Many of you know Rabbi Chaim Stenimetz and the great work that he does through the videos that we have been posting in collaboration with AskAbigail Productions. He is always witty and wise and speaks to the issues of the moment.
This last week, his mother, Rochel Steinmetz, passed away without warning. I visited him with the rest of the community according to Jewish mourning practices of comforting the mourner. He shared with all of us her story. Rochel Steinmetz, was born a Hungarian Jew. A survivor of the Holocaust, she and two of her sisters survived the death march from Auschwitz. Rochel Steinmetz, survived and lived to immigrate to the US and marry an American college graduate in Chicago. She and her husband moved to Monsey, a suburban New York community that was then starting a Jewish community. Rochel gave birth to three children and was one month away from giving birth to her fourth child, (Rabbi Steinmetz), when she lost her husband in a car crash. She did not give up. She went on to raise her four children, in the same house and the same community, as a single mother; with courage, perseverance and optimism. She devoted herself to the task with grace and courage. Aside from Rabbi Steinmetz’s memorable stories of his mother’s patience and wisdom, a member of the community came out of the woodwork to acknowledge her spirit in a eulogy.
When she passed away, last week, at the age of 83, she had 18 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. She is remembered for her resilience, optimism, and faith, which carried her through many challenges in life. Her memory survives as a beacon of courage for all of us.
Rabbi Steinmetz wrote this at the time of unveiling the gravestone for his mother in Jerusalem. It is a moving and deep meditation on the process of mourning. (published in the Washington Post)