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A Home of their Own

Barbara Bensoussan

It’s not often you hear of a person with disabilities who “founded” an agency that boasts over 30 residences and 600 employees. But when Avraham Nussen Warman z”l was born, his disabilities became the impetus for his parents to become involved in care for the disabled, eventually establishing Women’s League Community Residences.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mrs. Warman receives us in her peach-colored office, embellished with a few photos of her family. She is very much a warm Jewish great-grandmother, dressed with a classic elegance that betrays her European origins. Her office, like the other agency work areas, looks meticulously neat and clean, and the atmosphere is enlivened by strains of a piped-in string quartet. Before she gave birth to her first children, Jeanne Warman had enjoyed a lively, cosmopolitan, and yet deeply Jewish life on two continents. Her parents had left Romania just after World War II to follow the Dejer Rebbe to Savigny, a suburb of Paris. (Mercifully, their area of Romania had largely been ignored by the Germans, although some of the men were conscripted for daytime labor.) The Rebbe and his chassidim — most of whom were survivors — set up a postwar yeshivah in Savigny. Since there wasn’t a Bais Yaakov for girls, Jeanne and her four younger sisters attended French schools. But after a few years, the Rebbe and his yeshivah moved to New York. “We were the only ones left,” Mrs Warman says. “My father had to bring in a minyan of shomer Shabbos men every Shabbos for several years. We were constantly hosting people!” One of these guests was a Shabbos-observant American askan named Morris Weinberg, who had traveled to Paris on business and found himself delayed at the airport one Friday afternoon. In desperation, he called a contact who suggested, “Try Mr. Mark [Jeanne’s father]. He’s a big baal hachnassas orchim — he’ll surely come pick you up.” Mr. Mark indeed raced to the airport to bring home the unexpected guest. Mr. Weinberg enjoyed his time with the Mark family so much, he became a regular guest whenever he was in Paris. Over the next few years, Jeanne earned her baccalaureate diploma, then spent a year in college in London. There, along with seven other girls, she boarded with a family named Schwab and attended Rav Dunner’s seminary in the evenings. (She remembers that period of her life with the fondness of any sem girl of today.) When she returned to Paris, her family decided that they no longer wanted to continue living in a community so bereft of shomer Shabbos families, and desired to live closer to their rebbe in New York.

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