Esther Jungreis

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Esther Jungreis at Scott Air Force Base during the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast.

Esther Jungreis (April 27, 1936 – August 23, 2016[1]) was a Hungarian-born American religious leader. She was the founder of the international Hineni movement in the United States. A Holocaust survivor, she worked to bring Jews to Orthodox Judaism.

A preview of her 4th book said "She asks her listeners to pause and consider who they are and why we are here."[2]

Biography[edit]

Jungreis was born and raised[3] in Szeged, Hungary on April 27, 1936,[4] to Avraham and Miriam Jungreis. Her two brothers, Jacob and Binyamin, both became rabbis.[5] Her father, Abraham, was an Orthodox rabbi and operated a little shtiebel in the city,[6] known for being at the time home to one of the country's most prominent Neolog community.[7] Abraham Jungreis was deported with other Jews from Szeged in a cattle car bound for Auschwitz. However a relative who 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 was transferred onto the so-called Kastner train,[8] which after a journey of several weeks and a diversion to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, delivered its 1,670 passengers in Switzerland.[9]

In 1947 the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Jungreis reconnected with distant cousin Theodore (Meshulem HaLevi) Jungreis, a rabbi, and they married.[10] The couple settled in North Woodmere, New York, and founded the North Woodmere Jewish Center/Orthodox Congregation Ohr Torah. Together they raised four children.[11]

Due to her experiences as a Holocaust survivor, she became "determined to devote her life to combating the spiritual holocaust that was occurring here in the United States."[12] This led to the birth of the Hineni movement on November 18, 1973, in Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum. The movement aimed to promote authentic, traditional Yiddishkeit in the United States.[13] As the leader of this movement, she drew criticism for her outspoken stance against interfaith marriages. She was also critical of secularization, which she viewed as a form of assimilation.[13]

After Rabbi Jungreis died in 1996, Rebbetzin Jungreis continued with outreach and education.[14] Along with Paysach Krohn, Jungreis served as a guest speaker at the annual Shavuot retreat hosted by The Gateways Organization.[15][16]

Jungreis died on August 23, 2016, aged 80, due to complications of pneumonia, [10][17][18] and survived by four children — Yisroel Jungreis and Osher Jungreis, both rabbis, Chaya Sara Gertzulin and Slava Chana Wolff. [19][5]. At the time of her death, she lived in Lawrence.[20]

Outreach work[edit]

The Hineni organization, the writings and worldwide lectures by the late Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis were her major accomplishments in Orthodox Judaism outreach.

Hineni Heritage Center

Hineni[edit]

Hineni (Hebrew: הִנֵּֽנִי[21]) 'Here I am,' is an organization founded in May 1973 by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis to encourage Jews to transition to Orthodox Judaism, a prominent example of the movement known as Ba'al Teshuva. Jungreis addressed large crowds throughout the 70s and 80s, including an early program titled "You Are a Jew" at Madison Square Garden on November 18, 1973,[22] She spoke forcefully against trends of secularization and assimilation that she considered to be "spiritual genocide."

The word 'Hineni' means 'Here I am' in a spiritual sense, which is what Abraham says and means to God to indicate his readiness when he is called on in Genesis 22:1[23][12] The name chosen by Rebbetzin Jungreis contrasts with the Hebrew word "Poe," which means present (as in attendance-taking).[24][25]

In 1989, the Hineni Heritage Center opened in New York City. The Center houses a multi-media museum and offers classes in Torah studies, Shabbatons (weekends) and High Holy Days services. They also conduct a singles program. Many of the couples who met through this program attend Hineni's Young Marrieds Seminars and their children participate in Hineni Torah Tots, linking three, and in some cases four generations. At the Hineni Bill and Jill Roberts Outreach Center in Jerusalem, in addition to educational and social programs, guidance and counseling are offered to youth at risk.[12]

Hineni became a worldwide movement with centers all over the world. As a result, Jungreis spoke in locations such as the Hollywood Palladium, the Johannesburg Coliseum and Binyanei HaUmah in Jerusalem. She also spoke regularly for the United States Army and Navy as well as for the Israel Defense Forces.[12] In 1998, Hineni opened a soup kitchen and youth center in Jerusalem, offering social and support services for young people at risk, apart from hosting an annual Passover Seder for the city’s homeless residents. [5]

