Rebbetzin Tzirel Kamenetzky a”h


candle[Levayah and shivah info below.] It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rebbetzin Tzirel Kamenetzky a”h. She was 89.

The Rebbetzin was the wife of ybl”c Rav Binyomin Kamenetzky, rosh yeshiva and founder of Yeshiva Toras Chaim of South Shore and pioneer of Torah in the Five Towns, NY.

The Rebbetzin’s husband, Rav Kamenetzky, is the eldest son of Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l and was sent by his venerable father, decades ago, to The Five Towns to bring Torah and Yiddishkeit to that part of New York. The Rebbetzin, like her husband, was well-known for her warm and endearing personality, and was beloved by all.

The Rebbetzin was one of the seven children of Rav Pinchus Eliyahu Spiegel, the Ostrove-Kalushiner Rebbe in the Bronx, and his Rebbetzin, Basha (nee Burstein).

Reb Pinchus Eliyahu was a descendant of a long history of Torah and chassidus. His father, Rav Naftali Aryeh, was a son-in-law of Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Unger and a grandson of Rav Avrohom Elchonon Unger.

Rav Naftali Aryeh arrived in America in the late 1920s and was joined in the early 1930s by his three sons, Rav Moshe, Rav Elchonon Yochonon and Rav Pinchus Eliyahu.

Despite the winds of change when so many immigrants had, r”l, abandoned Yiddishkeit, the Spiegels remained steadfast to the mesorah that they had received from their great zaides, going back to the Chozeh of Lublin.

It was this atmosphere that helped raise the Rebbetzin in a home that was steeped in Torah, chassidus and yiras Shomayim. Like his revered father, Rav Naftali Aryeh, the Rebbetzin’s father, Rav Pinchus Eliyahu, was a Yid who never compromised on the slightest chumrah in Yiddishkeit, despite being surrounded by a community that was slowly assimilating into American culture. Rav Pinchus Eliyahu had never eaten meat in America and his father, who had a small shul on Faile Street in the Bronx, was so removed from this world that he did not even know what his own house looked like.

Once, Rav Naftali Aryeh’s shammas left him outside his home and expected the Rebbe to just enter.  However, the Rebbe, steeped in thought, tarried and walked a few yards before he realized that he might have strayed from the place that the gabbai had let him off. An hour later, the gabbai returned and noticed that the Rebbe looked puzzled as to where he actually lived.

Rav Pinchus Eliyahu and his Rebbetzin made sure that their children went only to the best yeshivos and received the purest Torah upbringing.

Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l, who was close to the Spiegel mishpacha, used to praise the Rebbetzin’s  father, Rav Pinchus Eliyahu, quoting the Gemara, “I have seen bnei aliyah and they are very few, and Rav Pinchus Eliyahu is one of them.”  Rav Aharon smiled as he added, “Ah Litvishe rebbe vos ken gut lernin.”

Indeed, Rav Pinchus Eliyahu revered the rosh yeshiva.  He once accompanied another chassidishe rebbe to a shiur given by Rav Aharon at a meeting of the Agudas Harabbanim. Upon leaving, the other rebbe commented on the point that Rav Aharon made a machlokes between the opinion of the Vilna Gaon and the Rambam.

“Imagine a machlokes between the Gra and the Rambam?’ the rebbe asked sardonically.

The Rebbetzin’s father looked at the man sternly. “Gedenkt! Dos iz Rav Aharon. Remember, you are talking about Rav Aharon!” he reprimanded.

It was in this environment in which the Rebbetzin was raised, and she carried that unadulterated, pure mesorah of Torah and avodah with her throughout his life. Her uncompromising ideals and the pashtus with which she lived are apparent on her children and her entire mishpacha of bnei Torah and bnei aliyah. 

The Rebbetzin’s father ultimately moved from the Bronx to Long Beach, where he established the Ostrove-Kalushiner bais medrash there.

The Rebbetzin passed away Friday night.

She is survived by her children, Mrs. Sarah Knobel, wife of Rav Yitzchok Knobel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns; Mrs. Esther Wilhelm, wife of Rav Shlomo Wilhelm of Monsey; Mrs. Shani Lefkowitz, wife of Rav Simcha Lefkowitz, rov of Congregation Anshei Chessed in Woodmere, NY; Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Chaim of South Shore; and Rav Tzvi Kamenetzky of Toronto; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The Rebbetzin is also survived by her siblings, Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Spiegel of Boro Park, Rav Dovid Spiegel of Cedarhurst, Rebbetzin Esther Lichtshein of Chicago. She was predeceased by her brother, Rav Moshe Spiegel zt”l, her youngest brother, Rav Avrohom Elchonon (Chuni) Spiegel zt”l, one of the early pioneers of the Lakewood community, and her sister, Rebbetzin Yetta Zaks a”h of Yerushalayim.

The levaya will take place tomorrow, at 10 a.m., at Yeshiva of South Shore, located at 1170 William Street in Hewlett, NY, 11557.Parking will be available at the  Woodmere Middle School and Franklin Elementary School.

Shivah will take place at the Kamenetzky residence,  357 Barnard Avenue, in Woodmere,  NY, until Friday afternoon, November 6th. Shacharis will be at 8 a.m. and Mincha/Maariv at 4:35 p.m.

Yehi zichroh boruch.

{Gavriel Newscenter}


  1. Boruch Dayan HaEmes!! ———– Could Matzav please post the telephone numbers where we (who live out of the New York area) can call to give condolences?