Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Adar 5764 - March 18, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Mrs. Esther Wolff (nee Lobenstein) a"h
by Joe Lobenstein, MBE

It is with some trepidation that I write this note about my sister, Mrs. Wolff, who was niftar on 29 Shevat, because any publicity about her is quite contrary to the modesty and unobtrusiveness which was so characteristic of her lifestyle.

I nevertheless feel an urge to pen a few lines about her, if only for the purpose that her many friends and admirers learn one or two middos which were part and parcel of her everyday life.

What is so peculiar about my sister's lifestyle is that no one seems to remember her early childhood and her teenage adolescence. As a lifelong friend remarked at the shiva: "I have never known her youthfulness, she was always an adult."

From early childhood she cared infinitely more about the needs of other people; she acted like a responsible and caring adult, giving practical help to the old, frail, poor and underprivileged, before ever taking her own needs or interests into consideration.

Her modesty was legendary. Although she could well afford all the luxury in the world, she invariably went out of her way to shun it. She wouldn't dream of traveling by taxi, but queued up at a bus stop like everyone else. She refused to have a dishwasher and other modern gadgets in her kitchen as she didn't want to enjoy comfort and facilities which others could not afford. Haughtiness was not a word to be found in my sister's dictionary. She ran fast from anything that could remotely be construed as showing off.

Her modesty went hand in hand with her tznius, and her simplicity of dress -- from childhood right through her adult life -- was exemplary.

Her hachnosas orchim of gedolei haTorah knew no bounds -- but not only gedolei haTorah, but poor, simple and needy people also always found an open door and open heart at 96 Lordship Park.

My sister was frum in the purest sense of the word. She was frum long before girls went to seminaries; she said Tehillim long before Tehillim groups for ladies were established. She shunned speaking or listening to loshon hora long before the issur was highlighted. She inherited this frumkeit from our parental home, and developed it, together with her husband, Reb Binyomin zt"l in the wonderful home from which so many families of bnei Torah and talmidei chachomim have emerged.

Lest it be thought that a brother's tribute to the memory of his sister lacks objectivity, I wish to quote extracts from three of the very many written tributes which reached the shiva houses:

"Your mother epitomized the true beauty of a bas Yisroel. Her finesse, the gentle way she had of speaking, and the care she took to do and say the right thing at all times, was unique.

"She represented to me the ideal of Soroh be'ohel. In her pleasant ways she made us aware that true strength is in silence, in speaking softly, in sympathizing with others, in lending a listening ear to their joys and sorrows . . . She was behind your father's throne. It is little wonder you children extended the most exemplary kibbud horim I have seen to parents such as your own. We have lost a special friend, but we have also lost a generation, for your parents lived the life of Torah values typical of a previous time . . . "

Another friend wrote:

" . . . she showed all, by example, what it really means to carry the title of a bas melech. But over and above all else was her ability to deny herself many things (because she saw no necessity for them) yet give those very things as a present to others. In this way your mother was quite extraordinary -- this is an extra ordinary madreigoh to understand someone else's needs even when they are not your own."

Another friend wrote:

"I remember Mrs. Wolff from my London days. She was my epitome of a gracious lady, kind and gentle -- always happy to stay in the background. I remember in particular that she was always the simplest dressed lady at any gathering, but she outshone all the others . . . "

And finally:

"A queen (who together with your late father zt"l) established a palace of chessed, and was zoche to set up a royal family of bonim and bnei bonim oskim baTorah uvemitzvos . . . "

May my sister be a meilitzas yosher for all her family and for Klal Yisroel.


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