Mrs. Aliza Grund, a”h, long-time president of Nshei Agudath Israel of America and daughter of the legendary askan, Rabbi Chaskel Besser, z”l, was niftar this past Erev Shabbos, 4 Sivan. She was 70 years old.
Whether in her role as a leader in the Agudah ladies’ auxiliary, at the helm of her well-known travel agency (which was in itself an outlet for countless chassadim), or in any of the many projects that Mrs. Grund took upon herself for individuals or the tzibbur, she was known for her total dedication and willingness to do whatever was in her power to help others. At the same time, true to the legacy of her father, the late Rabbi Besser, she took great pains to ensure that whatever efforts she felt driven to make would not only fulfill the ratzon Hashem, but make a kiddush Hashem as well.
“She embodied yashrus, everything had to be in equanimity and with a harmony that combined what the Eibershter wants and the way people will perceive it,” Rabbi Shlomo Besser, brother of Mrs. Grund, told Hamodia. “In all kinds of situations, she was willing to do whatever she could to lend a helping hand. There was no such thing as ‘I can’t.’ Whatever it was, she always felt you had to try.”
Aliza Grund was born in 1948 in Tel Aviv to Rabbi Cheskel Besser and, tbl”ch, Rebbetzin Liba Besser. When she was still a very young child, the Besser family moved from Tel Aviv to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where they would become fixtures of the Jewish community both locally, nationally, and internationally.
She attended “Breuer’s” girls’ school in Washington Heights and in her early teen years became a leader in the local Bnos Agudath Israel chapter. Her involvement in the organization would last a lifetime. She eventually became co-president of Bnos and then co-president of the Nshei for over 30 years until the time of her petirah.
Mrs. Grund learned ahavas Yisrael and dedication to the needs of the klal from her parents who maintained an open home to Jews of all stripes and where she witnessed firsthand her father’s tireless efforts on behalf of the klal.
In the early 1970’s, Mrs. Grund married, ybl”ch, Rabbi Avraham Abba Grund, son of Rabbi Chaim Grund, z”l, who settled in the Bronx upon coming to the U.S. after World War II. Reb Chaim was a native of the Belorussian city of Kamenetz and had been a ben bayis in the home of Harav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, zt”l. Reb Chaim’s son, Rabbi Avraham Abba Grund, would receive semichah from Yeshivas Rabbenu Jacob Joseph before going on to a career in computer science.
Soon after their marriage, Rabbi Avraham and Aliza Grund settled in Flatbush where they established a well-known home of chessed and dedication to the needs of the community. The Grunds have been loyal and involved members of Khal Gvul Yaavetz under the leadership of Harav Dovid Cohen. In addition to being long-time mispallelim, Mrs. Grund consulted frequently with Rav Cohen about halachic issues that arose in connection to her chessed and askanus.
First working with her uncle, another well-known askan, Reb Nachman Elbaum, z”l, Mrs. Grund entered the travel agency business shortly after her marriage, and a few years later opened her own company, Voyages Unlimited. In addition to absorbing Reb Nachman’s business acumen, she also followed in his footsteps in learning how to turn a business into a channel for helping her fellow Jew.
Far more than a means of helping to support her family, Mrs. Grund became a trusted address for helping to expedite the transfer of niftarim to Eretz Yisrael, not exclusively for her own clients.
On one occasion, she received a frantic call from a rav that a flight which a family had planned to use to fly their loved one to kevurah in Eretz Yisrael had left the gate without the aron. In her signature can-do attitude, Mrs. Grund snapped into action, successfully getting the plane to taxi back and open its cargo container to load the mittah which had only now gotten to the airport.
Calls to help transport mittos often came at inconvenient times such as nights, early mornings, Erev Shabbos and Motzoei Shabbos, when she did not have regular businesses hours. She once nearly missed a Purim seudah to help a family of aveilim. Yet Mrs. Grund was not one to turn away a Jew in need of her help, often commenting, “When Hashem sends me a mitzvah, how can I turn it away?”
On the communal level too, Mrs. Grund often used her skills for the greater good. She not only was responsible for the purchase and arrangement of tickets for participants in Agudah’s annual yarchei kallah in Yerushalayim, but she made it a project to see that all of the lodging and other arrangements for the event were made as comfortable as possible. Indeed, much of the current popularity the program is in no small part to her credit.
From a young age, Mrs. Grund lent a helping hand to her father, Rabbi Besser, in his far-ranging askanus. She accompanied him on many of his trips to Eastern Europe both before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain where he traveled to preserve neglected kevarim and later to help re-establish Jewish communal life and chinuch institutions. Having high regard for his daughter’s logistical and organizational abilities, and above all her dedication to seeing that good ideas should come to fruition, Mrs. Grund was picked to go along as a general assistant and traveling secretary to help deal with the many tasks that arose.
Always an especially loyal daughter, as her parents aged, Mrs. Grund took a leading role in attending to their care.
At the helm of the Agudah’s Nshei, she was responsible for organizing many of its regular shiurim, fundraisers, and other events. Working with contacts in Eretz Yisrael she helped to direct much of the funds raised to benefit orphans and other needy individuals in the Holy Land.
From a young age, Mrs. Grund felt a close connection to kedushas Eretz Yisrael and would go on to use both her leadership positions and her business to help others feel a closer bond to the land as well.
While still a single girl, she initiated the Live and Learn Tour, widely known as “the Bais Yaakov Tour,” which, for almost 40 years, enabled girls to experience the holiness and beauty of Eretz Yisrael in a trip lasting a few weeks. Mrs. Grund also provided the travel arrangements for many seminary students to Eretz Yisrael each year, not merely arranging transport services but delivering her legendary send-off speech at the airport for her group flights, which was a chinuch lesson in and of itself, aimed to set the backdrop for their year abroad.
With great dedication to the preservation of Jewish heritage and her unique diplomatic and planning skills, Mrs. Grund led the Sarah Schenirer project, a successful effort to purchase the site of the original Bais Yaakov in Crakow as well as the construction of a memorial at its legendary founder’s resting place in the Plashow beis hachaim. In addition, she led the organization of events to mark the legendary mechaneses’ yahrzeit as well as organizing trips to trace the movement’s steps in Poland.
“She was a born leader and a very gifted and natural speaker,” Mrs. Esther Bohensky, who served as co-President of the Nshei for several years, told Hamodia. “Everybody seemed to know her and her petirah is a very big loss to us all.”
Mrs. Grund’s petirah on Erev Shabbos, after struggling with an illness for some time, did not leave sufficient time to arrange for her levayah before Shavuos. The levayah was held on Tuesday afternoon, Isru Chag, at Shomrei Hachomos Chapel in Boro Park. The aron was brought to Eretz Yisrael where additional hespedim and kevurah took place in Beit Shemesh.
Mrs. Grund is survived by, ybl”ch: her mother, Rebbetzin Ahuva (Liba) Besser; her husband, Rabbi Avraham Abba Grund; her siblings, Rabbis Shlomo and Naftali Besser and Mrs. Debbie Rosenberg; her children, Mrs. Rivka Sender, Reb Menachem Dov Grund, and Mrs. Basi Berkowitz; as well as by several grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Yehi zichrah baruch.
Updated Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 1:32 pm