Tag Archives: Satmar

Jew of the Week: Menachem Bombach

Rabbi Menachem Bombach was born in the ultra-Orthodox Satmar community of Meah Shearim in Jerusalem. His father passed away when he was just a toddler, and Bombach was raised in a very insular environment. Despite living in Israel, he spoke no Hebrew at all until he was 20 years old. Bombach had a sharp mind, though, and studied at some of Israel’s most prestigious yeshivas, including the famous Mir Yeshiva. When he got married and sought to find a job, he realized that he knew very little and was completely unprepared for adult life. Despite protests from his family and community, Bombach pursued secular studies. He learned Hebrew and English, earned a BA in Education, and then a Master’s from Hebrew University. To make sure other young Ultra-Orthodox men do not struggle like he did, Bombach decided to start a new kind of yeshiva, one where secular studies are given equal weight to religious studies, and students are prepared for future careers and financial independence. Encouraged and inspired by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, he founded Hamidrasha Hahasadit academy in Beitar Ilit. There, his carefully crafted program weaves together Biblical and Talmudic studies with math, language, and computer science. He has since opened a girls seminary, too, and planted the seeds for a network of similar schools. His vision is to bring the Haredi majority in Israel above the poverty line, to integrate them with technology in a kosher way, and to end the country’s divide between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox. He estimates that if he can reach 10% of the Haredi community, the impact would completely transform Israel economically and socially. Many are already feeling the impact that Bombach’s schools are making. He recently taught a class on Yom HaZikaron about being grateful for Israeli soldiers that have given their lives for Israel. The touching video of the class went viral. Although he has faced a great deal of adversity, Bombach continues to make waves in the Haredi community and Israeli society at large. His schools have become so popular that they cannot keep up with demand, and Bombach now hopes to expand his “Netzach” network of schools across the country. He is currently campaigning to receive more funding from New York’s UJA Israel@70 Fund – click here to watch his campaign video and vote for his school.

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Words of the Week

When God created the first man, He showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: “See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And everything that I created, I created it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.
– Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13)

Jew of the Week: Yitta Schwartz

The Woman With 2000 Children

A rare photo of Yitta Schwartz from the 1980s

A rare photo of Yitta Schwartz from the 1980s

Yitta Schwartz (1916-2010) was born in Kalev, Hungary to a Chassidic family. During the Holocaust, her entire family was taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where two of her six children died. A strong and pious woman, Schwartz persevered, and took care of many other people in the camp, often at great personal risk. One Holocaust survivor recalls how Schwartz took care of the deceased, carefully cleaning their bodies, digging graves, and burying them. Following the war, Schwartz’s family started to rebuild in Belgium, and helped countless refugees in the process, giving them shelter in their own tiny apartment. In 1953, the family (now with 11 children) moved to the US, where Schwartz had 5 more kids. Schwartz’s husband sold furniture, while she took care of their 16 children, and then the many grandchildren that followed. By the time of her passing at the age of 93, Schwartz had over 200 grandchildren, many more great-grandchildren, and nearly 2000 descendants altogether. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of her time was spent going from one family event to the next. When arriving at these gatherings, people would say she resembled the Prophet Elijah, her presence filling the room with light, and everyone clambering for a bit of the great matriarch’s attention and blessings. A very modest woman, she avoided being photographed or filmed. She is remembered as having an infectious smile, a thirst for life, and an excellent memory. Knowing that she would always live on in the doting hearts of her descents, she once said, “If you leave a child or grandchild, you live forever.”

Words of the Week

So said God: ‘Let a wise man not glory in his wisdom, nor let the strong one glory in his strength, nor let the wealthy glory in his wealth. Only in this may one glorify himself: in discerning and knowing Me, for I am God, Who performs kindness, justice, and righteousness – for these are what I desire…’
– Jeremiah 9:22-23