Misfortune: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Jungreis spent her early childhood in Szeged, Hungary, where her father was chief rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish community. Her maiden name was Jungreis (she married a distant cousin Theodore Jungreis; the name Jungreis was common in Hungary at the time with over 85 Orthodox rabbis having the surname). Rabbi Jungreis, the Rav of Szeged, was deported with other Jews from Szeged in a cattle car bound for Auschwitz. However a relative that worked for Rudolph Kastner’s office arranged that when the train from Szeged passed through Budapest the cattle car was opened and the entire Jungreis family went onto the so-called Kastner train to Switzerland.

In 1947 they moved to Brooklyn, New York, where she reconnected with distant cousin Theodore Jungreis, a rabbi. They married. She was called Rebbetzin, a Yiddish term of respect and endearment for the wife of a rabbi and, increasingly, a term of respect for an outstanding Orthodox female teacher of Judaism.

Eventually, they settled in North Woodmere, New York where Rabbi Jungreis led the Orthodox Congregation Ohr Torah. Together they raised four children. Rabbi Jungreis has died, but Rebbetzin Jungreis continues with her work. Now she lives in Lawrence, NY.

Due to her experiences as a Holocaust survivor, even though she was only in Bergen Belsen for a number of weeks as a small child at the very end of the war, she became “determined to devote her life to combating the spiritual holocaust that was occurring here in the United States.” This led to the birth of the Hineni Movement on November 18, 1973 in Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum.

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