Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Nissan 5764 - March 31, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








A Woman's Love of Torah -- Rebbetzin Siemiatycki on Her Passing

by M. Samsonowitz

When Rebbetzin Nechomoh Gittel Siemiatycki o"h passed away in London on Shabbos 13 Adar this year, the Torah world lost an irreplaceable paragon of a great Jewish woman. The earth and its pleasures pale in comparison to Rebbetzin Siemiatycki's great love of Torah.

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was a true daughter of her distinguished father, HaRav Moshe Schneider zt"l, the founder and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Emes in London.

HaRav Schneider was a unique personality even among roshei yeshivos. His fiery personality single-mindedly focused only on what he could do to disseminate Torah. His devotion at times seemed supernatural. His life's work replaced, "If there is no flour, there is no Torah," with, "Whether there is flour or not, there will be Torah!"

A sixth generation scion of HaRav Yitzchok Eizik of Slonim, a talmid of the Gra, HaRav Schneider studied in yeshivos in Vilna and Slobodka and had graduated to the kibbutz of Varnova. He was close to the Chofetz Chaim, with whom he frequently visited and consulted. His criteria for a desired match was a wife who shared his ahavas Torah and would be prepared to care for the bochurim in his yeshiva-to- be. The Chofetz Chaim made a shidduch with a yesomoh from a Torah family in Radin who was close with the Chofetz Chaim's family, as will be explained below.

Fleeing the army, Rav Schneider went over the border to Memel, a border city which switched hands many times between the Germans and Lithuanians. Here he opened his first yeshiva which was run uniquely, like a family business. The rov taught the students, and his wife was dedicated to them as if they were family. She took care of whatever they needed. She sometimes even checked after the meals to see what the bochurim did not eat and was not insulted when they did not like something, but rather changed her cooking in accordance with what they liked.

Early Years

Nechomoh Gittel was born in Holzminden, an intern camp in the First World War, on 9 Iyar, 1917, the third of Rav Schneider's four children. HaRav Schneider worked with great mesiras nefesh in this camp to advance Torah and mitzvos. Some said that the mesiras nefesh that surrounded her birth was reflected in her unceasing personal mesiras nefesh throughout her life.

Rav Schneider moved to Frankfurt, where his yeshiva's students came from Ostjuden emigres (the Eastern European Jews who had recently migrated to Germany, as opposed to the native German Jews). His yeshiva had students ranging in age from 13 to 20.

The two grandmothers lived together with the Schneider family and they contributed very much to the chinuch and the atmosphere. They were each deeply dedicated to Torah and were both great mosrei nefesh.

HaRav Moshe was born in Yeveneshock. In that town he went to cheder and there was a rebbe there who was known as an excellent mechanech, but he could also be very rough on the children. R' Moshe's mother rented a room next to the cheder and she used to go in and out of that room during the day so that the rebbe would see that she was around and would not be too harsh with her son.

Grandmother Rebbetzin Tamarah Kaplan was from Radin. Her husband was HaRav Gedalya, a chavrusa of the Chofetz Chaim who was niftar at a very young age. The Chofetz Chaim was very involved in the upbringing of the yesomoh, and he eventually made the shidduch with R' Moshe.

Nechomoh Gittel attended the local Hirschian Frankfurt school, and graduated high school there. Her Grandmother Kaplan used to take all the children when they came home from school and she would review all the material with them, adding and emphasizing points and ideas that she had received when she grew up. This gave the children an intimate link to generations past.

Her desire to attend the Cracow seminary of Soroh Schenirer never came to fruition, although she gained extensive Jewish knowledge from her parents and from reading.

Even as young girls, Nechomoh Gittel and her sisters were instrumental in running all the physical aspects of the yeshiva. They grew up peeling potatoes for the yeshiva from when they were old enough to hold a peeler. As teenagers, they helped clean the yeshiva rooms and didn't shun any physical labor. The chinuch was that even the dirty work was a zchus because they were doing it for talmidei chachomim, and they wouldn't let anyone clean the toilets but themselves, viewing it as a honor to do so for talmidei chachomim. ????

When 1938 arrived, the situation for Ostjuden turned dangerous. The Germans demanded that all Ostjuden be expelled across the border. Rav Schneider's family were also ordered to leave, but Rav Schneider told his family and boys not to rush. Lagging behind, they were saved because the Germans went back on the order before all the Ostjuden had left.

