Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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20 Ellul 5763 - September 17, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Mrs. Hannah Levy, o.h.
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

AMrs. Hannah Levy, o.h., passed away in Bnei Brak last week at the age of 93.

Although residents of Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak knew her mainly in her later years, members of London's Jewish community whose memories go back to the forties, fifties, sixties and early seventies recall "Miss Kohn" -- as she was called before she married -- as one of the community's leading educators.

Mrs. Levy was born in Ansbach and her father, Rav Pinchas Kohn, was one of Germany's greatest rabbonim and a founder of Agudas Yisroel.

He showed tremendous mesiras nefesh for the Aguda movement and invested much effort in resolving differences between the different sections of the community. At the First Knessia Gedoloh he was one of the first speakers. Rav Yaakov Rosenheim often mentioned how thankful he was that he had Rabbi Kohn as a co-worker.

According to a story his daughter often related, when he escaped from Germany he was already quite an elderly man, but he nevertheless jumped over the German border together with his son-in- law Reb Efraim Stefansky, after having made a Gorol HaGra that gave the message that he could not escape Germany in any natural manner.

The ambition the young Mrs. Levy (Miss Kohn at the time) had was to become a fully trained teacher, something that was not fashionable at the time. She studied in Cologne and then went on to Cracow where she taught in the seminary under the guidance of Soroh Schenirer. She often recalled the time she worked there and spoke fondly of all its founding teachers -- Rabbi Orlean and many others.

After she had been in Cracow for some time, Soroh Schenirer sent her to Vienna to set up a Bais Yaakov there. Her students in Vienna included some of the great teachers and dignitaries of the past and of the present. She subsequently returned to Germany, to Berlin, where she taught at its Adas Yisroel School.

The then-Miss Hannah Kohn managed to escape from war-torn Germany to England, where she directed a home for refugee children, mothering the youngsters there and helping them through their difficult teenage years, including the times when they had to face the news that their parents and other members of their families were lost. She helped youngsters from less observant backgrounds draw closer to Yiddishkeit, but she refused to forgo any mitzva observance, not allowing them, for example, to eat the treats brought by visitors where there was doubt as to their kashrus.

Her subsequent posts include serving as headmistress of the Yesodei Hatorah Girls School and also teaching high school girls in the afternoons. There were no Jewish high schools at the time and girls attended non-Jewish schools during the day and went to Hebrew classes in the afternoons.

Her former Yesodei Hatorah pupils have fond memories of her assemblies and Chumash lessons, during which they were mesmerized. Her striking personality was unforgettable.

Her final public position, the one for which she is probably best remembered, was as headmistress of the Avigdor Primary School, in which capacity she served for close to 20 years, starting in the mid- fifties. During her years at the Avigdor School she instilled into her pupils and their parents a strong striving for truth and the Torah way of life.

She gave up her position in 1972 when she married Dr. Yeshaya (Fritz) Levy of Tel Aviv, who was a widower. She cared attentively for her husband's needs and adopted his children and their progeny as her own.

Mrs. Levy's former pupils and their descendants, continued to visit her when she was living in Israel, first in Tel Aviv and later in Bnei Brak. She remembered her pupils well, inquiring about their parents and siblings by name. They were all close to her heart.

She greeted everyone in the most exceptional way, introducing each guest to her other visitors. Even when she was sick she would extend a friendly thank-you to each visitor, often saying the words of Bircas Kohanim when they left.

They found her fascinating to talk to. "She had stories about everything. She had a fantastic memory. It was so interesting to sit there and listen to her talk," said one young man, who might have been forgiven for being bored since he was close to 70 years her junior.

Hundreds of people, former pupils, family and friends, attended Mrs. Levy's main levaya which left from Bnei Brak. Scores more assembled in Jerusalem to bid her a last farewell. Maspidim spoke of her yiras Shomayim, of the respect her pupils had for her, and of her talents.

HaRav Eliezer Dunner mentioned how her father had said of her that if she'd been a boy "she'd have been a rosh yeshiva," but, he continued, her life attested to "what a rosh yeshiva she was." One member of her family said of her: "Whatever she did, she did 100 percent."

Mrs. Levy was buried next to her mother, in Jerusalem's Har Hamenuchos Cemetery.

May she be a melitz yosher for all her former pupils and for Klal Yisrael.


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