Jungreis, Esther 1936-

views updated

JUNGREIS, Esther 1936-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced young-rice; born April 7, 1936, in Szeged, Hungary; immigrated to the United States in 1947, naturalized citizen; daughter of Abraham (a rabbi) and Miriam (Cohen) Jungreis; married Theodore (a rabbi) Jungreis, November 13, 1955; children: Chaya Sora Jungreis Gertzulin, Yisroel, Slova Chana, Osher Anshil. Education: Attended Beth Jacob Teacher's Seminary, received teaching diploma, 1955. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES: Home—440 Hungry Harbor Rd., North Woodmere, NY 11581. Office—Hineni, Inc., 155 East 38th St., New York, NY 10016. Agent—Bill Adler, 551 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10017. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Writer, lecturer, and broadcaster. Jewish Press, Brooklyn, NY, author of weekly column, "The Rebbetzin Viewpoint," 1955—. Founder and president of Hineni, Inc., 1973—. Host of "Hineni," a program on National Jewish Television, 1981—, and on WNYM-Radio, 1982—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named Woman of the Year by Hadassah, 1975, Knights of Pythias, 1975, Jewish War Veterans, 1976, B'nai B'rith, 1976, Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations, 1978, and Amita Society, 1980; The Jewish Soul on Fire was named one of the ten best Jewish books of 1982 by B'nai B'rith.

WRITINGS:

The Jewish Soul on Fire (nonfiction), Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.

The Committed Life: Principles for Good Living from Our Timeless Past, Cliff Street Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Committed Marriage: A Guide to Finding a Soul Mate and Building a Relationship through Timeless Biblical Wisdom, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: The author of several books on Jewish life and faith, Esther Jungreis is descended from a rabbinic dynasty that traces its lineage back to the days of King David. Before World War II, she reported, there were eighty-five Hungarian rabbis named Jungreis. After the war, only seven remained alive, and she is herself a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Immigrating to the United States after World War II, she vowed to make her life meaningful and has dedicated herself to fighting the spiritual holocaust she believes is occurring in the United States, a holocaust identified by alienation of American youth, defection of the young to missionary cults, and existence of a drug culture. Jungreis's message is, according to Mark Melady, writing in the Worcester, Massachusetts, Telegram & Gazette, a return by Jews to "their spiritual and cultural roots, including the traditional family Sabbath ceremony, and . . . an end to the sectarianism that divides the Jewish community."

To help achieve her goal, Jungreis founded Hineni, Inc., an international movement devoted to awakening the Jewish people to their heritage and inspiring Jewish youth to go back to their roots. Hineni schools have sprung up throughout the United States and, for their classes, Jungreis has written pamphlets on all aspects of Jewish life and thought. These have been distributed on high school and college campuses in the United States and abroad, and have been translated into French, Spanish, and Hebrew. Jungreis's message is also spread via her lectures held weekly at a Manhattan synagogue, meetings that draw over a thousand people. Called by some the Jewish Billy Graham, Jungreis attempts to bring the word of the Torah to people not only through her work at Hineni, but also via weekly broadcasts on the Jewish Television Network. In addition to her teachings, Jungreis has worked strongly in the old tradition of matchmaking, pairing up likely young Jewish men and women for marriage. As quoted by Victor Wishna in the San Diego Jewish Journal Online, Jungreis, a Rebbetzin, or rabbi's wife in Yiddish, noted that "This is why it is so important to find a soul mate. . . . Once you find a soul mate, you can establish a home that will change the world."

Jungreis also spreads her word through books such as The Jewish Soul on Fire, The Committed Life: Principles for Good Living from Our Timeless Past, and The Committed Marriage: A Guide to Finding a Soul Mate and Building a Relationship through Timeless Biblical Wisdom. In the latter title, published in 2002, she serves up "advice on building a strong marriage using religious principles," according to Library Journal's Kay Brodie. Jungreis posits five qualities that people need to develop to this end: creating a positive outlook, making yourself available as both a good friend and neighbor, knowing and understanding the consequences of your actions, and working on having an open and giving heart. Aimed largely at young Jewish people, as are her numerous lectures, The Committed Marriage nonetheless provides "practical" advice to readers of all religious persuasions and ages, as Brodie noted. Jana Riess, writing in Publishers Weekly, commented that while Jungreis's advice is not much different from that of other relationship experts, "her inclusion of God and religion makes these stories and recommendations unique." In her earlier work The Committed Life, Jungreis advises readers on how to build a sense of commitment and responsibility in their lives, using real-life incidents as learning tools. Reviewing that title in Booklist, George Cohen felt that though Jungreis "quotes from the Torah and Talmud, . . . her message is universal."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 1998, George Cohen, review of The Committed Life: Principles for Good Living from Our Timeless Past, p. 373.

Jerusalem, October 30, 1997, Netty C. Gross, "Sick of Being Single," p. 32.

Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Kay Brodie, review of The Committed Marriage: A Guide to Finding a Soul Mate and Building a Relationship through Timeless Biblical Wisdom, p. 116.

New York Times, April 23, 1997, David Gonzalez, "From Pages of the Torah, a Passion."

Publishers Weekly, April 14, 2003, Jana Riess, review of The Committed Marriage, p. 63.

Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA), August 14, 2000, Mark Melady, "Author Urges Spiritual Return: Survivor Speaks at Torah Study," p. B1.

ONLINE

Hineni Web site,http://www.hineni.org/ (November, 18, 2003).

Jewish World Review Online,http://www.jewishworldreview.com/ (December 21, 1999), Judy Gruen, review of The Committed Life.

San Diego Jewish Journal Online,http://www.sdjewishjournal.com/ (November, 18, 2003), Victor Wishna, "Is Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis the Jewish Billy Graham?"

Shma,http://www.shma.com/june03/Vanessa.htm/ (November 18, 2003), Vanessa L. Ochs, "The Torah of Love."*