Writings[edit]

Jungreis wrote four[18] books: Jewish Soul on Fire (William Morrow & Company – acclaimed as one of the ten best Jewish books of the year by B'nai B'rith); The Committed Life: Principles of Good Living from Our Timeless Past (Harper Collins, translated into Hebrew, Russian and Hungarian and in its eighth edition) and The Committed Marriage (Harper Collins).[26] Her last book, published in 2006, was Life Is a Test.[27][28]


For more than forty years, she wrote a column for The Jewish Press using the Torah as the source for solutions to everyday problems.[26]

Esther Jungreis (left) with April Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Budapest, September 15, 2008.

Awards, recognition[edit]

Jungreis was named "Woman of the Year" by Hadassah, Jewish War Veterans, B'nai B'rith, Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations, the Knights of Pythias, and the Christian Amita Society.[29]

President George W. Bush appointed Jungreis to serve on the honorary delegation that accompanied him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[30]

The ANI YEHUDI award was accepted posthumously by her daughter, Slovie Jungreis Wolf, on Oct. 21, 2016.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Esther Jungreis, ‘the Jewish Billy Graham,’ Dies at 80
  2. ^ "Life is a Test". jewishworldreview.com.
  3. ^ Sarna, Jonathan D.: American Judaism: a history, page 352. Yale University Press, 2004.
  4. ^ Group, Gale (October 17, 2003). Contemporary Authors New Revision Series: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Writers in Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Poetry, Journalism, Drama, Motion Pictures, Television, & Other Fields. Gale. ISBN 9780787667146.
  5. ^ a b c Esther Jungreis. Jewish Women's Archive
  6. ^ Szanto T. Gabor. Szeged, Hires Varos (Szeged, the Famous City). Szombat, August 27, 2009. [Hungarian].
  7. ^ Rebbetzin Of The World: An interview with Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
  8. ^ Laura Deckelman as told by Rebbetzin Chana Rubin. The Final Solution Is Life. Mesorah Publications LTD. May 2000, page 345.
  9. ^ "Esther Jungreis, Orthodox Jewish outreach pioneer, dies". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Esther Jungreis, Jewish Outreach Pioneer, Dies At 80". thejewishweek.com. August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  11. ^ "Esther Jungreis, Orthodox Jewish outreach pioneer, dies". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d "JewishPost.com". www.jewishpost.com. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Staff, Jewish Press (August 23, 2016). "Baruch Dayan Haemes: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a"h". Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  14. ^ New Book By Rebbetzin Jungreis – 'Life Is A Test' – Five Towns Jewish Times Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ The Gateway Organization. "Gateways Shavout Schedule 5771" (PDF). Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  16. ^ "Holiday Retreats". gatewaysonline.org. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  17. ^ Grimes, William (August 26, 2016). "Esther Jungreis, 'the Jewish Billy Graham,' Dies at 80". New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  18. ^ a b Jewish spiritual leader, Holocaust survivor Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis dies at 80. Jerusalem Post
  19. ^ "Esther Jungreis, Orthodox Jewish outreach pioneer, dies". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  20. ^ "Tefillos for Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis". Matzav.com. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  21. ^ "HeeNayNee"
  22. ^ Esther Jungreis, Orthodox Jewish outreach pioneer, dies. Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  23. ^ "And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: 'Abraham'; and he said: 'Here am I.'" (Genesis 22:1)
  24. ^ "Hineni". 2009.
  25. ^ which also contrasts "I'm here" vs. "Here I am" - the latter referring to "emotional and spiritual presence."
  26. ^ a b "Esther Jungreis | Jewish Virtual Library". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  27. ^ Esther Jungreis. "Life Is a Test". Hachette Book Group. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  28. ^ Esther Jungreis (2006). Life Is a Test. Hachette Books. ISBN 978-1-60024-4568.
  29. ^ "Reb. Esther Jungreis". The Harry Walker Agency Speakers Bureau. Archived from the original on April 22, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  30. ^ http://www.nysun.com/foreign/bush-visit-may-boost-olmert/76303/
  31. ^ "Slovie Jungreis Wolff accepts the ANI YEHUDI award on behalf of her mother".

External links[edit]