To some, she was Rebbetzin of the shul, maker of world-famous kreplach and defender of tzniyus
and kvod hatefillah. To others, she was commander-in-chief of arguably America’s
two largest chesed operations, master delegator and tireless organizer.
And to her nearest and dearest, she was Mommy — and Bubby.
But to all, she was beloved.
A great-granddaughter of Reb Mordche of Nadvorna ztz”l and scion of
numerous other chassidishe giants, Chaya Frankel was born in 1916 in Satmar, Hungary.
When she was only a toddler, her father suddenly passed away.
passing, however, was ultimately the family’s salvation from Hitler’s claws.
Chaya’s mother — a young widow with four small children — became engaged to Rav
Yitzchok Leifer, who brought the entire family toAmerica in 1921 and settled them in theBronx.
For lack of alternative, Chaya attended public school. Her mother, a renowned rebbetzin
in her own right, worked hard to counterbalance any ill influence by instilling
in her children an intense love for Torah and Yidden — and her unflagging
efforts bore fruit.
As a young teenager, Chaya’s dynamic personality and determination to spread the joy of
Yiddishkeit were already evident. Upon request from Agudah president Mike
Tress, she began organizing the very first Bnos groups — which at the time were
often the attendees’ only connection to Judaism. With enormous dedication and
creativity, Chaya used this venue to warm her girls up to Yiddishkeit. In fact,
each Shabbos, Chaya would walk the girls over the bridge from the East Side to Williamsburg — and back.
It was the only way they would come.
And when a fledgling Bais Yaakov finally opened in the Bronx,
Chaya became one of its pioneering teachers. “She went
knocking from door to door to get girls to enroll,” reports a family member.
“At her shivah, a well-known chassidishe rebbe told us that he still
remembers the tzniyus ditty she’d composed for her first-grade class,
which his sister used to sing. At a time when modesty wasn’t on anyone’s radar,
Chaya inspired her young pupils with its beauty.”