Esther Jungreis

Esther Jungreis (April 27, 1936 – August 23, 2016,[1] 19 Menachem Av, 5776) was a Jewish, Hungarian-born, American author, and public speaker. She was the founder of the international Hineni organization in the United States. A Holocaust survivor and rebbetzin, she worked to return secular Jews to Orthodox Judaism.

Esther Jungreis
Esther Jungreis at Scott Air Force Base.jpg
Esther Jungreis at Scott Air Force Base during the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast.
BornApril 27, 1936
DiedAugust 23, 2016(2016-08-23) (aged 80)
OccupationAuthor, Public Speaker and Kiruv


Jungreis was born[2] in Szeged, Hungary on April 27, 1936,[3] to Avraham and Miriam Jungreis. Her two brothers, Jacob and Binyamin, both became rabbis.[4] Her father was an Orthodox rabbi and operated a shtiebel in the city,[5] in the Neolog community.[6] Avraham Jungreis was deported with other Jews from Szeged in a cattle car bound for Auschwitz. However, a relative who worked for Rudolph Kastner's office arranged for the cattle car to be opened while passing through Budapest and the entire Jungreis family was transferred onto the so-called Kastner train,[7] which after a journey of several weeks and a diversion to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, delivered its 1,670 passengers to Switzerland.[8]

In 1947, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Jungreis reconnected with distant cousin Theodore (Meshulem HaLevi) Jungreis, a rabbi, and they married.[9] The couple settled in North Woodmere, New York,[10] and founded the North Woodmere Jewish Center/Orthodox Congregation Ohr Torah. Together they raised four children.[8]

Jungreis founded the Hineni organization on November 18, 1973, in Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum. The organization aimed to promote Yiddishkeit in the United States.[11] As the leader of this organization, she drew criticism for her outspoken stance against interfaith marriages. She was also critical of secularization, which she viewed as a form of assimilation.[11]

After her husband died in 1996, Jungreis continued with outreach and education.[12] The Yartzeit of her husband was in Shevat, 5756.[13] Along with Paysach Krohn, Jungreis served as a guest speaker at the annual Shavuot retreat hosted by The Gateways Organization.[14][15]

Jungreis died on August 23, 2016, aged 80, due to complications of pneumonia,[9][16][17] and survived by four children — Yisroel Jungreis and Osher Jungreis, both rabbis, and Chaya Sara Gertzulin and Slava Chana Wolff.[8][4] At the time of her death, she lived in Lawrence.[18]

Outreach workEdit

Hineni Heritage Center


Hineni (Hebrew: הִנֵּֽנִי, lit.'here I am' [hiˈneni]) is an organization founded in May 1973 by Jungreis to encourage Jews to transition to Orthodox Judaism, a part of the movement known as Ba'al Teshuva. Jungreis addressed audiences throughout the 1970s and 80s, including an early program titled "You Are a Jew" at Madison Square Garden on November 18, 1973.[19] She spoke against trends of secularization and assimilation that she considered to be "spiritual genocide".

The word 'Hineni' means 'Here I am' in a spiritual sense, a reference to what Abraham says to God to indicate his readiness in Genesis 22:1[20][21] The name chosen by Jungreis contrasts with the Hebrew word "Poe," which means present (as in attendance-taking).[22][23]

In 1989, the Hineni Heritage Center opened in New York City. The Center houses a multi-media museum and offers classes in Torah studies, Shabbatons (weekends) and High Holy Days services. The Heneni Bill and Jill Roberts Outreach Center in Jerusalem offers guidance and counseling to youths at risk.[21]

Jungreis spoke in locations such as the Hollywood Palladium, the Johannesburg Coliseum, and Binyanei HaUmah in Jerusalem. She also spoke for the United States Army and Navy and the Israel Defense Forces.[21] In 1998, Hineni opened a soup kitchen and youth center in Jerusalem, offering social and support services for young people at risk, in addition to hosting an annual Passover seder for the city's homeless residents.[4]


Jungreis wrote four[17] books: Jewish Soul on Fire (William Morrow & Company), The Committed Life: Principles of Good Living from Our Timeless Past (HarperCollins, translated into Hebrew, Russian and Hungarian and in its eighth edition) and The Committed Marriage (HarperCollins).[24] Her last book, published in 2006, was titled Life Is a Test.[25][26]

For over 40 years, she wrote a column for The Jewish Press using the Torah as the source for solutions to everyday problems.[24]

Esther Jungreis (left) with April Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Budapest, September 15, 2008.

