Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



My Mother, Lakewood’s Matriarch

Eytan Kobre

Rebbetzin Rischel Kotler was just 17 when she bid farewell to her family forever. But with wisdom, selflessness, a strong moral compass, and lots of courage, she saved herself and countless others time and again throughout the war. And for the next 65 years, she became the central pillar of support and wise counsel for a burgeoning yeshivah and community.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How much greatness of spirit can one person absorb in a brief 17 years in her childhood home? As I listen to Rabbi Aaron Kotler share memories of his mother, Rebbetzin Rischel, barely a month after her passing at age 92 on the second of Av, the answer becomes apparent: a lifetime’s worth, enough to build and sustain entire worlds of individuals, institutions, and communities. I’m sitting with Reb Aaron in his home at the epicenter of America’s preeminent city of Torah, where he figures prominently as the man who oversees its primary “industry,” Beth Medrash Govoha. There couldn’t be a more fitting venue for this conversation than this town, in which every brick of every building and every family on every street bear silent but eloquent testimony to his mother’s peerless life. The conversation ranges far afield, over continents and eras, from wartime dislocation and trauma to the nascent budding of Torah in America and on to today’s burgeoning frum landscape, driven largely by the indefatigable engine that is Lakewood. But we somehow keep returning to a time and place of long ago, to his mother’s 17-year youthful idyll in a place called Memel. It was there that the Rebbetzin’s parents, Rav Aryeh Malkiel “Leib” and Sarah Yehudis Friedman Hy”d, set down roots and raised three daughters, Rischel (Kotler), Rochel (Sarna), and Shulamis (Volpe). And it was that home that fortified Rischel with values so potent and deeply sown that her life’s next seven and one-half decades were but one long unpacking and sharing of those spiritual and moral treasures with the world. 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Evolution vs. Revolution
Shoshana Friedman I call it the “what happened to my magazine?” response
Up, Up, and Away
Rabbi Moshe Grylak What a fraught subject Eretz Yisrael is, to this day
Where Do You Come From?
Yonoson Rosenblum Could they be IDF officers with no Jewish knowledge?
Heaven Help Us
Eytan Kobre Writing about anti-Semitism should rouse, not soothe
Work/Life Solutions with Chedva Kleinhandler
Moe Mernick “Failures are our compass to success”
An Un-Scientific Survey
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are Jerusalemites unfriendly? Not necessarily
Out of Anger
Jacob L. Freedman How Angry Lawyer was finally able to calm down
5 Things You Didn’t Know about…Yitzy Bald
Riki Goldstein He composed his first melody at eight years old
When the Floodgates of Song Open, You’re Never Too Old
Riki Goldstein Chazzan Pinchas Wolf was unknown until three years ago
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds that boosted performers into the limelight
Your Task? Ask
Faigy Peritzman A tangible legacy I want to pass on to my children
Are You There?
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Emotional withdrawal makes others feel lonely, abandoned
A Peace of a Whole
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt Love shalom more than you love being right
Seminary Applications
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, as told to Ariella Schiller It’s just as hard for seminaries to reject you