Sara Esther Feigelstock, an early pioneer of Jewish education in North America, passed away Oct. 25 in Montreal. She was 85 years old.

She was born in 1932 to Alter Yehoshua and Hinda Golda Winter in the Western Pennsylvanian city of McKeesport, where she was raised in a home steeped with devotion to Torah study and Torah observance. Her father worked hard as a dry-goods peddler, a job that allowed him not to work on Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Even though the Winters were the only Jewish children on her block, they were proud of their Judaism and eager to share it with other local Jews.

“I remember my mother crying when she lit Shabbos candles and praying that all her children remain Jewish,” she recalled in a 2010 interview with JEM’s “My Encounter with the Rebbe” project. “I didn’t understand why my mother cried about that, but she was clearly aware that our environment was a breeding ground for assimilation.”

As an 11-year-old, she (together with her sister) was active in leading Mesibos Shabbos programs—Shabbat-afternoon programs for children that Chabad was then holding in many cities. She reported her activities to the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory. She also wrote to him that she wanted to go to New York to study in a Jewish school since there wasn’t one locally at the time.

The Rebbe wrote her back a loving and detailed letter in Yiddish with an attached English translation. In it, he asks her about her Hebrew skills and tells her to remain home, supplying specific instructions on what she should include in her Mesibos Shabbos sessions.

Shortly thereafter, he wrote a letter to a Chassid living in Chicago, exhorting him to found a Mesibos Shabbos chapter there, saying that an 11-year-old near Pittsburgh has one.

Throughout her teenage years, she and her family maintained an extremely close relationship with the Rebbe, whom she regarded as a father figure.

Before her 18th birthday, she was introduced to Rabbi Herschel Feigelstock, an Austrian refugee who was then studying and teaching in the Chabad yeshivah in Montreal. The couple married in 1949. On the day of their wedding, the Rebbe wrote them a letter. Among his many blessings, he wished them success in their efforts in the area of Jewish education.

Opened Their Home to All

Accordingly, they made their home in Montreal, where the young rabbi continued his work as a teacher and then a principal, and where Sara Esther Feigelstock began teaching as well.

The Rebbe officiates at the chuppah of Rabbi Herschel and Sara Esther Feigelstock.
The Rebbe officiates at the chuppah of Rabbi Herschel and Sara Esther Feigelstock.

Throughout the decades of their long marriage, the Feigelstocks maintained a daily Torah study class, ensuring that they themselves had the inspiration and knowledge to teach others.

She was among the first teachers at both Beth Rivkah Academy and the Chaya Mushka Seminary, and helped many young women prepare for marriage.

Beyond the classroom, the Feigelstocks opened their home to their students and many others. Jews from all backgrounds would gather around their Shabbat table, where spirited singing and deep Torah thoughts complemented homemade chicken soup and kugel.

In addition to her husband, Sara Esther Feigelstock is survived by their children: Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Feigelstock, Shternie Greisman, Rivky Teitelbaum, Rabbi Avrohom Feigelstock, Chaya Medalie, Schneur Zalman Feigelstock, Sholom Ber Feigelstock, Devorah Leah Davidson and Alter Yehoshua Feigelstock; in addition to many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by a son, Menachem Mendel Feigelstock, in 2008. She is also survived by siblings Yankel Winter and Chaya Gansburg.

Rabbi Shmuel Levitin recites a blessing under the chuppah at the Feigelstocks’ wedding.
Rabbi Shmuel Levitin recites a blessing under the chuppah at the Feigelstocks’ wedding.