Awards and recognitionEdit

Jungreis was named "Woman of the Year" by Hadassah, Jewish War Veterans, B'nai B'rith, Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations, the Knights of Pythias, and the Christian Amita Society.[27][better source needed]

U.S. President George W. Bush appointed Jungreis to serve on the honorary delegation that accompanied him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[28]

The Ani Yehudi award was accepted posthumously by her daughter, Slovie Jungreis Wolf, on October 21, 2016.[29]


  1. ^ "Esther Jungreis, 'the Jewish Billy Graham,' Dies at 80". The New York Times. August 26, 2016.
  2. ^ Sarna, Jonathan D.: American Judaism: a history, page 352. Yale University Press, 2004.
  3. ^ Group, Gale (October 17, 2003). Contemporary Authors New Revision Series: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Writers in Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Poetry, Journalism, Drama, Motion Pictures, Television, & Other Fields. Gale. ISBN 9780787667146.
  4. ^ a b c Esther Jungreis. Jewish Women's Archive
  5. ^ Szanto T. Gabor. Szeged, Hires Varos (Szeged, the Famous City). Szombat, August 27, 2009. [Hungarian].
  6. ^ Rebbetzin Of The World: An interview with Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
  7. ^ Laura Deckelman as told by Rebbetzin Chana Rubin. The Final Solution Is Life. Mesorah Publications LTD. May 2000, page 345.
  8. ^ a b c "Esther Jungreis, Orthodox Jewish outreach pioneer, dies". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Esther Jungreis, Jewish Outreach Pioneer, Dies At 80". August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  10. ^ Bessen, Jeff (August 31, 2016). "Being strong in the face of adversity". Nassau Herald. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Jewish Press Staff (August 23, 2016). "Baruch Dayan Haemes: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a"h". Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  12. ^ New Book By Rebbetzin Jungreis – 'Life Is A Test' – Five Towns Jewish Times Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Obituaries - Shloshim - Rabbi Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, Z"TL". The Jewish Press. February 16, 1996.
  14. ^ The Gateway Organization. "Gateways Shavout Schedule 5771" (PDF). Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  15. ^ "Holiday Retreats". Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  16. ^ Grimes, William (August 26, 2016). "Esther Jungreis, 'the Jewish Billy Graham,' Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Jewish spiritual leader, Holocaust survivor Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis dies at 80. The Jerusalem Post
  18. ^ "Tefillos for Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis". Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  19. ^ Esther Jungreis, Orthodox Jewish outreach pioneer, dies. Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  20. ^ "And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham, and said unto him: 'Abraham'; and he said: 'Here am I.'" (Genesis 22:1)
  21. ^ a b c "". Archived from the original on January 24, 2007. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  22. ^ "Hineni". 2009.
  23. ^ which also contrasts "I'm here" vs. "Here I am" - the latter referring to "emotional and spiritual presence".
  24. ^ a b "Esther Jungreis | Jewish Virtual Library". Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  25. ^ Jungreis, Esther. "Life Is a Test". Hachette Book Group. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  26. ^ Jungreis, Esther (2006). Life Is a Test. Hachette Books. ISBN 978-1-60024-4568.
  27. ^ "Reb. Esther Jungreis". The Harry Walker Agency Speakers Bureau. Archived from the original on April 22, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  28. ^ "Bush Visit May Boost Olmert".
  29. ^ "Slovie Jungreis Wolff accepts the Ani Yehudi award on behalf of her mother". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021.

External linksEdit