Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a”h

(Gili Yaari/Flash90)
(Gili Yaari/Flash90)

A crowd of thousands of bereft mourners from across the spectrum of Klal Yisrael gathered at the Agudas Yisrael of Long Island in Far Rockaway to bid a tearful farewell to the woman that they had come to know as their mentor, inspiration and mother figure, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a”h. The Rebbetzin was remembered as a larger than life figure, a trailblazer of kiruv, a celebrated speaker and author, and at the same time a much beloved mother and grandmother, and a woman with room in her heart for every single Jew.

Harav Yaakov Reisman, Mara d’Asra of the Agudas Yisrael, where the Rebbetzin delivered her popular Shabbos Mevorchim addresses, was the first of several maspidim.

He opened by noting the lesson to be learned from the fact that the Rebbetzin was steeped in the traditions of her hallowed ancestors, preached a message of old world emunah and bitachon, and yet reached thousands of Jews steeped in contemporary American society.

“She taught a message that resonated with the hearts and minds of the Jewish People,” he said. “There are those that say that you have to repackage the message of Yiddishkeit for today’s generation. The Rebbetzin’s life work refutes that. The Rebbetzin was a woman who came from another world and, yet, people came week after week to hear her drashos. One lesson of her life is that what we have had for thousands of years still works.”

Yaakov Jungreis, a brother of the nifteres, reminisced about the difficult times that he spent together with his sister in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as well as of the Rebbetzin’s phenomenal dedication to her parents, even as a young child.

He recalled that her birth on the first night of Pesach turned out to be prescient of her lifelong undertaking.

“She was born on Leil Shimurim, and that was her mission — to watch out for all of Klal Yisrael,” he said.

Rabbi Osher Jungreis, a son of the nifteres, spoke of the sense of royalty that his mother exuded wherever she went and the drive and strength that allowed her to accomplish so much in her life.

“Her life was beyond nature,” he said. “She never wasted time. She was always davening, writing or teaching, and never went to bed before 2:00 a.m. She was a small woman full of ambition. She never gave up on anyone and brought life to the neshamos of people who didn’t even know that they had a neshamah.”

Rabbi Jungreis also noted the Rebbetzin’s exceptional ability to connect to the pain and needs of others, as well as her deep connection to all those whose lives were touched by her vanguard kiruv organization, Hineni.

“We ask who will give us such brachos as she used to give, now that she is gone. But it’s much more than that — who will have the love for another Yid to make them want to give brachos the way that she did?” he asked. “We’ve lost a mother, Klal Yisrael has lost a mother and Hineni has lost a mother; she always called her Hineini family her spiritual grandchildren.”

Several grandchildren spoke of Rebbetzin Jungreis’s constant reminders of the family’s great ancestry, tracing itself to generations of the most prominent Rabbanim in Hungarian Jewry, reminding them time and time again about who their forebears were.

“Even when we were small children, she gave us a pride in the previous generations. At every family gathering she said over the yichus so that the grandchildren should know where they come from,” said her grandson Yaakov Jungreis. “She gave over Torah and mesorah with the fire and passion of maamad Har Sinai.”

Another grandchild, Yosef Dov Gertzulin, related an incident that brought out the lighter side of his grandmother’s connection to mesorah and what it behooves.

“She found out that my little son was being rowdy on the school bus and told him, ‘Meshulem, you’re named after a big tzaddik — you must behave.’”

Other maspidim included the Gorlitzer Rebbe, Harav Yitzchok Dov Jungreis; the Rebbetzin’s brother Yonasan Binyamin Jungreis; her son Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis; sons-in-law Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin and Mendy Wolff; as well as her grandsons Moshe Nosson Wolff and Moshe Nosson Jungreis.

The levayah proceeded to Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, New York, where the Rebbetzin was laid to rest beside her husband, Rabbi Meshulem Jungreis, zt”l.

Updated Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 9:28 pm