By Yehuda Geberer & Dovi Safier
AT A TIME WHEN YESHIVOS were struggling to stay afloat, a new source of sustenance emerged for these venerated institutions and their embattled emissaries. In the interwar period, determined women in cities across America formed auxiliary groups and organized sisterhoods, which initiated creative fundraisers to support the valued Torah institutions. These groups were organized primarily at the grassroots level and were entirely a voluntary endeavor.
Kletzk, Slabodka, Mir, Telshe, Lomza, Baranovich, Radin, and many others benefited greatly from these efforts. Roshei yeshivah would write them regular letters of support that extolled their holy work, personal letters of gratitude for their contributions and fundraising efforts, and even addressed the groups in person during their visits to America.
The contrast couldn’t be more striking. In Nuremberg the annual Nazi party rally was in full swing, with Adolf Hitler presiding over hundreds of thousands of supporters. On the other side of the Atlantic, Rav Elchonon Wasserman was in Boston addressing a gathering of the local chapter of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Baranovich Yeshivah. Following an introduction by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rav Elchonon reminded the women how Torah and chesed served as a protection against the looming dangers engulfing the world, and begged them to expand their efforts on behalf of the yeshivah.
Did You Know
Several years before the passing of Rabbi Mordechai Schwab, a young housewife had the opportunity to visit this venerable tzaddik in his Monsey home.
“This is Mrs. Soloff,” said one of those present.
At the mention of the name Soloff, Rabbi Schwab leapt to his feet.
“My rebbi [Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz], upon his return from his 1929 trip to America, told his talmidim that America stands on the merit of three righteous women. Mrs. Stern, Mrs. [Sadie] Soloff, and [her sister] Mrs. [Necha] Golding. Therefore, when I hear the name Soloff, I must stand in respect!”
(Told in Daring to Dream: Profiles in the Growth of the American Torah Community)
A Universal Undertaking
Several chassidic dynasties had vibrant ladies auxiliaries in the US in the 1930s. Mrs. Henya Tress, the mother of the renowned Agudah leader Mike Tress, was the president of the Stoliner Ladies Auxiliary, which assisted the legendary hachnassas orchim efforts of the Stoliner Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Chaim Perlow.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Magazine, Issue 811)