon hara and Shabbos. For two summers she went to Camp Orach Chaim, founded by Rabbi Yaakov Bleich in Ukraine, to help young women acclimate to a Torah lifestyle. She kept up with her campers for years afterward.
“She was a good friend, she was a good sister, she had so many facets to her life. … She was nice and loving to everybody. A lechtige girl,” Mrs. Spira said. “She was, really, an overachiever and someone who touched all the bases.”
Reizy Morgenstern was remembered by her mother on Tuesday as a girl who was “all heart,” someone who had extraordinary talents but “didn’t have an ounce of gaavah.”
“Where does one begin?” Mrs. Morgenstern told Hamodia. “Think of a Yiddishe girl who had tznius, exemplary, exemplary middos — I don’t think there was ever a person who had anything [bad] to do with her, from teachers to friends.”
Reizy studied in Bais Brocho elementary and Tomer Devorah high school before embarking on a special education teaching career, in Tiferes Miriam, about two years ago.
“She was all heart, into chessed and caring,” her mother said. “She had such care for [her class]; she tried to be there for them. It was unbelievable, because I was afraid that she wouldn’t control [the class] because she was so eidel. But in a loving, firm way [she did]. She was so well-liked that the students went crazy over her — from letters to notes [sent to her]. They never wanted to do anything if Teacher Reizy wasn’t also involved.”
An “extremely talented” girl, Mrs. Morgenstern said, Reizy set up a music studio, with which she would go around to camps and sing and perform for them.
“She had a sweetness about her; [she was] very pleasant to be around, I could tell you as her parent — never in her life did we have a hardship, never a lack of kibbud av v’em, always agreeing, with such respect for the grandparents.”
“She was a flower. She was a special, special flower,” Mrs. Morgenstern says. “These were a group of really chashuve, quality girls.”
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