Author and motivational speaker Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust with what she calls “the bread of faith.”
On May 9 Jungreis spoke to some 200 women at the sixth annual Evening of Pride & Inspiration Celebrating the Jewish Woman at the Shadowbrook in Shrewsbury. The event was held by the Women’s Circle of Chabad at the Shore, and was sponsored by the Zweben family, the owners of Shadowbrook.
Jungreis’ bread of faith was her most important nourishment, she said, during her internment at Bergen-Belsen. She counted down the days each week until it was Shabbat, when her father would gather his children and pass out stale crumbs he had saved all week. Closing her eyes, Jungreis said, she imagined being home eating her mother’s sweet hallah.
Jungreis, who was born in Hungary, is the president of Hineni, a movement she founded in 1973 to bring Jews back to their faith, and the author of Jewish Soul on Fire, The Committed Life, The Committed Marriage, and Life Is a Test.
The rebbetzin’s presentation at the event, said Chabad director Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, was intended to inspire Jewish women of all backgrounds and levels of observance to recognize their unique role in Judaism and in the world today.
“Judaism imbues us with the inner fortitude that even when we’re all alone, even when it’s a struggle, we still persevere and do the right thing because the strength is already within us,” Chabad c-director Chani Schapiro told the audience. “As Jewish women, we are on the forefront of keeping the Jewish spark and identity alive, becoming a link in the eternal chain of Jewish pride.”
For Jungreis, the evening presented an opportunity to spread her message that faith brings more meaning to people’s lives. “There’s nothing to compare to the feeling of reaching hearts, touching souls, and bringing blessings to people,” she told NJJN before her keynote address. “When people find more meaning in every day, they live for a higher purpose and have harmony in their lives.”
“This is by far my favorite Chabad event. You leave feeling inspired, and it empowers women,” said Margie Maze of Wayside, an event committee member. “We are role models for our children, and we have to set examples for them by teaching the ways of the Torah.”
Jewish women are all, in essence, the same, said Florette Abady of Oakhurst. “Our families are our priorities. We support our husbands in any way we can, and we have a bond that can’t really be broken.”
“I came seeking another dose of inspiration in between the two holidays, Pesach and Shavuot,” said Meryl Markowitz of Wayside.
Committee member Leah Todres of West Long Branch said the event, and Chabad in general, helped reacquaint her with the local Jewish community after her recent move back to the area. “Laibel and Chani welcome people with open arms to just come as you are and be part of the community regardless of your background or level of observance.”
In her opening remarks, committee member Nancy Roberts of Ocean praised Chabad couples like the Schapiros for “doing their part to make the world a better place by teaching others to do deeds of kindness, to preserve the Jewish flame in the world, and educate children to grow up with pride in who they are.”
Buff Glasser of Wayside, who is studying to be a life coach, said she was inspired in ways that will affect her life and profession. “It’s amazing how Judaism is so central to life coaching — it incorporates mind, body, and soul.”
Lynne Prager of Deal said she finds herself at a crossroads in life. “I was brought up Orthodox but have been Conservative since marriage. Lately I am toying with the idea of exploring my roots and filling my life with more inspiration,” she said. “It is so empowering to know that at any time in your life, no matter what your age, you can make a change in your life.”