Today, 25 Adar, is the yahrtzeit of the renowned educator, Rebbetzin Zahava Braunstein ע”ה. Thousands around the globe were touched by the life, words, and deeds of this remarkable woman. She was an electrifying speaker, teacher par excellence, and mentor and confidant to so many. Zahava Braunstein was born in 1944 to Yaakov and Menucha Zwiebel, Galician Jews who escaped the Nazi inferno shortly before the war. As a child in summer camp she volunteered to tell a story at a camp fire one night and from that time on her talents as a story teller became legendary. At Yeshiva University High School, her leadership abilities, kindness to all, and natural flair for drama made her a quick favorite. After graduating, she, together with a small group of friends attended the Beth Jacob Teachers’ Seminary. She was profoundly influenced by the rabbeim and teachers there and it was in Beth Jacob that her dreams of teaching Torah values and ideals to Jewish girls began to blossom.
For many years Rebbetzin Braunstein taught at the High School level, inspiring and challenging her young students to strive for greatness. During this time, a renaissance of the Syrian Jewish Community in Brooklyn began, with the great Torah leader Rabbi Yosef Harari-Raful at its helm. This tireless visionary approached Rebbetzin Braunstein and requested that she join the revolution – to teach the women as he was teaching the men, and to help raise the standard of religious observance and devotion in this traditional community. She did, first as a lecturer for the women on many Torah topics, then as principal of the Ateret Torah Girls’ High School which she helped to establish. Rebbetzin Braunstein became a most beloved member of the Sephardic community and her influence can be seen in the beautiful families living lives of Torah-true values and traditions.
Along with her varied responsibilities as principal of a girls High School and director of a summer camp, Rebbetzin Braunstein was known as one of the generation’s foremost teachers of the laws of marriage. With clarity, dignity and warmth, she imparted to thousands of kallahs from across the spectrum of Jewish life the beauty of these all-important laws which form the cornerstone of the Jewish home. Her refresher courses for married women attracted multitudes (in one series alone, more than two thousand women attended each session!) and strengthened countless marriages with timeless wisdom, lovingly shared. Tapes of her inspiring lectures on the holiness and harmony of the Jewish home continue to inspire legions of women in all corners of the world, spreading her influence even to those who never met her.
Gifted with a magnetic personality, an extra measure of insight, and a unique power of communication, Rebbetzin Zahava Braunstein touched the hearts and minds of all whom she taught. Her legacy is the love and care with which so many women observe the laws of Jewish marriage, and the joy and peace that the Mitzvot have brought to their lives.
Yehi zichrah boruch.