Rebbetzin Rishel Kotler a”h


candle[Final levayah info below.] It is with great sadness that reports the passing of Rebbetzin Rishel Kotler a”h.

Rebbetzin Kotler passed away Friday night at her home on Fifth Street in Lakewood, NJ. She was in her low nineties.

The Rebbetzin was the wife of Rav Shneur Kotler zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ. She was a daughter of Rav Aryeh Malkiel Friedman zt”l.

The Rebbetzin escaped to Shanghai, China, at the start of World War II, where she remained with the Mir Yeshiva. She was separated from  her chosson, Rav Shneur, for about six years.

Throughout the war years, Rav Shneur was in Eretz Yisroel, where he studied at Yeshiva Eitz Chaim led by his grandfather, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer.

The Rebbetzin’s father-in-law, Rav Aharon Kotler, had escaped to Japan and from there to America in 1941.

In approximately 1946, the Rebbetzin and Rav Shneur reunited and got married in New York. Rav Shneur joined the kollel of his father’s yeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha. Sixteen years later, Rav Shneur became rosh yeshiva upon his father’s petirah in 1962. Enrollment at the yeshiva grew from less than 200 talmidim in 1962 to over 1,000 by the time of his petirah in 1982.

Throughout all the years, Rebbetzin Kotler stood by her husband as a devoted eizer kenegdo, allowing him to be engaged in harbotzas haTorah and tzorchei tzibbur. Her humility and kindness were well recognized in her own town of Lakewood and beyond. She was viewed as the proverbial “mother” of Beth Medrash Govoha, the largest yeshiva in North America, and served as a source of chizuk for the many n’shei chayil of the community. During the last over 30 years following her husband’s untimely petirah, she continued to inspire and influence the many people who went to her for brachos and counsel.

Friday night, she was feeling unwell. By the time Hatzolah arrived at her home, the Rebbetzin’s neshamah had already ascended Heavenward.

She is survived by her children, Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood; Rav Isser Zalman Kotler; Rav Yitzchok Shraga Kotler, member of the hanhalah of Beth Medrash Govoha; Rav Aron Kotler, CEO of Beth Medrash Govoha; Rebbetzin Sarah Yehudis Schustal, wife of Rav Dovid Schustal, rosh yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha; Rebbetzin Batsheva Krupenia, wife of Rav Yehoshua Krupenia, rosh kollel of Beth Medrash Govoha; Rebbetzin Esther Reich, wife of Rav Uren Reich, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah of Woodlake Village in Lakewood; and Rebbetzin Baila Hinda Ribner, wife of Rav Gershon Ribner, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Nesivos Hatorah. She was predeceased by her son, Hagaon Rav Meir Kotler zt”l.

The levayah will take place tomorrow at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ. Details are still being finalized.

Yehi zichro boruch.

Update, Motzoei Shabbos, 11:45 p.m.:

The levayah will take place tomorrow at 9:45 a.m. at the Benheim Bais Medrash in the Hillel and Ettel Beren Building of Beth Medrash Govoha on 7th Street between Private Way and Lakewood Avenue in Lakewood, NJ. The men’s entrance will be on 7th Street, while the women’s entrance will be on 6th Street.

The levayah will start at 9:45 a.m., as mentioned, and will conclude with the recital of Keil Malei Rachamim at 12:45 p.m. The aron will leave for JFK Airport at 1:45 p.m. The aron will depart for Eretz Yisroel on El Al  Flight #2 at 7 p.m. Shivah information will be provided when it becomes available.

There will be live hookups of the levayah in all botei medrash of Beth Medrash Govoha.

To listen to the levayah via teleconference, call 712.432.4200. Those calling from Eretz Yisroel should dial 054.847.7683.

In Lakewood, NJ, the levayah will be broadcast live on 107.9 FM radio.

{(c) Gavriel Newscenter}


  1. She stayed with the rav of Shanghai R’Meir Ashkenazis family, and eventually became a mechutan with him when her son R’Shraga married, Rabbi Ashenazis great grandaughter.

  2. You mixed up between Rebbetzin ztz”l and her sister Rebbetzin Sarne ztz”l. Rebbetzin Rishl ztz”l escaped with Mirer Yeshiva and never been in Lithuania during Holocaust.

  3. I heard from a family member that it was Rav Elchonon Wasserman Hy”d who made the Rebbetzin’s shidduch. Reb Elchonon was very close with her parents, the Friedmans, and was taken from the Friedman home to the akeida at Fort Nine.
    She was a true Jewish Queen who will be sorely missed.

  4. Rav Sassoon was the one most responsible for the ultimate marriage of the Rebetzin and Reb Shnuer. The Rebetzin was not able to leave the countyry she was in and was not allowed into the USA. Rav Sasoon with much personal sacrifice was able to get the Rebetzin to the USA.

  5. “The shidduch between the Rebbetzin and Rav Shneur, it has been said, came about following a bracha from Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn and thanks to the intervention of Rav Meir Ashkenazi, known as “the Shanghaier Rov.” Their vort was held in the town of Slabodka.”

    The Shidduch took place very far from the previous Rebbes residence which was either Warsaw or on the way to the United States.I also doubt that R’Aharon Kotler was in touch with the Rebbe about this shidduch, i don’t think they were close and it doesn’t sound that a Litvishe rosh yeshiva would have gone about asking a chasidic rebbe about a shiduch. Also, the shiduch was made ,BEFORE, she stayed by Rabbi Ashenazi, or even knew him most probably, because they were from different countries.

  6. “The shidduch between the Rebbetzin and Rav Shneur, it has been said, came about following a bracha from Rav Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn and thanks to the intervention of Rav Meir Ashkenazi, known as “the Shanghaier Rov.” Their vort was held in the town of Slabodka.”

    Again for the sake of credibility back up the above statement, which besides for being unlikely is also partially illogical.
    IF the vort took place in Slabodka, how did it come about due to the intervention of R’Meir Ashkenazi, who was long in Shanghai, and probably did not even know REBBITZEN RISHEL or her family.They were not from the same country.R’Ashenazi was from Russia and they were from Lithuania.

  7. Rebitzin Kotler was 92 yrs old. The shidduch was made by R’ Elchonon Wasserman. She left Shangai in 1947 and was married in USA in 1948. She wasn’t hidden in any attic in Lithuania – must be mistaken for her sister, Rebbitzin Rochel Sarna a”h (wife of R’ Chaim Sarna).
    R’ Yaakov Volpe is of Bnei Brak, not Yerushalaim

  8. rishel was a kallah for the whole war and a bas bayis by shanghaier rov her sister survived to tell of the horrors of kovno ghetto boruch leib sassoon traveled as the groom of rishel in order to exit europe so did modell&shragie married shanghaier(&sarnike)rovs great grand daughter

  9. rishel was a bride for the whole war her sister survived the kovno ghetto boruch leib sassoon traveled legally as her groom so did modell she was close with the shanghaier rovs daughter manya shragie married manyas granddaghter