Rav Schneider appealed to askonim in London to help him escape Germany with his students. After Kristallnacht, Rav Solomon Schonfeld arranged for them to seek refuge in England. Rav Schneider left with the first group of boys, and Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was appointed to leave with the last group after winding up all the yeshiva's affairs.

Besides attending to all their physical needs, she had to be wary of frequent Nazi searches for stateless boys without passports, a number of whom were learning in the yeshiva. In one case, the Nazi soldiers searched the basement -- and didn't find the bochurim, who were hiding in the attic. Another time they searched the attic -- and didn't find the boys, who were hiding behind the coats in the closet. A few times, the young girl had to go to the police station to plead to release boys who were caught.

In one particularly close call, a Nazi soldier knocked on the door and asked if it was true that there was a prayer group inside the apartment. At that moment, the bochurim were davening mincha and were in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei. There was no way to alert them to hide or keep silent. Nechomoh Gittel denied there was anyone there and for some reason, this time the soldiers left, satisfied with her response. A second after they left, chazoras hashatz began in the salon.

The last boys in the yeshiva and Rebbetzin Siemiatycki finally made it to London just before Pesach, 1939.

The Third Gilgul

The yeshiva Rav Schneider had started in Memel and continued in Frankfurt now went through its third gilgul in refugee-swollen London. The yeshiva began with 30 boys from Rav Schneider's original yeshiva in Frankfurt, and within a year it had 100 students. The yeshiva was always in flux due to the war situation. Some German boys were sent by the British to intern camps, while others left for Gateshead or were reunited with their families. New refugees joined the yeshiva.

The yeshiva in London and the dire refugee situation brought the Schneider family to new levels of activism. With yeshivos closed down all over the Continent, propagating Torah study in London took on an unprecedented urgency. The small Schneider yeshiva became a beacon of light in the dark. There was also need for resolute activism to help the many refugees stranded on English shores.

Many of the boys who studied in Rav Schneider's yeshiva had sisters who had managed to get out of Europe, either alone or in Kindertransports. To save these girls, Rav Schneider opened up a hostel with a house mother who cared for the girls. Of course, the girls became part of his family, just as the boys were. The girls would work at war factories during the day, and at night, Rav Schneider would give them shiurim. Nechomoh Gittel also taught them and was very involved in seeing to their physical and spiritual needs.

Many shidduchim were made between the boys in the yeshiva and the girls in the hostel.

Rav Schneider's son R' Gedalya had married shortly after arriving in London and his oldest daughter Elka had also married HaRav Lazer Lopian zt"l. But with a paucity of talmidei chachomim in England, and London under embargo and the flow of refugees cut off, it seemed that there was no one for Nechomoh Gittel. She had dreamed of marrying a great talmid chochom, but there were none available for hundreds of miles.

Her illustrious father assured her that the Ribono shel Olom would not forget her.

In 1942, Germany and England had agreed to send a diplomatic boat from Shanghai, that contained a number of important government figures who had been stranded in the Far East. When news of that boat reached the public, it caused a flurry among different groups who needed to send representatives to England. The Mirrer yeshiva decided to send as askan on that boat. Their hope was that he would continue on to the U.S. and engage in extensive hatzoloh activities on behalf of the yeshiva.

The man chosen was HaRav Zeidel Siemiatycki, one of the premier students of the Mirrer yeshiva. Rav Zeidel had joined the Mirrer yeshiva at the age of 9 and had been among the elite scholars of the yeshiva who was effectively part of the hanholoh as were several of the senior bochurim. He was a close disciple of Rav Yeruchom, and a chavrusa of HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz. He was an immense scholar who had already served as a rov in two shuls in Warsaw. Just before the outbreak of the war, he had been appointed rov in Volozhin.

The political uncertainty of the period at the beginning of the war brought Rav Zeidel to rejoin the Mirrer yeshiva and escape with it to Shanghai. A man with a fiery spirit and wisdom beyond his years, Rav Zeidel willingly accepted the appointment of the roshei yeshivos to galvanize support for the yeshiva abroad. A diplomatic passport was arranged for him.

The ship docked in London and proceeded on to Scotland from where it planned to continue on to the U.S. Suddenly Pearl Harbor was attacked and the U.S. was pulled into the war. That was the end of the ship's plans to continue on to the U.S. Rav Zeidel was stranded.

There were not many choices. Rav Zeidel took the train down to London and knocked on the door of the only Jew who he knew in the city -- Mr. Harry Goodman, an Aguda activist with whom he had corresponded for several years. Mr. Goodman was taken aback when he answered the knock on the door and was told by the stranger that he was Rav Zeidel Tiktiner.

