Mrs. Ita Bistritzky, a leader of charitable causes and matriarch of a large Chassidic family, including a number of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, passed away today in Israel. She was 85 years old.

She was predeceased in 2013 by her husband, Rabbi Yehuda Leib (Leibel) Bistritzky.

The former Ita Travis met her husband of 65 years in the spring of 1948. Her father, Shlomo (also known as Sam) came from a Chabad family of Latvian origin; their original name was Rabinowitz. In 1906, oil was struck on a piece of land Shlomo had bought in Oklahoma, and the family fortune was made.

In 1908, Shlomo’s sister married Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel, the founding president of Yeshiva College (which later became Yeshiva University) and rosh yeshivah (dean) of Yeshivas Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan (RIETS) there. The Travis family became an influential force on a national level, not only in the oil industry but in the American Jewish community.

When the match was suggested, Leibel Bistritzky’s father traveled to Chicago to meet Ita and her parents. Evidently, he was impressed, and on his return to New York, he advised Leibel to go meet her in person. Before departing, Leibel sought the blessing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory. The Rebbe responded enthusiastically: “Go, and you will be successful. Mazal Tov! Mazal Tov!

This seal of approval was more than enough for both parties; after a brief period of courtship, Leibel and Ita were married on June 20, 1948.

Rabbi Yehuda Leib (Leibel) and Ita Bistritzky at their wedding in June 1948.
Rabbi Yehuda Leib (Leibel) and Ita Bistritzky at their wedding in June 1948.

Over the next 65 years, they were founders and leaders of many organizations and worthy causes in New York City. One of them was the Hatzalah chapter—the volunteer emergency medical service—in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

After living in Crown Heights for most of their lives, the couple moved to Jerusalem in their later years.

She is survived by her children: Mrs. Miriam Shaindel Nelkin (Toronto); Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Bistritzky (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Rabbi Avrohom Yisroel Bistritzky (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Mrs. Raizel Greenwald (Rechovot, Israel); Mrs. Ruchama Klapman (Long Island, N.Y.); Mrs. Devorah Leah Cohen (Aventura, Fla.); Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bistritzky (Long Island, N.Y.); Rabbi Shlomo Mordechai Bistritzky (Agoura Hills, Calif.); and Rabbi Shneur Zalman Bistritzky (New York, N.Y.).

She is also survived by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her eldest son, Rabbi Levi Bistritzky, the former chief rabbi of Safed, Israel, and a noted author on Jewish law, passed away tragically in 2002.

An extended obituary is in preparation.