Rebbetzin Chaya Bluma Hellman a”h


It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Bluma Hellman a”h.

Rebbetzin Hellman embodied the history of Bais Yaakov, a mesorah that started with Sarah Schenirer and continues today, carried on by people like her, a true icon and a link to a generation gone by.

Rebbetzin Hellman’s husband, Rav Uri Shraga Hellman, was a pioneer of chinuch habanos, a remnant of the great pre-war Mirrer Yeshiva. Rav Uri was a legend in his time. For 62 years, he taught and served as principal of the Bais Yaakov of Bais Yaakov in Williamsburg and later in Boro Park.

Rav Hellman was born in the small German town of Dinslakins, not far from the Dutch border. His father, Reb Reuven Hellman, and his mother, Mrs. Freida (née Heiman) Hellman, served as his first role models for unswerving devotion and dedication to Yiddishkeit. As a teenager, Rav Uri went to study in Frankfurt where he learned under Rav Joseph Breuer, among others. Rav Uri continued his studies in the great yeshivos of Eastern Europe, attending the great Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland.

Rav Uri once remarked that while on the train from Germany to Poland to join the Mir, a Jewish woman asked him where he was headed. When he told her that he was going to the Mir Yeshiva in Poland, she laughed, predicting that a pampered, rich German boy like he would never survive the primitive conditions in Poland for more than two weeks. Ultimately, Rav Uri remained with the Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland and throughout its wanderings in the Far East for more than ten years.

In the Mir, Rav Uri became enamored with the intense atmosphere of Torah learning and the deep drive for gadlus b’Torah. He gained greatly from hearing the shmuessen of the great mashgiach of the Mir, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz zt”l. Throughout his life, he would relate divrei Torah and hanhagos that he had seen from Rav Yeruchom and the other great gedolim of the Mir.

During his years in the Mir, Rav Uri progressed tremendously in his studies. Just before the war, he became engaged to his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Bluma, née Scher, daughter of Rav Nochum Scher.

Rebbetzin Hellman’s father, Rav Nochum, was a great gaon in Torah, a talmid of the Volzhiner Yeshiva and a musmach of Rav Raphael Shapira of Volozhin. Rav Nochum served as the rov of the city of Doig, Lithuania.

Before Rav and Rebbetzin Hellman were able to get married, the war broke out. Both Rebbetzin Chaya Bluma and Rav Uri managed to escape with the yeshiva to Vilna and eventually across Russia to Shanghai, where they were finally married. Rebbetzin Chaya Bluma and Rav Uri Shraga actually got married in the living room of Rebbetzin Chaya Small’s parents’ Shanghai home.

After experiencing the harrowing war years in Shanghai, the Hellmans eventually arrived in the United States together with the Mirrer Yeshiva in 1947.

Soon after their arrival in America, Rav Uri joined the fledgling Bais Yaakov High School in Williamsburg that had recently been founded by Rav Boruch and Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan. Initially, he served as a teacher and several years later was appointed menahel, a position he held for many decades, moving with the high school and seminary to its eventual home in Boro Park.

The spiritual impact that Rav Uri and Rebbetzin Chaya Bluma had on generations of Bais Yaakov students was colossal. The Rebbetzin’s family members at times would be stopped in the street by elderly women in their 70s who would exclaim, “You have no idea how Rav Hellman was instrumental in my spiritual growth during my high school years.” He was a pedagogue of the highest caliber whose lessons were always properly constructed and inspiring, and the Rebbetzin was pillar of support, without whom Rav Hellman could not have been mechanech generations as he was.

Like her husband, Rebbetzin Hellman was a giant in middos and a chinuch master. She had an expansive, caring heart. She cared not only that her husband’s students should succeed scholastically, but that they should be happy and well adjusted. She often familiarized herself with the personal and familial situation of the girls and worried about them.

Rebbetzn Hellman’s personal conduct, warmth, piety, and emunah, and behavior as a Jew were exemplary.

The following is one of many stories of Rav and Rebbetzin Hellman’s tzidkus: One woman who had been a talmidah in Bais Yaakov more than fifty years ago related that the school once went on a trip which she declined to join. The untold reason behind her declining was her family’s inability to afford the small fee to cover the trip expenses. Rav Uri, noticing that she had not joined, took her aside and asked her the reason for her absence. She opened up to Rav Hellman and related her predicament. From then on, prior to every trip, she would find an envelope buried in her desk containing the money to cover the cost. The woman related how she never realized that it was Rav Hellman who provided the money until close to fifty years later when she met a fellow classmate who had on one occasion seen Rabbi Hellman placing an envelope in her desk

The Rebbetzin, like her husband, was exceedingly humble, and although she gave kavod and honor to everyone, she herself was very uncomfortable receiving honor or accolades. She never saw herself as remarkable. If there was one posuk that could be used when describing the Rebbetzin, it would be “Tomim tihiyeh im Hashem Elokecha” – she walked with Hashem with temimus.” She possessed an uncomplicated emunah and bitachon in Hashem. The way she davened to Hashem was another manifestation of her temimus. She spoke to Hashem like a daughter speaking to her father.

Rebbetzin Hellman is survived by her sons, Reb Moshe Hellman, Rav Yitzchok Hellman and Reb Motti Hellman, and her daughters, Mrs. Nechie Scheinberg, Mrs. Nechama Silverman, Mrs. Fraidy Speigel, Mrs. Esther Gradon and Mrs. Elky Brisman, and grandchildren carrying on her legacy and following her path.

Yehi zichroh boruch.

{Gavriel Sitrit –}