Mother of Greatness: Remembering Rabbanit Shoshana Borstein

Mother of Greatness: Remembering Rabbanit Shoshana Borstein

It was an unlikely match.

She lived in Uruguay. He lived in China.

She was 20. He was 33.

But a determined aunt who knew both of them made this match happen–between Shoshana, the daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Uruguay, and her second cousin Shlomo Borstein, a rabbi at the Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai.

They married in 1947, in Uruguay. And made aliya to Israel in the 1960s.

The Borsteins ended up raising children who, when they grew up, devoted their lives to the Jewish people, and specifically to Jewish families.

Their son, Rav Menachem Borstein, has helped thousands of infertile couples become parents through his groundbreaking Puah Institute. Their daughter, Rabbanit Esther Levanon, founded Binyan Shalem, an organization that educates thousands of men and women every year how to be better wives and husbands, mothers and fathers.

Which makes me wonder, what did the Borstein children see in their childhood home that caused them to dedicate their lives to Jewish families?

Yesterday, the youngest daughter of Rabbi Shlomo and Shoshana Borstein, Rabbanit Ziva Schiller, the wife of the rabbi of Eli, came to my neighborhood to speak about her illustrious mother, who passed away 3 years ago. Here’s what she shared with us:

“My mother was a vibrant woman, so full of life and energy. She never worked outside the home, but she was always busy, doing acts of kindness, especially making matches. As I walked up to our home, I could already hear my mother, on the phone working on one of her matches. And after I married, every single time we would speak on the phone, she would ask me, “So, Ziva, what match are you working on now?”

“That was her highest value, and that was how she raised us. That we would grow up, and get married, and raise a family.

“At her shiva, quite a few women showed me photos of my mother dancing for them at their weddings. My mother didn’t know the brides in most cases. She knew their grooms, who were my father’s students, or the mothers. But that didn’t matter to her! A Jewish couple was getting married, establishing a Jewish home! What could be more joyous than that!

“For many years, my husband and I lived in a house that belonged to the yeshiva my husband directed. The kitchen was cramped and needed a lot of work. But we didn’t want to invest in a kitchen in a house we didn’t own. What if we moved one day?

“But when I mentioned this to my mother, she told me without hesitation to renovate the kitchen. Why? ‘First of all, because a kitchen is a woman’s kingdom! And second, because what does it matter if one day you move? Then another Jewish woman will enjoy it!

“Once my mother saw me washing my windows. She said to me, ‘Ziva’le, when you reach 120 and arrive at the Heavenly Court, they aren’t going to ask you whether you washed another window. They’re going to ask you, ‘Did you do another act of kindness? Did you give another person a smile? Did you sit with another one of your children? Did you wash another person’s soul?’

“For my mother, pregnancy, bringing another Jewish child into the world, was the Holy of Holies.

“When she would see a woman pushing a baby in a stroller, it didn’t matter if she didn’t know her, she would walk up to her with a huge smile and say, ‘Your baby has brought so much joy to the Jewish people. Mazal tov!”

2 comments

  1. You captured it beautifully 😉

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