Wednesday, January 02, 2002

A Mother Experiences the KLC (The Kabbalah Learning Centre)

A Mother Experiences the KLC (The Kabbalah Learning Centre)
Reprinted by Permission

This article is to encourage people to speak out about their experiences "Rav" Berg's Kabbalah Learning Center (KLC) Berg's given name is Feivel Gruberger, an experienced insurance salesman. 

It is essential to keep in mind that the actions of the KLC have little in common with traditional or even responsible Jewish renewal Kabbalah teachers. 

When I first realized how self-destructively deep my child was involved in this group, I was paralyzed with horror. This gave way to fury, anger, frustration and pain beyond words. It made my blood freeze to realize how subtle and efficient this organization works.

A Mother experiences the KLC
I went to the center because I wanted to improve my life. To improve how I felt about myself, my marriage, my career. There was plenty of room for improvement.

"Kabbalah has the answer for it all", I was assured by the "rabbi" who was in charge of the center.

That felt great. Finally someone who spoke straight out, full of confidence. He gave me the impression that now, having come to them, everything would easily fall into place.

I had to tell what was bothering me, of course. My marital problems were solved within less than three minutes. "No use fighting for this relationship. We will find you someone better." When I answered that this was not exactly what I had in mind and that there also were some business links that concerned our marriage, the solution was as simple: I just had to stay on until the business matters were sorted out and then make up my mind. Maybe I could even bring my spouse along. "Kabbalah" would bring light into everyone's world and there might be hope. Could we afford classes for both of us? 

I signed up and attended the Introduction Class.

We were told to write down what exactly we would like to improve during these weeks and were promised that we would experience a miraculous change upon completion of the course.

I learned that "restriction was necessary to produce light", that to "control yourself" was a very important key to improve your life and that "you have to inject consciousness" into every single action of your daily life, because we had to understand that spontaneity was not a good thing, like some psychologists taught. Everyone had found out, our teacher told us, that psychology and religion have not helped anyone so far, quite the contrary.

We learned "don't trust your five senses", that the world as we used to perceive it is nothing but an illusion. The "material world" is only 1%. The "Real world", however, is invisible but consists of the 99% that is mathematically left over in this equation. This is the realm that counts where the work has to be done.

In due course of the class we were introduced to the "principles of reincarnation" and "Satan" and learned why the time to improve ourselves was running out. We did not have many reincarnations left, if we wanted to be among those who were to be saved in 240 years, which is Judgement Day.

Gradually we were introduced to the tools that would ensure our personal improvement - "reconstructing our nature" the goal of which is "to become godlike" - and that of our lives: different kinds of meditation, volunteering at the center, and tithing.

Questions were encouraged, as long as they did not directly concern the teachings. For example you could ask HOW to do your meditations. When I asked, "WHY I should accept certain teachings in the first place?" I was told that "it will all become clear to you later on". After all, Kabbalah had been a secret science for centuries and could only revealed to you in little bits and "whenever you are ready". When I wanted to know why Kabbalah had not been introduced to the world before, if it abolished any kind of pain and even would stop wars, the answer was simple. "The time is right now." 

Patience and obedience to the rules were important, if you wanted results. Questions about the content of the teachings were ignored or - at best - ridiculed. Were not our lives the ones who needed improvement? Were not the people at the center happy? They were the ones that experienced miracles in their lives all the time. Could we say the same about our lives? If we had indeed experienced similar "miracles," these were just coincidences, whereas when you did Kabbalah, the results were "proactively" produced and were not just arbitrary. There were men and women who testified how wonderful their lives had become. They spoke convincingly about how they led better marriages, how their businesses has prospered, how they had won the battle over cancer and illnesses.

We were invited to Sabbath meetings and dinners. They were lovely. Everyone was so nice and friendly. We were introduced to certain rituals; all questions about the "why?" were answered with "energy". The KLC teachers "know" about any energy that is out there and to use it for improvement. And all of them are still learning from "Rabbi Berg" who knows all the secrets, I was told.

If you want to know why it takes so long to improve the world with this perfect knowledge at hand, can't you imagine the answer your "teacher" will give you? The KLC is very liberal, everyone has the right to chose for themselves, no one is forced to become a member… Unfortunately as long as the rest of the world does not "chose" to participate and is too blind to see the truth, the task for the members is harder and chaos and Satan will continue to create evil … 

At the end of the class, many of us did not experience the promised miracle. We were told that this was our fault, because we really didn't try hard enough. Had we done our exercises diligently? Had we volunteered enough? Was there not a little more that we could do to contribute to the center? Also, it must not be forgotten that there was so much more to learn. There were so many more classes to take. Patience.

I did not have this patience and also did not want to come to the Sabbath meetings anymore.

"No problem, this was fine," I was told. "Everyone has his/her own way to follow, but something terrible would happen to one of my family members and then we would be there for us, because we are forgiving."

Even though I did not believe their teachings this prophecy about disaster happening to a person I love terrified me for a long time - until I learned about "phobia indoctrination" when I read Steve Hassan's book. The book opened my eyes to the whole issue of mind control and cults. In the last months I talked to many people who had once been connected with the KLC and there are many people who are still afraid. I mused about how psychology does work after all…

Intellectually, I thought the rhetoric was quite obvious. However, my brilliant, but naïve child didn't see it as I did. She attended more classes, one-to-one-consultations, even long weekends. There was an enormous personality change.

My child now claims she is free of any worldly desires, except that there always has to be enough money to pay for classes and activities that concern the center. College is not important anymore; all spare time is consumed by working ("volunteering") at the center and to earn money, so that tithing can be done. Contact to parents and siblings is below minimum level. Conversations are a distant memory from the past. Discussions are not even remotely possible. Criticism of the KLC was met with different levels of arrogance, aggressiveness or flight. In the end our child avoided us altogether.

We have watched the physical deterioration, the loss of his longtime friends, the destruction of a promising career. She cannot communicate normally-everything is in KLC jargon. When she has come home to visit from a weekend or a seminar, my husband and I feel like we are watching someone walking on air, utterly euphoric. What little time that she still spends with the family she is in a moody, uncommunicative and remote, eyes glazed over. It is a terrifying experience. Having worked with problem kids, I can compare this kind of behavior pattern only to drug addicts.

Why did she change like this? How can something like this happen to a gifted child? Why is it so difficult to penetrate this strange behavior? 

Recruiting and controlling Strategies
(Please, I hope others will also contribute what information they know that might be useful for others).

When my despair abated I started to educate myself, I read everything I could find about mind control, meditation, trances - and secret notes taken from members at classes. I learned it was mind control indoctrination.

In each class, especially "Personal Growth Workshops", questionnaires are to be filled out. It is imperative that you "open up". Also you will soon have "friends" in who you are encouraged to confide in, who are supposed "to help you" - especially to "overcome doubts, as doubts are from Satan". 

Some meditations transfer the trusting member to "the ancient temple in Jerusalem"; in the course of some of these meditations positive images from your life are substituted with KLC images.

Other meditations are about "The Rav", his greatness etc.

It is indicated that you are really safe only while at a center or in its close vicinity. If you travel to somewhere in the world that has not yet a center it is your "free choice" to expose yourself to such dangers…

Members are trained in blocking out any attempts of criticism of the KLC. I am prepared to take a guess that everyone who has a family member or friend deeply involved in the KLC has experienced the glazing over of the member's eyes, the rocking forward and backward, the silent reciting of KLC terminology when confronted with unpleasant discoveries about the group.

"The Rav" claims to have the power to change the chemical structure of water and thereby improve its quality to such an extent that its benefits for the one who drinks it are worth the price you have to pay for it. (It is sold at every center. Water provided for meals on weekends is ordinary water). Berg can supposedly do miracles, has knowledge of teleportation. Again, these techniques are sold to interested members, regardless of the potential harm these practices might do to the unsuspecting follower.

"Services" include vehement shaking of fists (induces hyperventilation, which can make your subconscious more susceptible).

"Alcohol carries light", therefore -especially in the retreats in LA - consumption of alcohol is encouraged to "get close to the light" as part of rituals, also to minors.
Members are videotaped.

Members are encouraged to change their first names according to suggestions of their teacher, because each name "carries energy" and, of course, your teacher knows best what is best for you.

You are encouraged "to let go of your family"- unless you can recruit them, of course.

You are kept busy; there is always something to do. It will never have an effect "on your tikkun" if you help anyone outside the center, because "the center is a holy place", chosen by superior knowledge. (Which is true, because most locations are where the money is. For example, there is no KLC in Central Africa, Bosnia or India or even in Central Kentucky…) This is why you are encouraged to do well financially, because then "you are able to help the cause better".

If you are a failure in the material world, though, you don't have much choice but to become a "chevre". You work at the center fulltime, for a mattress and enough food to keep you going and thus "bring light to the world" too.

The KLC states that it is "not a religion", but files taxes as a religion. Members seem to be thrilled that can fool the IRS, since the organization is "above the 1% world".

In the introduction class you are tempted jokingly, "Isn't it better to be rich and healthy that to be poor and sick?" If you don't get these results, it is your fault, but most long term members have forgotten this alluring recruitment promise.
In spite of long hours of work, often experiencing the same if not more obstacles than before in their lives they still claim "It works!"

Why? In the Introduction Course you are taught already that "the more restriction, the more light", explained by the lightbulb principle. This translates to "the more pain the more gain". Doubts about this "are from Satan" - we heard this before… - and so the circle closes.
Why should we be concerned if our loved ones claim to be happy?

You need not be concerned if you are sure that the member's decision was made fully informed about everything that entails being a member BEFORE starting out. 

You need not be concerned if the member has had a complete "time-out" for several weeks /months to be able to inform her/himself thoroughly, discussed the topic with her/his OWN words and had time to really think. This is common practice when you decide to join a monastery the Catholic Church recommends about one year to reflect upon your decision.

Members of this group, however, are told that, "this is the absolute and only truth", refusing vehemently to listen or discuss the topic. Should you be lucky enough to get them to talk, the best you can expect in most cases is parroted phrases they learned at the classes and sessions. If you are familiar with the teachings you will find that most answers you'll get are literal quotations.

Members are kept by deception and - most appalling - by fear. I told about the frightening prophecy that I was given. Everyone I have talked to had similar experiences. Threats of accidents that you might encounter when you leave, business and or financial losses (if you are rather materialistically inclined), harm that might befall someone you love are common practice.

As the member is discouraged from checking out testimonies from others that have left, these fears stay in place and not only keep the member in the group, but come in also quite useful to exert further pressure.

This does not ensure a free choice.

Why should we tell our story?
Every one of us who has been through this experience knows the changes that occur in our loved one's personality. Caught in the trap of so-called "self-improvement" lectures, vulnerable, gentle-minded and idealistically inclined students are gradually, but ruthlessly, inevitably, submitted to mind control strategies that are so subtle and efficient that in the end the person exposed to them is alienated from everyone who really cares about them, from career goals, things they liked to enjoy, from every human life experience itself. They are told the goal is "to become Godlike", to "restructure your psychological DNA" and although the members are far from the former - and have to be forever striving that they can be exploited further, the latter often becomes a horrific reality. In the last few months I have spoken with many distressed families as well as former members, and they have all confirmed my own experience: Your son/daughter, spouse, mother/father, friend changes from a loving caring family member into a cold, emotionless, detached, arrogant and sometimes even violent stranger.

I have to point out, though, that recently (2001) - because of a lot of negative press - communication with family is more encouraged, and living conditions at the centers have somewhat improved. After all, just have one more volunteer work in the kitchen and prepare at least decent food for the hevres is not such a considerable financial loss. Still, the core problem remains. The mind control system still is working. It takes some time of subtle but relentless manipulation to get a new recruit to the point where occasional little "rewards" like playing ball or going for a swim support the reward/ punishment system that keep members at bay. In the end, only one hour of this kind of leisure per week is sufficient to enforce the conviction of a trained, devoted member that the KLC is kind and caring.

This site is for us to speak out.

Each of us needs all the support we can get. Sharing experiences is one step. It will show us that we are not alone, that our loved one is not a silly psycho; it will help us to maintain the love, the strength and the faith we all need until our loved one is finally free to choose again. 

Each of us alone might never have the clout, legally, financially or politically to have this group investigated. Together we will. Pooling information, even though it is done anonymously if you wish (through Steve Hassan), is the first step to fight for the freedom of mind and for our families. Media, politicians and law enforcement cannot in the long run ignore groups that undermine the very foundations of our society: Family values, freedom and integrity.

Each of us probably tortures himself/ herself of having failed our loved one at times. We might have. So what?! If we did, we still the right to change and work at what we did wrong, and even if our loved ones do not come back home to us they deserve the right to come back to themselves. They deserve the right to choose. The more stories you will hear the more it becomes obvious that this right does not exist, no matter what you hear. In notes taken at "advanced" classes I found the imperative that "all doubts (concerning the KLC's teachings) are from Satan" and must be fought accordingly. 

In the meantime do educate yourself. At the end of the page there are links to organizations and specialists who have a long and extensive experience with the situation we are in. The more you know, the better you can handle the situation- maybe even find ways to encourage them to think for themselves again, and you can understand the enormous pain every member goes through. Hopefully it will also arouse your moral courage not to let an organization showing unscrupulous greed get away with wringing every possible cent out of its members with no apparent regard for humanity.

Most of all: Don't be afraid. If you are an ex-member read up on the subject of "phobia indoctrination". This is a very efficient means to keep members staying in the group and even terrify people enough to keep silent after they left. In my own story, I gave you an example of how they worked it on me, and I am ashamed to admit that it worked to a certain extent. After all, we all are vulnerable somewhere. Joining a group like the KLC means that these vulnerable spots will be the first ones that you will be asked to expose "for your own spiritual growth". This shows exactly the Achilles' heel where they will hit you. It is a very effective tool, but keep in mind that it has nothing to do with supernatural powers, just plain psychology.

If you decide to publish your story, but fear that this might cause retaliation from the group or estrange your loved one even further, this is what we recommend and intend:

- Don't mention name, age or location (it does not matter whether you live in NYC, California or South America), 

- Try to avoid the indication of gender, e.g. write "spouse" instead of husband/ wife, "child" instead of son/daughter, "parent" instead of mother/ father.

- You may submit your story, but will not be able to contact each other, except you want to be contacted. Anonymity and privacy will be guaranteed. This is why you need not fill any of the fields when submitting your story/ information except the text part. 

- If you feel or as a matter of fact are threatened in any way as a result of telling your story, file a report at your local police station immediately. As with everything else, the more people report legal transgressions the easier it is to put an end to them.

If possible, please fill out a submit group information form or a testimonial and indicate if you are willing to use your real name or a pseudonym. Also, it would be helpful for you to add an email address that will enable people to contact you- if you would like this. Also, let us know if you are willing to be interviewed by the media or are willing to help others.

A concerned Mother.

Rebbetzin Chava Pincus -- Sara Schenirer's American Disciple

A Window into the Chareidi World - IN-DEPTH FEATURES

Rebbetzin Chava Pincus -- Sara Schenirer's American Disciple
by M. Samsonowitz
Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight - 8 Adar 5762 - February 20, 2002

When Chava Pincus passed away suddenly on January 26 (13 Shvat) this year, the life of a spirited, unflagging servant of Hashem, whose career spanned four continents and the vicissitudes of the religious community of the past century, came to a glorious close. She left behind her a large, distinguished family of bnei Torah and Jewish educators, and thousands of teachers she had trained who revolutionized the Jewish world and made it into the vibrant religious community we know today.

Early Years in the Galil
Chava Leah Pincus was born in December around 1914, to HaRav Yitzchok Mattisyohu Weinberg in Tiveria. R' Mattis was the son of Rav Noach Weinberg, the grandson of the Slonimer Rebbe, who had been sent to establish a chassidic enclave in the Holy Land in the mid 1800s with other Slonimer chassidim.

Chava's maternal grandfather, HaRav Avner Lorberbaum, was a great talmid chochom in Tzfas descended from the author of the Chavos Daas and the Nesivos Mishpot, whose family had already been in the Holy Land for many generations. Chava's earliest days were thus infused with the flavor and purity of her chassidic, Eretz Hakodesh roots.

This story has been told in greater detail in Yated Ne'eman of parshas Re'ei, 5759 (1999) in Part One of the feature articles about Rebbetzin Pincus's brother, HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, of Baltimore.

During World War I, HaRav Yitzchok Mattisyohu Weinberg had to flee to America, at the advice of the Slonimer Rebbe. He eventually opened a store of notions in Bleecker Street. His wife and two children resided in the grandparents' home in Tzfas for the duration of the war. Many years later, aware of the deprivation and want which Palestine residents suffered at the time, Rebbetzin Pincus nonetheless said that she only had positive memories of the period.

In 1921, with the cannons of World War I behind them, R' Mattis's family traveled to the U.S. to join him. The reunited family set about building Yiddishkeit in America, both on a personal level and in the community. R' Mattis was a kodosh and a tohor whose entire day was centered on his Torah study and avodas Hashem. Members of the unassuming but high- spirited Weinberg family were to become innovators in Jewish education who made immense contributions to the Jewish world.

In later years, R' Mattis's wife Hinda founded the first Bais Yaakov-style school on the Lower East Side: the Esther Schoenfeld School. His son HaRav Yaakov Weinberg, became rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel Yeshiva in Baltimore. His youngest son HaRav Noach Weinberg is founder and rosh yeshiva of Aish Hatorah Yeshiva in Yerushalayim and allied institutions around the world.

Chava's life too was a series of innovations and "firsts" in drawing the Jewish people back to their roots. R' Mattis sent his sons to the best Jewish schools he could find and learned with all his children as much as possible. Chava also wanted more Jewish learning and if it had been up to her, she would have gone with them to learn in a yeshiva.

Her father wouldn't let her attend the local schools for girls because they were Zionist-oriented and run by people lacking yiras Shomayim. But he encouraged her to study on her own. Rebbetzin Pincus remembered that her father used to pay her a dollar for each perek of Pirkei Ovos that she learned -- and that was in the days that a dollar was a dollar.

Chava's great desire to learn remained for her entire life. She always told her daughters and students to keep learning. She would tell them that wealth and joy lie in learning. "You have fulfilled your role as wife and mother by encouraging your husband and sons in learning," she said. "But to personally enrich your own lives, you to must develop and retain your interest in learning."

The Cracow Seminary
One day R' Mattis read in the Polish Agudas Yisroel journal about a woman called Sara Schenirer who had opened a seminary in Poland to teach high-level Jewish studies to Jewish women, with the backing of most of the leading Torah sages. Right then R' Mattis wanted to send his oldest daughter to study there, but his practical-minded wife refused since Chava was too young.

When Chava graduated high school, R' Mattis again proposed that she go study in the Cracow Seminary. Chava was willing. Her father promised to buy her a return ticket which she could use whenever she wanted, and all the arrangements were quickly made.

As it turned out, she was the only American student ever to study under Sara Schenirer. Her father sent a letter to Frau Schenirer that in retrospect seems prophetic. "Elisha Hanovi asked for a double portion of the prophecy which Eliyahu Hanovi had. Why did he need more than his teacher Eliyahu? Because his generation's level was much lower than Eliyahu Hanovi's generation, Elisha Hanovi understood that he needed more than his teacher to properly lead his generation.

"Frau Schenirer," R' Mattis concluded, "Poland is under your influence. My daughter has to come back to the United States to lead the generation here. So give her double of your yiras Shomayim, tzniyus, and knowledge, so she can lead the generation in America."

Chava received a warm send-off from her friends in Bnos and Zeirei Agudas Yisroel, and in Tammuz embarked on a ship for Europe. The six-day trip passed quickly, and she traveled by train from Bremen to Cracow. She received her first jolt concerning European antisemitism already on the train to Poland: a train conductor began beating a chassidic Jew who he assumed had made a mess in the third-class cabin. She fearlessly stood up and told the conductor in English, "Get your hands off that man! I was here all this time and the man did not make the mess!"

She was alone in a new country and didn't even know the language, but that didn't stop her from standing up to protect the innocent.

Chava's dismay was great when she arrived in Cracow on Thursday and there was no one to meet her. Taking the initiative, she hired a porter to take her belongings and found a Jew in the street who could direct her to the seminary.

Another disappointment awaited her there. The students had gone on a trip and the school was empty, besides the kitchen help and a few girls who weren't able to go. She anxiously clutched her return ticket, and made plans to return. But then the seminary students returned on Friday, and Chava found herself a small sensation. The girl who had traveled halfway around the world from America aroused wonder and admiration from the other girls. Soon she was busy with Shabbos preparations like the other girls and finally, Shabbos arrived.

Electrified by Sara Schenirer
It was a Shabbos like none other she had experienced. She joined all the girls in the school's large hall and met Sara Schenirer, the famous principal of the school. Chava immediately felt that she was in the presence of a great woman. Frau Schenirer's face shone with a fiery light and her eyes were mild and loving. Chava was not even offended when the great principal fixed her neckline which was considered kosher in America, but didn't hold up to Sara Schenirer's halachic standards. Years later, when describing the incident to her daughter, she added, "I felt she pinned a medal on me."

Her children always interpreted this incident as indicative of their mother's gadlus as much as testimony to Sarah Schenirer's shleimus.

Chava found Shabbos inspiring. The students davened all three prayers and ate together. By the time Shabbos was over, Chava was sold on her new school.

She had to go through a set of adaptation difficulties. The classes were in German and Galician Yiddish, which was very different from the Lithuanian Yiddish that she knew. With time she mastered the German and picked up the Polish Yiddish.

The students spent the summer in the Carpathian mountains. Here she met Dr. Shmuel (Leo) Deutschlander, who headed the Bais Yaakov movement from Vienna. She was impressed with this G-d-fearing, educated Jew, who combined Western culture with a burning love for Torah and Klal Yisroel. He spent most of the year getting support and funds for Keren Hatorah which supported talmudei Torah, chadorim and Bais Yaakov schools.

Chava had arrived at the beginning of the summer. During Elul and Tishrei, she traveled with Fraulein Esther Hamburger, one of the school's instructors, throughout Jewish communities in Poland. They went to Lublin, where they saw Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin and met HaRav Meir Shapira. Then they went to Warsaw and Gur.

They spent Rosh Hashonoh in Gur, where they saw thousands of chassidim converging on the Rebbe's court. She received a personal invitation from the Rebbetzin to hear the Rebbe's kiddush.

In Warsaw, she davened on Yom Kippur in the beis midrash of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, HaRav Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson.

After Yom Kippur, she visited the famous Mirrer Yeshiva where she was received by the rosh yeshiva, HaRav Eliezer Yudel Finkel, and the mashgiach, HaRav Yeruchom Levovitz.

This journey through Jewish Poland finally ended in Baranowitz, where she spent Succos with the Slonimer Rebbe's family who were her relatives. Baranowitz gave her the opportunity to become better acquainted with Vichna, Sara Schenirer's star disciple who then lived with her uncle, HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Lubchansky, the mashgiach of the Baranowitz yeshiva. She also met the rosh yeshiva of the Baranowitz yeshiva HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, who later spent two years in the U.S. collecting for his yeshiva and guiding her friends in Zeirei Agudas Yisroel.

Vichna later married an American who had come to study in the Mirrer yeshiva, HaRav Boruch Kaplan, and when they went back she transported the Bais Yaakov movement to American soil. Chava Weinberg was to become her faithful partner in building Torah education in New York City.

Another brave and unusual step Chava took while in Cracow was to travel to Palestine to join her mother and brothers who were visiting her family there, for the month of Nisan. She went with the Frankfurt Agudas Yisroel delegation which was traveling in 1933 to Israel through Switzerland and Italy, and embarked at Messina for the trip by boat to Eretz Yisroel.
Though she originally had planned to stay only a year, Chava remained in the Cracow Seminary for close to two years. Sara Schenirer was unusually welcoming to her and she became one of her close students. In addition to her studies in the seminary, Chava was also involved in Sara Schenirer's charity projects and helped collect funds for them.

Chava was with Frau Schenirer during her last days. Throughout 1934, the great teacher suffered from a debilitating disease. Although she never said a word of complaint, her heartbroken students saw her wasting away. The day before her passing, Chava broke down next to her bedside in tears, but her mentor just caressed and comforted her and told her not to cry. The next day, after lighting Shabbos candles, Frau Sara Schenirer returned her pure soul to her Maker.

Teaching Opportunities
Soon after Chava returned to New York, imbued with a desire to bring Bais Yaakov to American shores. Her youngest brother Noach was so excited by her vision and single-mindedness that he told her that if he had a million dollars, he would build a building for her school.

Chava got to work convincing families of kindergarten children of the importance of a Bais Yaakov. Although she mustered a class of 12 children, the initiative didn't continue until the following year.

Her first teaching position was as a teacher in the West Side Institutional Synagogue Talmud Torah. She wrote many years later about that experience: "I was there only a short time and my advice to the rabbi was that if he wanted his boys to grow into knowledgeable and religious Jews, he should get them to go to a yeshiva. He knew as well as I that the future of Jewish education is only through yeshivos, but his congregants were already preoccupied with thoughts of their children's future careers. They considered the Talmud Torah's instruction in Yiddishkeit sufficient."

Chava searched for a school where she could put into practice more of her idealism for a Bais Yaakov school. An elementary school called Bais Sara had opened in Williamsburg and it hired her to teach Jewish studies in the afternoon.

She later assumed the position of head teacher/principal of the new Shulamis school in Boro Park. The latter had a more modern slant, but the principal reassured her that there was room there to implement a "Bais Yaakov" agenda. Privately, the young Chava organized a group of 15-16 year old girls to teach them hashkofoh. It was incredibly bold for the young seminary graduate to try to inculcate these Americanized but well-meaning Jewish girls with genuine, timeless Jewish values, but the young Chava was up to the challenge.

She wrote about these classes many years later: "I had a difficult time getting them to see that a godol beTorah can be a world Jewish leader, able to lead, advise, and represent us before governments with credit and honor. They could not understand why, for example, Stephen S. Wise and others like him were not acceptable to us. They argued that they have the language, polish and knowledge of diplomacy and other assets needed for leadership in our times. They could not see how a godol in learning could handle and resolve the many modern problems.

"We attempted to point out to them that `Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world,' and consequently, there cannot be a question or problem that may arise, whether political, social, or economical, whose answer and solution cannot be found in the Torah."
These girls became the nucleus of the first class of the new Bais Yaakov school which met in Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan's house. Chava was also the first teacher that Rebbetzin Kaplan hired to teach in her new school.

Rabbi Avrohom Pincus was among the few American boys who had gone to Europe to study in the Mirrer Yeshiva in the 30s. Shortly before World War II he returned to the U.S. and took a position as rabbi of the Five Corners Congregation in Jersey City. Chava was introduced to him by mutual friends and they wed on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 1940.

The couple was imbued with dreams of bringing authentic Judaism to America. They were part of the select group of idealistic young Jews affiliated with Zeirei Agudas Yisroel that was composed of individuals such as HaRav Pam, Mike Tress, Rav Anshel Fink and Rabbi Moshe Sherer. Although these individuals are famous today, at the time they were just inspired youths and friends who dreamed of accomplishing their ideals. HaRav Yitzchok Hutner was the rav who guided them. The young rabbi and rebbetzin were busy leading their congregation and building their home.

Rabbi Pincus accepted a new position as rabbi in Englewood, New Jersey. Their life took a turn one December day in 1945, when their 4-year old daughter returned home and cried that a non-Jewish friend said she wasn't American because she doesn't have a holly branch on the door. The final blow came when their daughter returned on Shabbos from a friend's house -- a prominent Jewish family known to be religious -- and said she had been offered a fried egg.

Despite their congregants' energetic protests, the Pincuses packed up and left for Williamsburg where their children would have a better religious education and friends. HaRav Pincus became rabbi of the South 5th Street shul in Williamsburg at less than half of his former salary. Instead of a lavish suburban home, the family lived in a typical Williamsburg dwelling.

A Key Position in the Bais Yaakov Seminary
Rebbetzin Pincus was snapped up by her close friend and Seminary colleague Reb. Vichna Kaplan to teach in the Williamsburg Bais Yaakov. She was one of a handful of teachers -- that included the Rebbetzins Vichna, Basya Bender, Chava Wachtfogel, Rivka Springer, Chana Rottenberg, Rochel Cizner, Shifra Yudasin, Batsheva Hutner and Leah Goldstein -- who built up the Bais Yaakov movement in America.

She taught thousands of students, many of whom went on to become teachers themselves. Her students were eagerly sought by the new Bais Yaakovs opening up all over New York.

Even as a young girl, Rebbetzin Pincus's spunk, spirit, charm and articulate speech commanded everyone's attention when she joined a group. As a teacher, her students were in awe of her because of her vivacity, bright delivery of ideas, and her wonderful personality. Each student felt that Rebbetzin Pincus was focusing particularly on her.

She taught Novi and Hebrew. Her lectures on Mishlei, the sefer which she particularly loved, were famous.

After several years, Rebbetzin Kaplan felt that the school needed a more intensive and organized course in methodology. She asked Rebbetzin Pincus to create the curriculum and to supervise the teaching of methods. Rebbetzin Pincus was busy enough with her regular teaching, her husband's rabbinical position, his new position as principal of Torah Vodaas, and raising their family of nine children. She at first tried to turn down the request -- but there was no refusing Reb. Kaplan. She became heavily involved in supervising student teaching in various schools and observing model lessons.

On the first day of a methodology class, Rebbetzin Pincus challenged her students: "What's the most important part of your first lesson?"

The students were quick to suggest different aspects of educational theory, but she replied, "Wear bright clothes and lipstick, and come in with a big smile."

Home and Community
Rebbetzin Pincus knew how to successfully integrate the intellect with the emotional. When her children were babies, she sang to them. She had special songs for different things. She would sit and tell the children stories. She taught the children numerous things, fostering in them the wonder of learning. She played piano and her Succah was full of her artistic decorations. At the same time, she read voluminous amounts. She saw everything as an opportunity for learning.

People remember walking into the house and virtually always seeing a sefer in her hands. She studied Mishlei and Tehillim, the latter of which she knew by heart. She knew many chapters of nevi'im by heart and studied the parsha every week. She treasured her solitude, and utilized it to gain more knowledge and enrich herself.

One of her favorite seforim was the Chochmas Hamatzpun commentary on Chumash which is an anthology of deep comments by mussar leaders from Rav Yisroel Salanter and on. She often read it on Shabbos. She once told her oldest granddaughter, "One of the most precious times in my life was when the children were small. After I put them to sleep, I went through the whole Nevi'im Rishonim." Learning was her excitement, passion, pastime, and way to relax all rolled into one.
Despite her heavy schedule, she still found time to help others. The Pincuses adopted 10-12 families over the years, treating them as if they were family. They were always available to help solve their problems, provide funds, even to give marriage counselling.

One of Rebbetzin Pincus's classmates from the Cracow Seminary who had survived the Holocaust, arrived penniless in the U.S. When Rebbetzin Pincus discovered her, she treated her like family. The financial support she gave her "families" was substantial. When one of them became a kallah, Rebbetzin Pincus had her own children go through their clothes closets to search for quality clothes for her.

Struggling With Pain and Illness
Health problems beset Rebbetzin Pincus throughout her life. Shortly after marriage, she began to suffer from arthritis in her extremities, which became crippling after the age of 35. Although the condition left her in constant pain, she rarely talked about it nor did she project the "mentality" of an invalid.

She would talk so calmly to her doctors about how to tackle the disease that they couldn't believe the vibrant woman before them was in such pain.

In her later years, when she was confined to a wheelchair, she would apologize lightly -- "Just today my foot is acting up" -- for not standing up and accompanying her guests to the door.

She rejoiced with the physical capabilities she possessed, and carefully guarded her health. Rebbetzin Pincus sought natural ways of healing her condition well before alternative medicine became popular. She kept a strict vegetarian diet that required tremendous willpower. She kept up a strict diet regimen for decades, to the end of her life.
Although she was strict with herself, she had treats ready for her grandchildren who came to visit, and would tell them, laughing, "I'm enjoying it vicariously."

Educational Innovators
The Pincuses were also among the first families in New York to forego English studies for their sons so they could spend more time on their Jewish studies. They put their sons in a special intensive Talmudic Studies class run by HaRav Yosef Liss so they would develop into first-rate Torah scholars. Once when they were taken to court for their sons' truancy, the Pincuses told the judge, "Do these boys look like juvenile delinquents?" The judge acquitted them.

They also sent their sons to study in the Bais HaTalmud yeshiva where a small group of select students studied in a challenging European-style yeshiva atmosphere, led by Rav Pincus's friend from the European Mirrer yeshiva, HaRav Leib Malin. Their sons then went to study in the Brisk yeshiva in Jerusalem in the 1960s, long before study in Israeli yeshivos became so popular for Americans.

Move to Israel
In 1971, when six of the Pincus's children were married and living in Israel, they decided to move to Bnei Brak. Their stunning decision caused an uproar in their circle of friends, but as usual, the Pincuses went about doing things their own way, which often ended up setting a trend for others.

Shortly after arriving in Israel, Rebbetzin Pincus was offered a position with Chinuch Atzmai, supervising teachers. She supervised three schools in Bnei Brak, three in Tiveria and three in Haifa.

With much excitement she traveled to her beloved Tiveria for the first time in almost 40 years, and found that it had changed tremendously. Although the Chinuch Atzmai school in Tiveria had hundreds of students, it was not easy to convince parents to send their children there because of the secular brainwashing. Rebbetzin Pincus supervised the school's curriculum, dealt with problematic kids, taught the teachers how to correct the children's wrong hashkofos, and weighed the pros and cons of new teaching methods being considered.

In one class, she heard a kid snickering that she has "metal teeth." Rather than take offense, she decided to utilize the opportunity to give the class a lesson in proper nutrition. "Do you know why I have metal teeth? Because when I was a young child, I didn't know that too much sugar and junk food is no good for you." She then taught the class the importance of a healthy diet.

The Pincuses moved to Jerusalem in 1976, when HaRav Pincus became principal of Kamenetz Yeshiva. From that point on, Rebbetzin Pincus stopped working for Chinuch Atzmai, although she continued to give shiurim in her home and taught small groups.

Heading the Kollel in Santiago, Chile
Most people of their age and health would have been satisfied with a graceful retirement. But even though they were in their 70s, the Pincuses were still young in spirit. So when their son R' Shimshon asked them if they would go to Santiago, Chile to become rosh kollel, they decided to accept.

When Reb Shimshon spoke to the five kollel members about his parents joining them in Chile, he assured them: "I'm giving you my mother and she'll be a mother to you." Those few words pithily summed up the Pincuses' four-and-a- half year stay in Santiago. HaRav Pincus was the rosh kollel and Rebbetzin Pincus engaged in kiruv work.

Above all, they were father and mother to everyone. At the time, the only Jewish spiritual leaders in Santiago were three Reform rabbis who were doing their worst. Temples with choirs and organs, "dialogue" with Christian priests, and non- halachic conversions and divorces were the norm.

When the Pincuses arrived in Chile in December, 1983, the kollel had five avreichim learning two full sedorim in the day. Night seder was devoted to studying with local Jews.

There were no cheering crowds to greet the Pincuses when they arrived. People told them frankly, "You're 30- 40 years too late! You can go back to where you came from!" Intermarriage was a tragic 80 percent.