"That can't be!" he replied. "Rav Zeidel is in Shanghai!"

To his good fortune, an old Kamenitz student happened to be visiting Mr. Goodman. "It is Rav Zeidel!" he affirmed. Rav Zeidel was hastily welcomed.

It was only natural that Rav Zeidel visit the one Litvish yeshiva in England -- HaRav Schneider's yeshiva. The two men made their acquaintance and before long, Nechomoh Gittel was engaged to the premier Mirrer talmid. At her own chasunah, Rebbetzin Siemiatycki cooked, baked and was still cutting the cake when people were arriving for the bedecken.

After their marriage on 25 Shvat, 1943, Rav Zeidel joined the yeshiva's staff as one of the roshei yeshiva. Two sons and daughters were born to the Siemiatyckis over the following 10 years.

Rav Zeidel became a prominent part of the Schneider yeshiva's Torah program and hatzoloh activities. Like Rav Schneider, he was an indefatigable man with innovative ideas. His wife was his faithful and admiring partner in everything.

Right after the war, the Siemiatyckis were deeply involved in sending packages to Jewish interns in DP camps. Rav Zeidel himself chose the items to send. Packages frequently contained personal letters of chizuk.

A short time later, Rav Zeidel traveled to Cyprus to the British intern camps to help the bnei Torah who were stranded there. He was pivotal in setting up religious services and encouraging the Jews there, many of whom were survivors of horrors.

The Siemiatycki home in London became a grand central station where all kinds of communal work was done around the clock. Many rabbonim involved in hatzoloh work, such as HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin and HaRav Aaron Kotler, stayed in their home when they were passing through London.

After the war, in 1948, Rav Zeidel went to Hungary to bring out religious boys to study in yeshiva.

In 1954, he participated in the Knessiah Gedola in Yerushalayim as the representative of the Brisker Rov.

To Morocco

His most far-reaching activity, which left a major impact on generations to come, was his trips to Morocco to recruit students for his yeshiva.

HaRav Refoel Baruch Toledano was a leading rav in Morocco, a scion of generations of Torah scholars. He feared that his sons and grandsons would not develop into great Torah scholars in Morocco and wanted them to learn in a European- style yeshiva. After the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, Rav Toledano couldn't send his sons to Eretz Yisroel, because of the state of enmity that existed between Morocco and Israel.

A passing meshulach told Rav Rafael Boruch Toledano about Rav Schneider's yeshiva in London, and he decided to send them there. Rav Yaakov, Rav Nissim and Rav Michoel Toledano arrived and integrated well into the yeshiva. Seeing their success, Rav Zeidel decided to visit Morocco to recruit more boys.

He spent two months in Morocco. Using Rav Refoel Baruch's home as his base, he visited other major Jewish communities, and finally put together a group of 25 young students to come to the yeshiva in London. From around 3,000 young boys, Rav Zeidel deliberately tried to select those who had potential to be leaders of Klal Yisroel. Morocco of those days was a backward country and the physical conditions were not always pleasant. However Rav Zeidel did not care for his kovod since he was trying to establish the future of Klal Yisroel.

He was amazingly successful in his choices. Among these students were many who had tremendous impact on Sephardic Jewry in the coming generation: HaRav Machluf Pachima, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Bircas Shmuel in Bnei Brak, HaRav Moshe Gozlan, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Nesivos Moshe in Bnei Brak (named after Rav Schneider), HaRav Amram Rebibo, rosh kollel in Lod, HaRav Yaakov ben Shushan, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kfar Chassidim for Sephardim, HaRav Sholom Ezra, rosh kollel in Ramat Aaron in Bnei Brak, HaRav Yitzchak Malul, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Tiferes Shlomo in Ashdod, HaRav Maimon Kakoun, dayan of the Beis Din Tzedek for Sephardim in Jerusalem, HaRav Maimon Malka, dayan and head of kashrus in Ashkelon, and HaRav Shimon Wizeman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Eshkol in Strasbourg.

Among the boys Rav Zeidel had his eye on was a 13-year-old boy called Avraham Badush who was both brilliant and had a charismatic personality. The Jewish Agency was also after the talented youth, offering him all kinds of attractions if he would only join a youth transport to Israel. Because he had an eye infection, the boy had to rest in a convalescent home for six weeks before he could be granted an exit visa.

