Iconic Jewish Leader Esther Jungreis Passes at 80

Founder of Jewish Hineni Movement Esther Jungreis passed away last week.

Ester Jungreis, the woman the New York Times dubbed “The Jewish Billy Graham,” died recently at the age of 80, reports Tablet.

Jungreis, an Orthodox Jew, was known for her outspoken stances against secularism, liberalism, and perhaps most famously, the assimilation of the American Jewish community, which she referred to as “spiritual genocide.”

She was most active in the 1970s and 80s during which she led thousands of young Jewish people in prayers and song in a tireless effort to spread her message. Additionally, her writing was published in books and a long-running weekly column in The Jewish Press.

Jungreis was a Holocaust survivor, having spent time in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany when she was only a child. Her main cause was to bring fallen Jews back to the faith, urging and helping them to either discover or rediscover traditional Jewish values.

This calling led her to found the Jewish outreach organization, Hineni, with her husband, Rabbi Theodore Jungreis. She was considered “Rebbetzin,” the Yiddish title bestowed upon the wives of rabbis, but by all accounts, she rose above that, serving for many as a “full-fledged rabbi in almost everything but name,” wrote Jonathan D. Sarna.

Back in 1997, although praising a generation of Jews who “surpassed expectations in every field,” she reiterated her life’s mission, to reeducate her people in traditional Jewish culture. “But when it comes to the Torah, we — the people of the book — have Jewish illiterates.”

Further, they never had any specific form of the religion that she was trying to return secular Jews to. “There is not one page in Torah that says anything about being Orthodox or Reform…These modern-day manifestations have only created disharmony. I believe that every Jew is a Jew; we have one Shabbat, one God, one Torah and one faith.”

This belief drove her personal crusade to unite, and reunite Jews for over 50 years.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter