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Sarah Frankel Sternberg

STERNBERG, SARAH FRANKEL (1838–1937), daughter of ḥasidic rabbi Joshua Heschel Teomim Frankel and wife of the ẓaddik Hayyim Samuel Sternberg of Chenciny, a disciple of the famed Seer of Lublin. Sternberg was one of the few women who attained any stature in the ḥasidic courts of the 19th century. After her husband's death, Sarah Sternberg functioned successfully as a rebbe in Chenciny and was highly regarded for her piety and asceticism. She fasted regularly and avoided meat, except on the Sabbath. She also became well-known for her wise parables, and other famous rabbis consulted her and requested her blessing. As a charismatic leader, Sternberg was most famous for her apparently miraculous powers. Many women made pilgrimages to see her and left kvittlach (written petitionary prayers), a common practice among ḥasidim, who believed that the intervention of a rebbe would assure that their request to God was granted. One of Sarah's original letters of blessing has been preserved in a late 20th-century authorized history of the Chencin-Ozherov ḥasidic dynasty; it is affirmed with her personal seal, evidence that suggests she was considered a legitimate rebbe. Sarah had many children and a number of her sons and grandsons were well-known rebbes and respected scholars. At least one of her daughters, Hannah Brakhah, also participated in the ḥasidic court, along with her husband Elimelekh of Grodzinsk. Hannah remains one of the few ḥasidic women who were active while married. Sarah Frankel Sternberg lived to the age of 99 and was survived by more than 250 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. According to contemporary reports 10,000 people attended her funeral.


N. Loewenthal, "Women and the Dialectic of Spirituality in Hasidism," in: E. Etkes et al., Be-Maglei Ḥasidim: Koveẓ Mehkarim shel Professor Mordecai Wilensky (1999); N. Polen, "Miriam's Dance: Radical Egalitarianism in Hasidic Thought," in: Modern Judaism 12 (1992), 1–21; E. Taitz, S. Henry, and C. Tallan, The JPS Guide to Jewish Women: 600 B.C.E.1900 C.E. (2003).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.