Sarah Schenirer

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Sarah Schenirer
Sarah Schenirer memorial matzevah (tombstone), Podgorze new Jewish cemetery (Kraków, Poland)

Sarah Schenirer (also Soroh Shenirer) (July 15, 1883[1] - March 1, 1935 (yartzeit 26 Adar I)) was a pioneer of Jewish education for girls. In 1917, she established the Beis Yaakov (lit. "house of Jacob") school network in Poland.

Biography[edit]

Sarah Schenirer was born in Krakow, Poland on July 15, 1883 to Bezalel Schenirer (born in Tarnów) and Chaya Lack.[1] In her memoirs, she describes herself as the unassuming and withdrawn daughter of Hasidic parents. She attended school until the age of thirteen, but could not continue because her family was poor. She became a seamstress.[2] When one client was unusually particular about the measurements of her dress, Schenirer wrote in her diary: "People are such perfectionists when it comes to clothing their bodies. Are they so particular when they address themselves to the needs of their soul?" [3]

After the outbreak of World War I in 1914 she moved to Vienna, but returned to Kraków early the next year, where she organized a group of girls and taught them Jewish studies.[2] She succeeded in overcoming initial resistance against this new type of school and saw rapid development of about 300 schools in pre Holocaust Europe. Her initiative was approved by the leading rabbis of the times, such as the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as "the Chofetz Chaim").

In 1923 Schenirer set up a teachers' seminary to train staff for her rapidly expanding network of schools. The main goal of the schools was "to train Jewish daughters so that they will serve the Lord with all their might and with all their hearts; so that they will fulfill the commandments of the Torah with sincere enthusiasm and will know that they are the children of a people whose existence does not depend upon a territory of its own, as do other nations of the world whose existence is predicated upon a territory and similar racial background." [4]

Legacy[edit]

When she died in 1935, more than 200 Beis Yaakov schools were teaching approximately 35,000 girls. One of her students was Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, founder of the first Bais Yaakov high school and teachers seminary in America. In her will, she wrote: "My dear girls, you are going out into the great world. Your task is to plant the holy seed in the souls of pure children. In a sense, the destiny of Israel of old is in your hands."[5]

Literary references[edit]

In her novel Peleh Laylah, Israeli author Esther Ettinger, who studied at a Beis Yaakov school as a girl, weaves in passages from Sara Schenirer's writings.[6]

Her student Pearl Benisch wrote a book about Sarah Schenirer called "Carry Me in Your Heart.[7]"

The book "Rebbetzin Grunfeld" - The Life of Judith Grunfeld Courageous Pioneer of the Bais Yaakov Movement and Jewish Rebirth Artscroll Series, was written by Miriam Dansky about Sarah Schenirer's colleague.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The State Archive of Krakow: "Jewish Civil Registry of Krakow", Town: Krakow, Date (Julian Calendar): 3 July (15 July on the Gregorian Calendar), 1883, Akta (record) #: 403, Record Type: birth, Surname: Schenirer, Given Name: Sara, Father: Zalel, Mother: Roza Lack (daughter of Abraham and Chaja)
  2. ^ a b Yivo Encyclopedia: Sarah Schenirer
  3. ^ Sarah Schenirer: The Mother of Generations
  4. ^ Beth Jacob chronology
  5. ^ Martin Gilbert, The Jews in the Twentieth Century (New York: Schocken Books, 2001), 118-19.
  6. ^ Journal Summer 06
  7. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=QkzLv9bsYXoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=carry+me+in+your+heart&source=bl&ots=NJ5PwB3n_z&sig=X9zULJDVkgz71rg4wkqIHlhqx4M&hl=en&ei=w1xuTfKLKYObtweepsD-Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&sqi=2&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

External links[edit]