I just got back from Rebbetzin Weinberg’s funeral in Baltimore. She was my mentor and “Bubby” (and wife of my beloved Rebbe, HaRav Ya’akov Weinberg zt’l). The article below was written by someone else. I hope to post my own memories about her soon.
A Tribute: Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg a”h
Wednesday January 25, 2012
By Margie Pensak
As the Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlita, remarked at the levaya of Rebbetzin Chana Weinberg’s, a”h, she was an eisha gedola in the full sense of the word. She grew up in a home of royalty and majesty, and watched her father, the founder and first Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, HaRav Yaakov Yitchok Ruderman, z”l, constantly occupied in Torah. The Rebbetzin saw the chashivus (importance) for Torah while growing up; there was nothing more important to her than Torah. It drove her to accomplish all her achievements she had in her lifetime.
The Rosh Hayeshiva also noted that the petira of Rebbetzin Weinberg marks the loss of one of the last remnants of the gadlos of Lithuanian Jewry, of which her father was a stellar representative. The Rebbetzin continued that Lithuanian remnant and we’ve lost that; it is not just a loss for her family, but for klal Yisroel. In addition, the Rebbetzin’s passing was a loss for the yeshiva, in particular, as well as the klal, because as long as she was alive,her husband, Rav Shmuel Yaakov, z”l, was alive also.
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Bais Moshe Chaim, in Miami, an alumnus of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, followed HaRav Feldman in being maspid the Rebbetzin. Rabbi Zweig noted that the Rebbetzin understood that the role of a woman is to build a bridge–a fusion between the past and the future. Having built a shalom bayis institution, she was much sought after in Florida and all over the country; people would ask, “How can we get her here?’
The Rebbetzin’s sensitivity, natural instinct, and willingness to extend herself to anyone who needed her, were exceptional. Rabbi Zweig related a story of a young woman who recently told him that her whole sense of self-esteem was because of the Rebbetzin.
HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, Rosh HaYeshiva of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, said that the Ribono shel Olam sends malachim to find out about the niftar–what he/she did for the community, for others. Torah begins only when you give to others, just not yourself. A person is not born for himself. Rebbetzin Chana did for others and she got this yerusha from her mother, Rebbetzin Ruderman, a”h. Her interest was always to do for others; even when she was not well, she thought about others.
Rabbi Matis Weinberg, a son of the nifteres, in his hesped, noted that it was not tzadikim, but tzidkonios that were responsible for the binyan (building) of klal Yisroel. He also reminisced about watching, as a youngster, the vitality and excitement with which his mother built the yeshiva’s women’s auxiliary–a vitality that never ceased. And, when his daughter was visiting her grandmother, last erev Shabbos, she reviewed with her the Rebbetzin’s past achievements. “She smiled her last smile…a smile without wrinkles, without age…three more generations…a secret smile between banos.”
Rav Beryl Weisbord, Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, and son-in-law of the nifteres, recounted that the Rebbetzin was a woman who, like her husband, exemplified being a talmida of her father and mother, without being a carbon copy.
“She took her yisodos and applied them to herself, like a true talmid of a rebbe,” said Rav Weisbord. “She preceded the times with what she brought out, what she dared to do, the way she did it, and how, even if it was not in the vogue. She wasn’t brought up in a Bais Yaakov environment; her Bais Yaakov was her home–she had a leibadicka Bais Yaakov… It wasn’t easy to be a bas yechida (only child) in a different country. When growing up in a home that was being marbitz Torah, building a community, building Torah, you didn’t always come first, and for an only child that doesn’t always come first, it is not always easy–you lead a very lonely life. The Rebbetzin took those yesodos and she built with them. She didn’t allow herself to shrivel up. She had spunk and she had koach and she applied and used it…she created a revolution.”
The Rebbetzin was a teacher par excellence, who years ago traveled four hours roundtrip, in addition to spending time teaching Talmud Torah students in Lexington Park. Later, as the director of activities in the former Jewish Convalescent Home, she excelled, as well. So devoted was she to her job, she even spent an entire Yom Kippur there, taking care of her patients. She would host several meetings at her home, for the Bikur Cholim organization she founded, as well as for other causes dedicated to helping children, adults, physically handicapped, abused women, amongst others. She would help raise funds for the causes she so believed in, and speak to the “right people” who could make it happen.
Rav Weisbord ended by thanking his wife, Dr. Aviva Weisbord, who, being the only child in Baltimore, had the opportunity and responsibility to be involved in her mother’s care to the greatest amount, but together with her sisters and brothers, worked very, very hard to see to it that the Rebbetzin was able to go on doing her communal and individual work–even when that became very difficult.
Rabbi Reuven Zwick, son-in-law of the nifteres, mentioned that the Rebbetzin once reviewed with him a Where What When column that she wrote, asking his opinion. When he answered it was ‘good’, she told him, “Good is good; better is better. Let’s turn a word around so people will understand what is coming from my heart, rather than my pen.”
Rabbi Ilan Feldman, rav of Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta, and son-in-law of the nifteres, remarked the Rebbetzin was born into royalty, married into royalty, carried herself royally, and spread royalty. Her life became a powerful lesson for every single Jew….the world is a different place because she shared the Torah she knew in her own unique way.
Yehuda Weisbord, grandson of the nifteres, reminisced how his grandmother would make hot cocoa for him on snowy days, and how she cared very deeply about each and every one of her children and grandchildren. Her life, he said, is a lesson of how much one person can accomplish. He related a story about a letter that was stuck in the Rebbetzin’s mailbox for three years. It was written by a woman who asked her for help settling into the community. When the Rebbetzin was finally able to extricate the letter from her mailbox, she called the sender. The woman thanked her for calling, three years later. By now, she had settled into the community, but interestingly enough, she was facing a particular problem at the time, with which the Rebbetzin was able to help her.
“She had a sense of presence,” said Yehuda Weisbord. “She could not be ignored, because the power of her convictions was such that people had to take her seriously. She had a deep sense of caring, too. She didn’t let things slide–she would confront the person to address an issue directly, giving the opportunity to make it right.”
When the Rebbetzin would travel around the world, she was interested in hearing and learning new things, rather than sightseeing. When she went to South Africa, she asked to be shown schools and eldercare facilities, rather than diamond mines and safaris.
Rav Sheftel Neuberger, menahel of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, was the last to be maspid. He referred to the Rebbetzin as a very multi-faceted individual. He noted that it could not have been very easy for her, watching her parents fighting the tide of a community that wasn’t very enamored with the yeshiva, back in the 30s. “Who needs this?’ This is not where our world is going!’ were the sentiments at that time. Only with the perseverance of the Rebbetzin’s mother and father were they able to prevail.
The Rebbetzin went to public school, continued Rav Neuberger, where she confronted the world going in a different direction. She used her kochos to develop an incredible simchas hachaim, which served her magnificently throughout her life.
“She also had charisma, an incredible lev tov,” continued Rav Neuberger. “She was a compassionate listener with a sense of empathy that connected her with so many people–an enormous range of people, who were enamored by her simchas hachaim and charisma. She was a great motivator of people… she had qualities of leadership…there are many, many women across America, whose lives she touched in a positive way.”
May Rebbetzin Shayna Chana bas HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok HaLevi serve as a malitza yosher for all of klal Yisroel, and may the Rebbetzin’s memory live on in all of us, as we apply the many lessons we have learned from her life.