Just before the period ended, HaRav Zeidel heard that the Jewish Agency shlichim were planning to take him early to the port. It was Shabbos, but Reb Zeidel quickly assessed the situation as one of pikuach nefesh. He arranged for a non-Jewish taxi driver to take the rosh hakohol of Casablanca to the village where the convalescent home was located. To the youth's astonishment, the rosh hakohol told him to pack his bags and leave with him that minute. He explained that it is permissible to be mechalel Shabbos for pikuach nefesh, and spiritual pikuach nefesh is not less important than physical pikuach nefesh. When the Jewish Agency shlichim arrived two hours later, the boy was gone.

Rav Badush eventually made a great contribution to the renaissance of the Sephardic Torah community in Mexico. After studying in Schneider's and Israeli yeshivos, HaRav Badush moved to Mexico. He initiated a revolution which 25 years later left the city with a vibrant Torah community which included 2,000 students in the Keter Torah school, and numerous kollelim and yeshivos in every Jewish neighborhood.

The first three Toledano talmidim also went on to create Torah powerhouses: HaRav Yaakov founded the first boys' and girls' Torah institutions in Paris, in the suburb of Drancy; HaRav Nissim opened the Shearis Yosef yeshiva in Beer Yaakov; and HaRav Michoel opened the Or Baruch yeshiva in Bayit Vegan.

It's impossible to calculate the many hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews who are today observant due to the influence of the Moroccan bochurim who studied in Schneider's. The Moroccan boys were fully integrated in the yeshiva and even learned Yiddish at HaRav Schneider's insistence. After that Moroccan bochurim came on their own.

A Generation Passes

HaRav Schneider passed away in December, 1954. At that time, HaRav Zeidel began to think of opening his own yeshiva. He made a trip to New York, but decided against moving there.

In a stunningly original decision, he decided to move to Argentina and open up a yeshiva and kollel there. He would have to deal with a new language and mentality, but that didn't faze him. If there were hundreds of thousands of rudderless Jews living there, that was sufficient reason to go.

Rav Zeidel went on a pilot trip in 1956 and spent several months laying plans for the opening of the yeshiva.

Everyone was shocked when he suffered a heart attack and was niftar. He was only in his early 50s. His aron was sent to New York and London. From there it was brought to Jerusalem where he was buried on Har Hamenuchos. Four years later, the Brisker Rov was buried next to him.

When one person had noted she was marrying a husband so much older that she was, Rebbetzin Siemiatycki had rejoined that it was better to live ten years with a man like her husband than 50 years with someone else. These words eerily materialized since, deducting the time her husband spent abroad, she had lived with him exactly ten years.

Being Mechazeik Everyone

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki found herself a young widow, with four children under the age of 14. Another woman would have found this reason for despair, but not Rebbetzin Siemiatycki, who lived emunah every second of the day. Whatever trial came her way, all she saw was "chasdei Hashem." This was the attitude with which she raised her children.

Instead of being a rachmonus case, it was Rebbetzin Siemiatycki who was mechazek everyone else. Her daughter recalls that growing up, "There was so much simcha in the house."

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki never uttered a word of complaint. She cheerfully shouldered her burden of being both father and mother to her children. She used to very actively supervise her children's chinuch. She would investigate the rebbeim and would not hesitate to switch chadorim to get better chinuch. She literally did not spare anything to ensure that her children got the best chinuch.

On erev Pesach, after cleaning the house herself she did bedikas chometz herself, waxed the floor, and laid the table for the Pesach Seder. When all was ready, she said, "Thank you Hashem! Chasdei Hashem!" and then welcomed the many guests who were invited for the Seder.

She herself ran her Pesach Seder in the same way that her husband did. The spirit was as happy and shining as if HaRav Zeidel was there.

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was not one to depend on others' kindness. She rarely accepted invitations. Instead, she was always inviting others to join her at home, both when she had little children and in her later years.

Over the years, she had thousands of guests of every type. She didn't have guests because she was lonely -- how could she be alone when the Borei Olom was with her? -- but because of her tremendous capacity to give and care for others.

One woman spent every Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur for 52 years at the Siemiatycki home. People came to the home regularly for breakast, lunch and supper. The house was always full of orchim. Whenever there was a name on a letter that the postman could not read, he put it into her mailbox since there were always people from all over the world getting their mail there.

Even when she didn't have guests and was alone, her Shabbos table was set as beautifully as if she were having guests. How could it be otherwise on Shabbos?

