How does one describe the vivid colors that emanate from the
facets of a brilliant diamond? How does one portray the multi-
faceted personality that was Rebbetzin Zipa Lopian? A close
and long-standing friend echoed the feelings of so many when
she said, "Whatever you write about Aunty Zipa will never be
Zipa Levy was born in 1916, the eldest child of Reb Chaim
Moshe Levy who, with his strong and yet refined character,
managed to imbue all his children with a sincere and enduring
ahavas Torah, even in the spiritual wilderness that
was Portsmouth! He relied on her to teach the younger
children Chumash whom he would farher every
evening. When this writer asked one of the siblings what he
remembers of those years, he said, "Zipa was full of
sweetness and simchah." A true accolade when coming
from a pupil.
In 1937 she married HaGaon Reb Leib Lopian, son of Reb Elya
Lopian, and her father told her mother that under no
circumstances was she to cry under the chuppah, as
people may misconstrue her tears to mean that Zipa regretted
marrying a ben Torah and that would be a chilul
Hashem. Zipa's task, her father instructed her, was to
make a kiddush Hashem of her life.
This she achieved almost immediately! A distinguished ben
Torah brought his kallah to Portsmouth to show her
how a young English girl had put on a sheitel. Zipa
Lopian, with her panache, made it manifestly clear that there
was not one iota of mesiras nefesh involved. Such was
her upbringing! It was this chinuch that was the
foundation of the home they established in Gateshead in 1942,
when Reb Leib joined the Kollel.
She left her father's mansion in Petersfield, and arrived at
144 Prince Consort Road with 3 young children, but minus her
husband who, being an alien, had not yet received permission
to travel to a restricted area. The house had gas lighting
and the cooking had to be done on a coal fire! To cap it all,
Reb Dovid Dryan turned up at the door with a roll of
linoleum, asked for a bread knife, and proceeded to lay the
lino in the hallway.
It was at this point that she began to feel somewhat
despondent, but she quickly checked herself, saying, "There
are so many people worse off than you. Don't you dare
And she didn't, as her brother Reb Binyomin Levy recalls, "I
lived in their home for two years in the late 40s, and Zipa
was always happy, and never complained."
When there was a scarcity of food, she used her ingenuity to
hide this from the children so that they should not equate
Torah with poverty.
She often said that Reb Elya had told her that a wife holds
her husband's neshomoh in the palm of her hand. With
this in mind, she relieved her husband of all financial
responsibilities and attended to all the household needs, so
that he could dedicate himself to his learning and his
shiurim. She saw this as a great privilege and used
every opportunity to endear and connect the children to Reb
Leib by showing them what a zchus it was to have a
father who was such an outstanding talmid chochom.
As the children grew up, she remarked that she was grateful
that she had more time for tefilloh, which greatly
enhanced her life. When this writer asked her how she managed
to daven with kavonoh at home —
especially over Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur — she
said, "When I stand at Reb Leib's shtender in the back
room, the zchus of his Torah does it all for me."
She would also quote Reb Elya who said, "The posuk
says, "Korove Hashem lechol koro'ov — Hashem is
close to everyone who davens to Him." But there is one
condition, "Lechol asher yikro'uhu be'emes — as
long as you daven with sincerity." And I have so much
to daven for, and so much to be thankful for, I have
no problem meaning what I say."
There are generations of talmidim and talmidos
who will always remember the warmth of the kitchen in number
30 and the table that was permanently laid for visitors. Her
simchas hachaim was infectious, and she raised
everyone's spirit, both young and old, bringing out the best
in everybody. She had that rare quality of understanding
human nature and used it to fulfill her father's wish: that
she should always make a kiddush Hashem of her life.
This writer often heard visiting parents remark as they were
leaving her house, "I wish I could be like her!"
She was zocheh to see the nachas of her legacy
living on in her children, who are all at the forefront of
harbotzas haTorah in Klal Yisroel, while we are
now left bereft of that beacon which illuminated our
The most fitting epitaph is what one dear friend said, "A day
does not pass without me thinking: `What would Aunty Zipa
have said about this?' I wish she was here to show me the
Yehi zichroh boruch.
It is fitting that during the sheloshim, the memorial
fund that was instituted in memory of her late husband Reb
Leib Lopian zt"l has now been extended to include
herself, so that it is now known as the Reb Leib and
Rebbetzin Zipa Lopian Memorial Fund. Contributions to this
worthy cause should be addressed to:
Dayan G. Lopian, 46 Manor Park Gardens, Edgware, Middlesex