Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Ellul 5762 - August 14, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Rebbetzin J. Ehrentreu o"h
by The Family

Rebbetzin J. Ehrentreu lived almost a century, one more turbulent and with more change, perhaps, than any previous one. With immense bitochon and strength of character she remained steadfast to the dignity, integrity and discipline of earlier times.

She was the daughter of Abraham Heckscher, the venerated parnes of the Hamburg kehilla. Early in life she dedicated herself to be a teacher of Torah and mitzvos. She traveled to Berlin for this purpose and received certification from some of the leading German rabbonim, a rare distinction in those years. She took up teaching and was also highly regarded for her youth leadership activities.

She married HaRav Jonah Ehrentreu, the son of the Munich Rov, the Gaon HaRav Chanoch Ehrentreu. Upon his death, only months after her wedding, the mantel of Munich Rebbetzin fell on her shoulders and she was immediately involved in giving shiurim and guidance to the ladies of the community.

But this idyllic life did not last long. Even before the Nazis' rise to power in 1933, HaRav Ehrentreu was brutally attacked in his own home, an event then reported in the London Times. Despite repeated physical persecution, deserting the kehilla by leaving the country was an option he did not consider. No one would have come to take his place.

After Kristallnacht there was no alternative. That morning he raced to the burning shul to save the sifrei Torah, but was immediately arrested. Rebbetzin Ehrentreu risked her life to take along his tefillin whilst he was in Gestapo custody on the way to Dachau Concentration Camp. Eventually released, disheveled and wounded he, with his Rebbetzin and with the help of family and friends, was able to escape to England.

Here again he faced problems, being interned on the Isle of Man as an "enemy alien" and later dispatched to Australia. To be spared the heavy bombing of London, Rebbetzin Ehrentreu settled in Cambridge and, with amazing courage, took care of her family single-handedly for the next six years. She also provided meals and board for Jewish students who were evacuated there and also for some British and American servicemen stationed in the area. Many are the stories of these people relating how much she managed to inspire them and keep up their morale in the very trying circumstances. Despite this heavy schedule, she made sure always to be available for her own children.

When the war was over the family was reunited, and they moved to London, where HaRav Ehrentreu established what has now grown to be Bridge Lane Beth Hamedrash. Rebbetzin Ehrentreu took up teaching in the Garden Suburb Cheder and, long before the teshuva movement had taken on its momentum, she helped many ladies return to their roots. Later, she joined the SEED team of teachers and, well into her 90's, taught several of its "students." One "returnee" lady telephoned from abroad during the shiva to say that as a result of Rebbetzin Ehrentreu's inspiration her family now numbered 27 fully observant souls.

Although very knowledgeable, Rebbetzin Ehrentreu made a point of attending all possible public shiurim. She also regularly called on several ladies in need of visitors, both at home and in hospital. In her own three twilight years she enjoyed the very pleasant atmosphere of the Schonfeld Square Home and its wonderfully devoted and caring staff. Here, too, she was admired for her regular, modest and kindly disposition.

Rebbetzin Ehrentreu is survived by her sons and daughters and merited to attend the chuppah of all her many grandchildren and, indeed, one great grandchild.


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