Sarah Schenirer

Sarah Schenirer
Born July 15, 1883 (1883-07-15)
Krakow, Poland
Died March 1, 1935 (1935-04) (aged 51)
Occupation founder and director of Bais Yaakov movement
Known for Founder of Bais Yaakov school network in Poland
Sarah Schenirer memorial matzevah (tombstone), Podgorze new Jewish cemetery (Kraków, Poland)

Sarah Schenirer (also Soroh Shenirer) (July 15, 1883[1] - March 1, 1935 (yartzeit 26 Adar I 5695)) was a pioneer of Jewish education for girls. In 1917, she established the Bais Yaakov (lit. "house of Jacob") school network in Poland.


Sarah Schenirer was born in Krakow, Poland on July 15, 1883 to Bezalel Schenirer (born in Tarnów) and Reizel.[1] In her memoirs, she describes herself as the unassuming and withdrawn daughter of Belzer Hasidic parents. She was intelligent and had a strong desire to learn. She attended school until the age of thirteen, but could not continue because her family was poor. She became a seamstress.[2] When one client was unusually particular about the measurements of her dress, Schenirer wrote in her diary: "People are such perfectionists when it comes to clothing their bodies. Are they so particular when they address themselves to the needs of their soul?" [3]

After the outbreak of World War I in 1914 she moved to Vienna. There she learned from the weekly teachings of Rabbi Moshe Flesh in shul, he recommended Sarah to learn also from the teachings of Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, which she did. She returned to Kraków early the next year, where the inspiration she received in Vienna led her to organize a group of girls and teach them Jewish studies. Furthermore, she instilled in her students a love for the Torah and excitement to do mitzvos. Her sensitivity and care for others were something her students strove to emulate. [2] She succeeded in overcoming initial resistance against this new type of school and saw rapid development of about 300 schools in pre Holocaust Europe. Her initiative was approved by the leading rabbis of the times, such as the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter and Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (known as "the Chofetz Chaim").

In 1923 Schenirer set up a teachers' seminary to train staff for her rapidly expanding network of schools. The main goal of the schools was "to train Jewish daughters so that they will serve the Lord with all their might and with all their hearts; so that they will fulfill the commandments of the Torah with sincere enthusiasm and will know that they are the children of a people whose existence does not depend upon a territory of its own, as do other nations of the world whose existence is predicated upon a territory and similar racial background." [4]


When she died in 1935, more than 200 Bais Yaakov schools were teaching approximately 35,000 girls. One of her students was Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, founder of the first Bais Yaakov high school and teachers' seminary in America. In her will, she wrote: "My dear girls, you are going out into the great world. Your task is to plant the holy seed in the souls of pure children. In a sense, the destiny of Israel of old is in your hands."[5]

Literary references

In her novel Peleh Laylah, Israeli author Esther Ettinger, who studied at a Bais Yaakov school as a girl, weaves in passages from Sarah Schenirer's writings.[6]

Her student Pearl Benisch wrote a book about Sarah Schenirer called Carry Me in Your Heart.[7]

The book Rebbetzin Grunfeld: The Life of Judith Grunfeld, Courageous Pioneer of the Bais Yaakov Movement and Jewish Rebirth Artscroll Series, was written by Miriam Dansky about Sarah Schenirer's colleague.

See also


  1. 1 2 The State Archive of Krakow: "Jewish Civil Registry of Krakow", Town: Krakow, Date (Julian Calendar): 3 July (15 July on the Gregorian Calendar), 1883, Akta (record) #: 403, Record Type: birth, Surname: Schenirer, Given Name: Sara, Father: Zalel, Mother: Roza Lack (daughter of Abraham and Chaja)
  2. 1 2 "Yivo Encyclopedia: Sarah Schenirer". Retrieved 2015-08-27.
  3. Sarah Schenirer: The Mother of Generations
  4. "Beth Jacob chronology" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-08-27.
  5. Martin Gilbert, The Jews in the Twentieth Century (New York: Schocken Books, 2001), 118-19.
  6. Journal Summer 06
  7. Benisch, P. (2003). Carry Me in Your Heart: The Life and Legacy of Sarah Schenirer, Founder and Visionary of the Bais Yaakov Movement. Feldheim Publishers. ISBN 9781583305768. Retrieved 2014-10-18.

External links

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