Rebbetzin Raizel Portugal, o"h, the wife of the Admor
of Skulen ylct"a, passed away in New York at the age
80 on 7 Tammuz. With her passing US Jews lost an eishes
chayil and tzadekes whose entire life was one
constant stream of mesirus nefesh for kodshei
Shomayim and Jews, both in communist Romania and later in
The Rebbetzin was born on the 17th of Teves 5686 (1926) to
HaRav Menachem Zeev (Wolf) Stern, the rov of Vishva, Romania.
Before the Holocaust her father served as the rov of Lubash,
Hungary. When the war broke out the family moved to the
Romanian side of the border where the deportations had not
begun, and thus their lives were spared. After the war her
father served as the rov of Vishva and the outlying areas.
At the age of 24 she married the Admor of Skulen, the only
son of the previous admor, HaRav Eliezer Zussia
Portugal of Skulen, the author of Noam Eliezer and
Kedushas Eliezer, and later the founder of the Chessed
LeAvrohom institutions in Eretz Yisroel. Her parents moved to
Eretz Yisroel that same year, while she moved to Bucharest
with her husband, where they lived near her in-laws.
Her husband was known as an exceptional oved Hashem
since his childhood. Their home became a center for physical
and spiritual rescue of Jews after the fall of the Nazis and
under the Communist rule in Romania, particularly orphans.
The government authorities viewed his spiritual work as a
challenge to Communism and accused him of trying to supplant
the state as the orphans' guardian in order to send them to
Eretz Yisroel. The Admor was jailed, but through chasdei
Hashem the authorities were forced to release him.
the danger, the Admor remained in Romania until 5720 (1960).
He was loathe to leave the country until the last of his
"children" had reached safety.
During this period the well-being of all of Romanian Jewry
was hanging by a thread. His father-in-law's home was the
only address for all matters of holiness and Jews would come
calling day and night. The Rebbetzin played an active role in
supporting her father-in-law's activities, particularly by
serving as a translator when he had to appear before the
authorities and when he spoke before Jews who knew only
Romanian. She was a spiritual lighthouse for the
brokenhearted. Whenever a Jew came to her for assistance she
would demand as her payment chizuk on his part in
keeping Shabbos, family purity or educating children for
Not waiting for people to come to him during his ten years in
Romania, he scoured the length and breadth of Romania and
Moldavia in search of Jews to strengthen in Yiddishkeit.
The Rebbetzin o"h would accompany him and she was
often sent to strengthen emunoh in various capacities
and would fulfill her task faithfully. In Romania she worked
with her father-in-law zt"l on efforts to redeem
captives, although appearing before the Communist authorities
was fraught with danger.
In the winter of 5719 (1959) she was scheduled to move to
Eretz Yisroel with her husband but the authorities took them
off the ship and threw them in prison. She went hungry
because she did not want to touch the non-kosher food. On
Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5719 (1959) the Admor, zt"l was
imprisoned with his son, the Admor ylct"a. They were
put in a notorious prison together with dangerous criminals,
isolated from one another, so that they would not conspire
together. The charges: smuggling children to Eretz Yisroel
and spying for the US and Israel. She remained at home with
her mother-in-law and small children, suffering for an entire
year. On Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5720 (1960) the Admor zt"l
and his son, the Admor ylct"a, were released and the
family left Romanian soil.
In the US, the Admor's court knew no rest. He did not set up
institutions for his Chassidim but worked for the spiritual
rescue of yaldei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel by founding
the Chessed LeAvrohom institutions. This was the essence of
his life: totally giving over his life in order to extract
good out of evil.
In the US they lived at first with her father-in-law. Fifteen
years before his histalkus his father instructed him
open a beis medrash in Boro Park. Almost every other
Shabbos her husband would travel far and wide for the sake of
Chessed LeAvrohom institutions and she was largely
responsible for making all the necessary arrangements.
Her spiritual work increased following the histalkus
her father-in-law over 20 years ago, when the mantle of
leadership was placed on her husband. She headed the Chessed
LeAvrohom Ladies' Auxiliary and organized events for women,
where she would deepen emunoh and bitochon. She
would invest great efforts into fulfilling the mitzvah of
hachnosas kallah, spending weeks on end helping to
build new Jewish families.
Seven years ago her health began to decline but she refused
to give up any of her spiritual endeavors. She spent the last
three weeks of her life in the hospital while Jews around the
world prayed for her recovery.
The levaya set out from Boro Park on 7 Tammuz at 6:00
p.m. and she was buried in Monsey in her father-in-law's
plot. She left behind a generation of rabbonim: HaRav
Yeshayohu Yaakov, the rov of Beis Medrash Me'or HaGola in
Montreal; HaRav Meir; HaRav Ephraim Chaim Yehuda, the rov of
the Skulen beis medrash in Monsey; HaRav Tzvi Noach, a
marbitz Torah in his father's beis medrash; and
HaRav Shmuel Mordechai, a prominent marbitz Torah
veyiroh in Boro Park.
Her sons-in-law are HaRav Chaim Dov Stern, a rov and rosh
kollel of Kollel Chessed LeAvrohom in Bnei Brak; HaRav
Shimon Yoel Weinberger, a dayan and moreh
for Skulen Chassidim in Williamsburg; and HaRav Dovid Leib
Klughoft, the rov of the Strelisk beis medrash in Boro
Rebbetzin Raizel Portugal of Skulen, o"h, is also
survived by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.