But Rebbetzin Pincus had already seen spiritual revolutions happen before her eyes, with her taking no small part in them. Undaunted, she wrote letters, made calls and personally contacted people to come to classes and events. She started studying Spanish and within a few months, she was able to communicate in that language and, she even gave a few shiurim in it.

When Adar approached, Rebbetzin Pincus decided to celebrate Sara Schenirer's yahrtzeit with a grand event for women, hoping to use it as a springboard to attract them to classes. The other kollel women baked goodies and set beautiful tables.

Only five people showed up. Among them were two young girls whom the other kollel wives were already trying to be mekarev, their mother, and two new faces: the Israeli consul's wife and Janine Levi.

Rebbetzin Pincus was not disheartened. "This is a good beginning," she said.

Janine became a close student, eventually helped her publish the El Kollel quarterly bulletins with interesting stories, information and important holiday halachos for the Jewish community. Janine eventually married and settled in New York.

To reach the widest number of Jewish women, Rebbetzin Pincus attended a local meeting of WIZO women, the largest Jewish women's organization in Chile. She told the women about the kollel and the classes being offered. Some women approached her after the meeting and asked if they could attend.

She formed a group and they began to study Pirkei Ovos. She began to explain the uniqueness of Judaism and Jewry, starting from the basics. The Pincuses made some inroads in teaching individuals of the importance of halacha, especially in those subjects which frequently beset assimilated communities.

In her lectures, Rebbetzin Pincus spoke about the problem of nonhalachic conversions. Many women now became aware that the phony conversions performed by the Reform rabbis had accomplished nothing. A doctor whose wife had "converted" and bore him two daughters, approached the Pincuses in misery and asked what he could do about their Jewishness. The family eventually moved to Israel where the wife and daughters converted properly.

They also emphasized the importance of kosher gittin and kiddushin. The day finally came when a couple getting divorced insisted on having the kollel arrange it. The case was sent to the beis din in Buenos Aires, which performed it according to halacha. Some people insisted on having their wedding performed by the kollel.

When it was discovered that the two "kosher" butchers were selling treif meat, a kollel member and local baal habayis opened a new butcher store under the supervision of the kollel. The number of people keeping kosher began to grow.

The young women in the community were more interested in Judaism than their husbands. They were devoted to Rebbetzin Pincus, but after four years intense activity in Santiago, illness forced their return to Israel.

In the four years that the Pincuses were in Santiago they influenced a number of people to become religious, and were instrumental in sending several boys to study in yeshivos in Israel and the U.S.

Enriching Personal Relationships
Rebbetzin Pincus's life of accomplishment was far from over. Now she was able to devote herself to her dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with all of whom she had an extraordinary relationship. In fact, each child was convinced that his or her relationship was more special than the others. She was the loving grandmother and wise matriarch who endowed her winning smile and full attention on each one.

In earlier years, her American grandchildren were filled with excitement when Savta and Zeidi came to visit. She took each grandchild aside and showed a keen interest about what was going on in his or her life. She knew how to talk with such concern and love that they felt thrilled to speak with her.

One of the happiest moments in Rabbi and Rebbetzin Pincus's life was their surprise 50th anniversary celebration 12 years ago which all nine children planned together. The five children then living abroad surreptitiously traveled in from Los Angeles and New York to join their siblings in Israel.

It is impossible to adequately describe the scene when Rabbi and Rebbetzen Pincus looked up to see all of their children suddenly appear together in their living room.

That Shabbos night, their son, HaRav Shimshon (zt"l), said, "This is how I picture kibbutz goluyos and greeting the Shechina. This is the ecstasy that Jews will feel."

On this moving occasion, Rebbetzin Pincus spoke feelingly to her children, telling them how much she had revered their father. She had always made sure her husband was learning and that nothing disturbed him. Also she reiterated her strong belief in the enriching power of learning for women. "Even 15 or 20 minutes a day set aside for learning will enhance your life immeasurably."

Last Days
Rebbetzin Pincus devoted herself to her family and her large extended family. People came to the Pincus home throughout the day. Her days were spent talking and advising people, learning with chavrusas or learning alone in mussar seforim and Tanach.

On Shabbos, January 26, close to Sholosh Seudos, her daughter was helping her mother into a wheelchair when Rebbetzin Pincus suddenly lost consciousness. Her petirah was described as a misas neshikoh.

Her levaya was held next to Yeshivas Torah Or on motzei Shabbos. Although the family only had a few hours to notify people, many hundreds attended. The Aron passed by her home, which is an eidus to her tznius, yiras Shomayim, love of Torah and her success as a true ezer kenegdo. She was eulogized by her sons HaRav Avner and HaRav Yosef Binyomin, by her son-in- law Rav Yosef Savitzky, by her nephew Rav Zelig Weinberg, and by Rav Yisroel Yaakov Pincus, the oldest son of her son HaRav Shimshon.

She was buried in Har Hamenuchos next to her illustrious son HaRav Shimshon and his wife and their daughter, who were tragically killed in a car accident less that a year ago.

She is survived by over a hundred descendants in Israel and the U.S., first-class bnei Torah, Jewish educators, and exemplary Torah Jews, who have all enriched the Torah world while following in their parents' and ancestors' paths.

  1. Case of Rabbi Matis Weinberg
  2. Case of Rabbi Simcha Weinberg
  3. Weinberg Family Tree


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