This past Sunday evening, November 3rd, over 200 Bais Yaakov of Baltimore alumnae from 1950-2019 were privileged to participate in an “Evening of Connection and Inspiration” in Lakewood, NJ. Attendees joined from as far as Brooklyn, Far Rockaway, Passaic, Carteret, Bensalem, and Allentown.
The décor was tasteful and welcoming, a precursor of the delightful experience to follow. The delicious sushi, salads, fruit cups, and desserts, many of which were expertly prepared by Bais Yaakov of Baltimore alumnae, were classy and delicious. But those were just the backdrop for the feelings of warmth and camaraderie that permeated the room, as old friends from Lakewood and beyond rekindled ties, and even those who did not cross paths in Bais Yaakov smiled and chatted amicably, united by our strong connection to Bais Yaakov. We were excited to greet Rabbi Zweig , Mrs. Willner, and Mrs. Wolf, our beloved principal and teachers. We were honored to have Mrs. Rhoda Steinberg Pollak join us, along with her daughter Mrs. Miriam Blumenkrantz, and granddaughter, Mrs. Devora Katz , representing three generations of Bais Yaakov alumnae and a tangible connection to our esteemed principal Rabbi Binyamin Steinberg ZT”L.
As difficult as it was to put our friendly banter on hold, we were asked to sit down as the much-anticipated program, entitled “A Tribute to Giveret Leah Steinhardt, A”H” began.
The evening’s MC, Mrs. Devora (Neuberger) Einstadter began by commenting on how heartwarming it was to see alumnae of Bais Yaakov spanning so many decades together in the room, and how we all share the gift of a wholesome chinuch from Bais Yaakov of Baltimore. She thanked all of those who had worked so hard to make the evening a reality, including Rabbi Aaron Gross, Bais Yaakov’s Director of Development, our Alumnae Association chairs Mrs. Yocheved (Goldstein) Lieder and Mrs. Perel Malka (Freedman) Simpson, and event chairs Mrs. Chomily (Heinemann) Kushner, Mrs. Faige (Kronglas) Spitz, and Mrs. Shira (Kronglas) Jacobson along with their committee. She then introduced Rabbi Zweig to begin with divrei berachah .
Rabbi Yechezkel Zweig began by mentioning the pall cast on the event by the recent, untimely passing of fellow alumna Mrs. Rivki (Kronglas) Wajsbort, A”H . Rivki had a lev tov and built an exalted home of Torah, and her petirah is a tremendous loss for her family, her community, and for the whole extended family of Bais Yaakov. Rabbi Zweig then addressed the question that was echoing in all of our minds that night: Why do we all feel such a connection to Bais Yaakov? He answered that it is because of the mesorah we all received from Bais Yaakov, the mesorah of achdus , of being a “home” to anyone who wants to learn Torah. This mesorah was established by Rabbi Steinberg, ZT”L, Rabbi Diskind, ZT”L, and Rabbi Freedman, ZT”L – through their ahavas yisrael and friendliness toward every person. Giveret Steinhardt, A”H, also played a big part of that mesorah . She personified derech eretz, ehrlichkeit, achrayus, conducting oneself in a balanced way, and appreciating knowledge, especially Torah knowledge. Rabbi Zweig ended by exhorting us to use our instinctive feelings, which are rooted in the beautiful mesorah we received from Bais Yaakov, when encountering any challenges or decisions we face in life.
Mrs. Rivkah (Gottdiener) Shachnow then delivered inspiring words of hesped about her close friend Mrs. Rivki (Kronglas) Wajsbort, a”h . She described Rivki as easygoing and practical, with a great sense of humor. Rivki was also very smart and capable, but she never wore it on her sleeve. She turned down the offer for a promotion to a prestigious position within her company on the spot because she knew that taking it would not allow her to be there for her family in the way that she wanted to and because she saw her job only as a means to allow her husband to learn. She put tremendous kochos into giving an individualized chinuch to each of her children and filled her bucket of zechuyos with special efforts she invested in her son with special needs. Always putting her own needs aside, Rivki, A”H, was humble, genuine, and focused on what was important in life.
Next, Mrs. Elise (Richels) Wolf, in her inimitable manner, presented a special tribute to Giveret Leah Steinhardt, A”H. Mrs. Steinhardt taught in Bais Yaakov for almost 50 years before her petirah this past summer. Mrs. Wolf described how so many students from over the years kept in touch with Mrs. Steinhardt and pointed out that the number of former students and their parents who attended her levayah were a testimony to the impression she made on them all and the respect and admiration they had for her. Mrs. Steinhardt had a vast store of knowledge and was always happy to share it with others, especially former students who were now teachers and didn’t know where to start. She commanded respect in the classroom because she wanted us to really learn, but she was also approachable and had a great sense of humor. She was truly a legend in Bais Yaakov – descended from greatness, but also a gedolah in her own right.
Finally, we were privileged to hear words of inspiration from Mrs. Brenda Willner. Mrs. Willner exhorted us to use the spiritual legacies passed down to us from Sarah Imeinu, Rivka Imeinu, and Miriam HaNeviah. All used their binah yeseirah and tremendous courage to stand up for what they knew to be right in order to build Klal Yisrael. Echoing what Rabbi Zweig had said earlier, Mrs. Willner charged us to daven a lot for siyata d’Shmaya, but at the same time, to have confidence in our abilities to know what is right, the koach to follow through, and to do it all with tact and chochmah.
As we exited into the cold night air, we were warmed by the feelings of achdus engendered at this special event and were so grateful to the program’s organizers for giving us this precious opportunity to reconnect with our Bais Yaakov.