‘‘The Rebbetzin,” as Rebbetzin Yehudis Schlesinger was fondly entitled, was niftar last week; she was in her nineties. She was the daughter of Rav Moshe Blau, zt”l, the renowned manhig of the yishuv hayashan, and the wife of the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivah Harama in London, Rav Elyokim Schlesinger. The Rebbetzin was a beloved and world-renowned educator in her own right, and she was known as a dynamic speaker.
To hear more about this amazing and unforgettable rebbetzin, Ami spoke to several of Rebbetzin Schlesinger’s grandchildren, former students and people in the community who were impacted by the woman who was undoubtedly one of London’s most iconic personalities. Although for the last 25 years Rebbetzin Schlesinger was afflicted with an illness that stunted her ability to continue her work, the passage of over two decades has not in any way dulled the remarkable clarity and awe with which she is recalled.
A unique grandmother
‘‘MY bubby achieved the perfect balance,” says Mrs. Shevy Flohr, a granddaughter who grew up in London and lives and teaches in Monsey. “Yes, she was ‘the Rebbetzin’ and gave countless shiurim, but at the same time she was a truly unbelievable grandmother. She was spirited, fun, and had an incredible sense of humor; she was dynamite!”
“I remember so fondly the plays we grandchildren produced at Bubby’s house, the spirited Chanukah parties, the trips to parks and rowing, the weekly gatherings after licht bentchen, when we grandchildren davened, sang, enjoyed rides on Bubby’s lap, and revelled in the stories and knowledge she shared with her signature vigor and charisma—all while our mothers caught up on some sleep. My grandmother had an exhausting schedule herself, but she used this time to grant her daughters-in-law some rest and to give us grandchildren memories to cherish throughout our lives.
“I think what made my Bubby so unique was that she was two extremely different people at the same time. She was unusually intellectual—she was actually an illui—extremely erlich, demanded excellence, was perpetually busy and contributed enormously to the community. Yet she was also so warm, approachable, accessible and fun-loving.
“Although my grandmother had a very large number of grandchildren, each one received his or her own little challah every week, baked with love. Her home was open to all, and we grandchildren were always welcome to discuss their challenges with their grandmother, who empathized and unfailingly offered wise advice. Despite her many community activities, none of us family members ever felt she wasn’t available for them. In fact, she exerted herself greatly for her grandchildren.
“When my mother gave birth and was in a distant hospital over Shabbos, I was 12 years old and desperately wanted to visit my mother. No one wanted to undertake the long walk with a child, but Bubby volunteered. She told me stories the whole way and stopped frequently so I could rest my feet. The walk took several hours, but Bubby was patient and caring throughout. Only now, looking back, do I realize how far she was prepared to go to make her young granddaughter happy.