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The Ambassador's Pillar

C. Rosenberg

Mrs. Devorah (Debby) Sherer a”h never sought the limelight, though she was married to a man who represented Orthodox Judaism to the world

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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BEHIND EVERY GREAT MAN “Her life revolved around her husband... She was at his side in the most supportive way possible.” As wife of Rav Moshe Sherer, co-chairman of Agudath Israel of America, Debby supported his every endeavor, enabling him to change the face of frum life in America (Photos: ArtScroll Mesorah Publications, Agudah Archives)

F irst in Russia, then in the States, Devorah Sherer was raised in a home imbued with Torah and dedication to the klal. It was the perfect preparation for the life ahead of her. Born to Rav Shimshon Zelig and Rebbetzin Chaya Chava Fortman, she was transplanted to America at the age of three. Her father became the rav of Congregation Knesseth Israel — known as the White Shul — in Far Rockaway.

In 1943, when she was 18, she married Rabbi Moshe Sherer, who was working in what was then called Zeirei Agudath Israel. As newlyweds, the Sherers could barely afford to put bread on the table. The situation grew so desperate that Rabbi Sherer’s friends decided to help him open a lighting business. Meanwhile, Rabbi Sherer’s activities had already been noted by Mike Tress, who enlisted the help of Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Gedalia Schorr, and other gedolim to persuade Rabbi Sherer to continue on at Agudath Israel. “We need you more than the lighting industry,” they told him.

“My grandmother could have put her foot down and insisted that my grandfather remain in business. After all, they needed money for basic necessities — food, clothing, shelter,” says Shrage Goldschmidt, Mrs. Sherer’s grandson. “She knew that giving up the business meant going straight back to poverty. But her attitude was that if Klal Yisrael needed her husband, she wouldn’t stand in the way.”

A similar situation arose in 1951, when Devorah’s father Rav Fortman passed away. The White Shul turned to Rabbi Sherer, asking him to assume his father-in-law’s role. Doing so would not only afford the Sherers a sure source of income, but also secure them a prestigious position. However, Rav Aharon Kotler once again advised the Sherers that he had greater plans for Rabbi Sherer.

Rav Aharon Kotler used to say that Rabbi Moshe Sherer was the biggest baal tzedakah of his time. He may not have written the largest checks, but with his skills and talents he could have become the CEO of a large business. Instead, he applied his talents to helping Klal Yisrael

“Here, too, my grandmother could have insisted that her husband take another course. Her husband could have succeeded her father in leading a kehillah that was ready to welcome them with open arms,” Shrage Goldschmidt says. “Yet, once again her attitude was that if Klal Yisrael needed her husband, that was the only path to take. The family would go back to bread and water with smiles on their faces.”

With only the bare basics to work with, Mrs. Sherer became an expert balabusta. Using minimal ingredients, she managed to serve a tasty and diverse meal each evening.

Around the Clock

As Klal Yisrael’s ambassador in many different venues and forums, Rabbi Sherer was available for his fellow Yidden at all hours of the day and night — a feat that would have been impossible without his wife’s support. Rabbi Sherer used to say that his wife was a tzadeikes for allowing him to do all he did.

Menachem Lubinsky, who was involved at the Agudah offices for more than half a century, remembers the walks that Rabbi Sherer would take with his wife on Shabbos afternoon at Agudath Israel conventions. “In her simple and understated manner, she was the consummate supportive wife,” Lubinsky says. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 541)

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