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Satin & Steel

Leah Gebber

When Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman needed to marry off the orphaned girls he’d raised, he turned to his sister, Rebbetzin Rochel Nussbaum. A story of nerves of steel and yards of satin

Monday, May 29, 2017

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MOMENTS OF TRUTH Just hours before he passed away, with all his children gathered around him, Rav Yisroel Grossman instructed Rebbetzin Nussbaum to look in the pocket of his jacket. Inside were three $100 bills — an unusually large sum for her father. “Use it to marry off the girls,” he told her

I t was a request that would change her life.

In 2007, Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman called his sister with a dilemma. Graduation was around the corner. The girls — many of whom were orphans or from severely deprived backgrounds — were welcome to stay in Migdal Ohr indefinitely and benefit from the higher education programs he’d established. But they needed to be shepherded into the world.

It would be better for them to “leave home” to study. Of course, when they had some kind of qualification, they would need to be guided through shidduchim. Then they would need to be married off…

While he took care of marrying off the alumni bochurim, Rav Grossman needed a counterpart to take care of the girls. The task Rav Grossman presented to his sister was crucial — and one that required the utmost delicacy.

“He’s just a year older than me. We were always close.” This is how Rebbetzin Rochel Nussbaum explains the request.

By her side, Miss Fabia Preminger, the Rebbetzin’s partner in all her endeavors, laughs. “The Rav chose Rebbetzin Nussbaum because she’s a powerhouse!”

As a decade’s worth of tales attest, his choice was spot-on.

Rabbanit Ima

With her own large family married off, it would have been easy for Rebbetzin Nussbaum to adopt a slower pace after the busy years of raising her children. She could have focused solely on being present for her husband, the revered Rav Naftali Nussbaum, a prominent av beis din and rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Chayei Moshe.

It would have been far easier than taking on responsibility for hundreds of girls. Easier than ensuring that each of those girls has a place to study for a profession in which she’ll excel. Definitely easier than looking for shidduchim for those girls — from making inquiries to approving first-date outfits.

 

But easy isn’t a word in the Rebbetzin’s lexicon. Last year alone, Rebbetzin Nussbaum — the girls call her Rabbanit Ima — married off over 300 girls. 

This involved far more than linking arms with the bride and holding a candle while walking the kallah to the chuppah.

“Rabbanit Ima” takes each girl into her heart — and like a mother, she takes the kallah shopping for clothing and linens, appliances and furniture. She soothes away fears and arranges for therapy. She listens, laughs, listens some more, and above all, cares.

Larger than Life

I’m a few minutes early for our interview and I look around the hotel lobby, wondering if the occupant of the couch over is my rebbetzin. She wears a hat atop her sheitel, and her straight back gives her an air of dignity.

I’m about to approach her when the lobby door opens, and, purse flying off one arm, hands clutching sundry shopping bags, slightly out of breath from rushing, there’s a woman in her late sixties, pillbox hat over a short blonde sheitel. There’s an energy about her and I half stand up in greeting. She sees me, rushes over, and wraps me in a hug. No mistaking Rebbetzin Rochel Nussbaum. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 544, Shavuos 2017 Special Edition)

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