She was warm and affectionate, and always had a smile on her face. People were attracted to her personality and she would spend hours every day listening to other people's tzoros. She was able to draw on her own tragedy of losing a husband young, when making shiva calls. She would assure the mourners that Hashem gave her koach and Hashem would give them koach too.

Many Interests

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki's interests diverged as her children grew up.

For years she taught kallos. The beis din also sent giyoros to live or study under her. At one point she began giving classes to groups of women, often based on HaRav Hirsch and HaRav Avigdor Miller's lectures. Her talks were given from the heart, and many times she wasn't even sure what she was going to say until she began. She expressed the deep emunah and world of chesed which she lived, to her listeners.

In her later years she was teaching a class to Sephardic women, giving a weekly class to the Satmar seminary, and frequently addressing different groups all over Europe on a one-time basis. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, she taught various people for three hours by phone. She didn't take a penny for her teaching. She lived on a meager pension from the yeshiva, a large part of which she gave away to tzedokoh.

Her love and empathy for people were one of her trademarks. She was equally at home with great Rebbetzins and rachmonus cases. Her home was a fount of chizuk and encouragement. She had a list of people she phoned to give chizuk to every erev Shabbos.

Her Thoughts

She once expressed her philosophy of chesed this way: "Megillas Rus is a megilla of chesed. What was the great chesed that Rus did chesed with Naomi? She made her feel a mensch. This is the greatest chesed you can do for a person and many times all it requires is a smile."

One woman was going through a difficult period of her life and she called on Rebbetzin Siemiatycki frequently for chizuk. After empathizing with her, she added at the end in Yiddish, "But don't stay too long in prison."

Important and simple people alike would come to her for advice. Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was very down-to-earth, very human, and had an eye for little details. A person felt she could discuss anything with her.

Her empathy with people made her an expert at knowing the right things to say. If she would meet a lady going for a dress fitting and then see her the next day, she would immediately ask her, "How did the fitting come out?" She received great pleasure from seeing the happy response.

She was just as sensitive to spot when a comment could offend. She was once invited to give chizuk to a group of women in France. She prepared a lecture on chinuch and passing on Torah to the next generation. But when she was introduced in the hall, she suddenly spotted a childless woman sitting in the front. On the spot, she made up a new speech.

She frequently said, "I don't know what I'm going to say, but I hope Hashem will put the words into my mouth."

Her Deeds

Doing mitzvos and good deeds was Rebbetzin Siemiatycki's hobby. She felt hakoras hatov to people who rendered her services, even if they got paid to do it.

She also discovered a non-religious crippled Jewish lady living around the corner from her, who couldn't walk. She began cooking for the woman and brought her food regularly. At first she wouldn't tell her children, but when she invited the woman to join them in their Shabbos meals, they found out. The handicapped lady said joining the family made her feel 10 years younger. She was just one of many, healthy and sick. This was her life.

The family says that she was a living model of the ideals that are written about in seforim.

At weddings, Reb. Siemiatycki would go around with a plate for hachnosas kallah. She never felt it was shameful to collect, and viewed it as a mitzva no different than any other.

She frequently put aside sums of money to give presents to yeshiva and Seminary students. She would point it out to her children, telling them, "I'm not telling you this to be proud, but for chinuch."

She once sent an envelope to her grandson, and he wrote back he would use the amount to buy seforim. She suggested instead, "You need koach. Use the money to buy fruits and vegetables, and you'll get seforim when you marry."

When she found out about Seminary girls who came from far off places, she would send them packages to give them a feeling that someone cared.

Once her daughter protested when Rebbetzin Siemiatycki gave what appeared as a too large sum for her husband's yeshiva. Her reply was, "Is this my money? It's the Ribono Shel Olom's money."

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki married off all her children into distinguished families of roshei yeshivos and bnei Torah. Her two sons settled in Eretz Yisroel and her daughters in New York and Toronto. They fretted that she was left alone in London, but she felt there was no room for concern. She would say, "How can anyone complain that they don't live near their family? It's enough I have children. We can share good news and everyone is busy with Torah."

Her children felt sad each time they left her after a visit, but Rebbetzin Siemiatycki only felt surrounded by chasdei Hashem. She would tell them, "I'm not alone. Hashem li lo iro. If I need something, Hashem will make sure I have it."

Last Days

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki's son was visiting her this past Adar and he planned to leave the Monday before Purim. Untypically, Rebbetzin Siemiatycki asked him to remain another day, until Tuesday.

