A large crowd of bnei Torah, roshei yeshivos,
dayanim and rabbonim led by the rabbonim from the
family of the Rav of Kosova, accompanied Rebbetzin Shulamis
Alpha o"h, the wife of HaRav Eliezer Alpha zt"l
one of the most prominent survivors of Novardok and one of
the rabbonim of the city of Haifa, on her last earthly
journey after passing away at the age of 98 on 9 Kislev,
almost three months ago.
Rebbetzin Alpha was born in Adar 5666 (1906) to HaRav Meir
Karelitz, the Gavad of Lanovitz and the Chazon Ish's
eldest brother, and Rebbetzin Miriam Leah, the daughter of
the head of Vilna's rabbonim, HaRav Shlomo HaKohen the author
of Cheishek Shlomo, her namesake who passed away 30
days before her birth. Her father replaced the late
baal HaCheishek Shlomo as a member of the Vilna
Rabbinical Committee and, as the right-hand man of the
Chofetz Chaim and HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt"l,
the girl grew up in the shadow of gedolei hador who
came to visit "the Jerusalem of Lithuania"--the Chofetz
Chaim, Rav Chaim of Brisk, HaRav Meir Simchah of Dvinsk,
HaRav Grodzensky and others. Rebbetzin Alpha would often
recall various occasions when her father or her uncle the
Chazon Ish sent her on important errands to HaRav Grodzensky,
and throughout her lifetime the image of these Torah greats
never faded from her memory.
During this period, her father set up in his own home a large
home for orphans, named after the Vilna Gaon, and the young
Shulamis cared for the lonely orphans devotedly. Her
relatives from the Steipler's family and from HaRav S.
Greineman's family also stayed in their home for an extended
period and she gladly helped tend to the young children.
In 5690 (1930) Shulamis married HaRav Eliezer Alpha
Potashnik, one of Novardok's Torah greats. The match was made
during the time of the Steipler's wedding and Sheva
Brochos when R' Eliezer, who had been the Steipler's
chavrusa in yeshiva, came to take part in the joyous
occasion. The Steipler proposed to his brother-in-law HaRav
Meir Karelitz that he choose R' Eliezer Alpha as the groom
for his eldest daughter. After the week of Sheva
Brochos, as R' Eliezer prepared to return to yeshiva in
Bialystok, the Chazon Ish called him into his chambers,
assessed him, and immediately went to notify his brother Rav
Meir that this was the right boy for his eldest daughter
Many gedolei hador participated in the wedding, held
at Vaad Hayeshivos, and HaRav Grodzensky was given the honor
of being mesader kiddushin.
After living for several years in the city of Gorelitz,
Ukraine, where her husband served as rosh yeshivas Novardok,
HaRav Hillel Witkind sent them a certificate authorizing them
to move to Eretz Yisroel where a position for a ram at
Yeshivas Beis Yosef in Tel Aviv was waiting for her husband.
In 5695 (1935) they arrived.
Upon their arrival they stayed in the home of her uncle the
Chazon Ish, who had moved to Eretz Yisroel two years earlier
in Tammuz 5693 (1933). During this period the Steipler and
his family, who had arrived in Nisan 5694 (1934), were also
sharing the small, one-and-a-half-room apartment.
Rebbetzin Alpha would often recall this period with
nostalgia, describing the nights when the men would sit in
the hallway, her husband learning with the Steipler on one
side of the table and the Chazon Ish learning on the opposite
Afterwards they settled in Haifa, arriving empty-handed and
having to spend some of their first days sleeping outdoors.
Nevertheless she stood by her husband devotedly as he went
about setting up a yeshiva in the city together with his
close friend, HaRav Meir Segel.
During the years of their residence in the port city of Haifa
which all immigrants passed through upon entry, numerous
guests stayed in their home. Whenever the Rebbetzin heard a
boat was arriving with chareidi Jews on board she would go
down to the docks and invite them to her home, particularly
on Fridays to host them on Shabbos Kodesh, serving
them with warmth and cordiality, and providing their every
During her recent illness, as she lay in a state of semi-
consciousness in a hospital bed, she refused to eat until her
granddaughter assured her the food was kosher
lemehadrin, explaining that she must be particularly
careful about what went into her mouth since the Brisker Rov
ate in her home for an entire Shabbos, relying on the kashrus
in her kitchen.
In Haifa her elevated level of ruchniyus was fully
revealed as she stood by her husband for over 50 years of
harbotzas Torah, kiruv and upholding Yiddishkeit.
Their home was a center for Haifa's entire chareidi
To all of her acquaintances Rebbetzin Alpha was known as a
woman of loftiness and regality, bestowed with superlative
tznius and extraordinary middos. Although she
could suffice with minimal material comforts (for years she
hung clothes up on a line tied from one wall to the next
rather than buying a wardrobe), she showed great concern over
other people's subsistence. For many years she would pay
visits to sick people lying in the hospital, striving to
revive the spirits of Jews in distress. Every day she would
make calls to people in need of a good word, spilling out
warmth and kindness over the phone line. She also took in
orphans and others in need of a warm and caring home, raising
them like her own children and even arranging their
simchas as if for her own children.
Fourteen years ago, in Shevat 5650, she lost her husband and
moved to Bnei Brak to be near her growing family, bearing her
pain quietly and remaining strong in her simple faith. She
continued to stand firm when faced with the tragic passing of
her son-in-law, HaRav Reuven Fine, providing strength and
encouragement to her entire family, with faith and an
acceptance of the Divine Judgment with love.
Her tefillos were remarkable and many Jews would come
to her home to receive brochos and seek her advice on
various matters. Until close to the time of her passing she
had a surprisingly clear mind and continued to receive
visitors with her usual graciousness. Recently her condition
declined and early Thursday morning she returned her pure
soul to her Maker.
At her levaya, which set out from her son's home,
hespedim were delivered by HaRav Nissim Karelitz,
Gavad Ramat Aharon, who burst into tears as he spoke;
HaRav Menachem Tzvi Berlin, rosh yeshivas Rabbenu Chaim Ozer;
her grandson HaRav Moshe Alpha, a ram at Yeshivas
Shaarei Yosher; and her grandson HaRav Shabsai Fine, a
ram at Yeshivas Tiferes HaTalmud.
When the procession reached Yeshivas Beis Meir, named after
her father, her nephew the rosh yeshiva, HaRav Tzvi Rotberg,
eulogized her. She was buried before sunset at the Zichron
Meir cemetery alongside her great husband, her father, her
uncle the Chazon Ish and the Steipler zt"l.
Rebbetzin Shulamis Alpha o"h, is survived by her
sister, Rebbetzin Soroh Rotberg; her sons HaRav Shlomo, HaRav
Shmaryohu Yosef, HaRav Chaim Ozer and HaRav Yaakov Moshe; her
daughter Rebbetzin Yehudis, the widow of HaRav Reuven Fine,
rosh yeshivas Torah Vodaas; grandchildren, great-
grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren bitterly mourning
the loss of a tzadekes from a bygone generation.