On Monday, she had just finished baking her daily cake which she brought to the kollel students in the Schneider kollel. She rejoiced in this daily task -- which she refused to share with a mixer -- and even said that this alone would have justified her life. The cleaned utensils were laid out on her counter, and she was ready to leave to give her talk in the Satmar seminary.

Suddenly, in front of her son, she collapsed. Rushed to the hospital, it was discovered that she had suffered a stroke and brain hemorrhage. She lay in a coma for five days.

Her children all flew in to be with her and they stayed in the hospital around the clock. On three different occasions it seemed that she was going, but each time she rallied.

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was niftar at 7:40 a.m. on Shabbos morning, 13 Adar 5764. That was exactly the time she used to leave her home every Shabbos for Schneider's Kollel, where she would prepare the siddurim for the other women worshipers.

Her levaya was held on Purim, starting from outside her house and continuing on to the Schneider yeshiva. The levaya went past Eitz Chaim yeshiva in Golders Green on the way to the airport, where a large crowd came to say their farewells.

In Eretz Yisroel, the aron was taken to the Achva shul where the Brisk yeshiva was once located and where many of her children and grandchildren learned. The mood was like that at a levaya of a godol.

Two of her father's talmidim from London, HaRav Tuvya Weiss, the rov of the Eida HaChareidis in Yerushalayim, and HaRav Sternbuch, the rosh beis din of the Eida HaChareidis, were maspid. HaRav Weiss said that although hespedim are not said on Purim, an exception may be made and he declared that Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was not an aishes chover, but had the status of a chover herself.

She was buried in the Chelkas Rabbonim on Har Menuchos, next to her husband.

She is survived by her elder brother HaRav Gedalya living now in Bnei Brak, and her sister Rebbetzin Halpern in London.

She left behind her sons, HaRav Mordechai Shmuel, HaRav Chaim Ozer and sons-in-law, HaRav Chaim Ozer Gurelik and HaRav Dovid Kaplan, all marbitzei Torah around the world. She lived to see many grandchildren and great-grandchildren following in the family's ways of singular commitment to Torah. She was close to her grandchildren and was involved in their lives.

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki's dream to serve Hashem until her last moment was fulfilled.

In her will, all she asked from her descendants was for each to be an eved Hashem and give nachas to Him.

"Rebbetzin Siemiatycki Made Me What I Am"

Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was instrumental in my Jewish development. She taught me primarily by example but also through storytelling.

She told me many stories of gedolim who had visited her house, and also about the Chofetz Chaim because her mother had been very close to his family. Not only did she live Yiddishkeit to the fullest, but she was my link to all Jewish generations past.

This had a powerful impact on me, who had no background at all. I think Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was unique in that way and there was no other teacher in London who was able to give over such a vibrant connection to the previous generation.

The second thing she did for me was to change my perspective. For instance, Hashgochoh protis. I remember her telling a story about being late for an appointment, and feeling upset because the bus wasn't coming -- and just then someone drove by and gave her a lift. I said to myself, that's coincidence. But then the following day, something similar happened to me. And I suddenly knew. Yes, that's Hashgochoh protis.

She was a warm, special lady. She was of the older generation, but she completely understood modern life.

Her whole life was chesed. What she did for me and my family was a complete chesed. She taught us exactly the right way to live our lives.

She made me what I am. She took someone who needed the sharp edges rounded off, and she made me the person I am today.

When someone is joining the Torah world, many people are reluctant to say, `Don't do this, don't do that, or why don't you try this?' Rebbetzin Siemiatycki was completely candid.

I once went to a Kiddush and had a tznius problem with my skirt. People saw me, but no one wanted to point it out and upset me. However like only a caring mother would, she gently took me aside and explained that it wasn't the right way to dress. In a nice, positive way, she always made you feel good about yourself and what you could achieve.

The day Rebbetzin Siemiatycki stopped gently reminding me of different things was the day I felt I truly became a bas Yisroel. I felt as close to her as a daughter and I knew that's how she considered me, too.

She had a big impact on my home life. One of her important pieces of advice to me was, "Have you ever noticed that when women go shopping and go to see friends, they get dressed up and look smart, but when their husband comes home, they wear a tichel and housecoat, and greet him with complaints about the kids? When your husband comes home, get dressed nicely, take off your housecoat, and ask how his day went. Look after your husband. He's a human being, and he needs to be treated well."

This special advice has helped my family life tremendously.

We visited Rebbetzin Siemiatycki every Purim, and the last time we went, she bentched our children with the same brochoh that her mother received from the Chofetz Chaim under the chuppah. We were extremely touched.


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