Rebbetzin Zissel bas Reuven Chaim Margulies was niftar this past Shabbos afternoon, June 7, leaving the Kew Gardens Hills community with an immense loss. Rebbetzin Zissel was the devoted wife of Moreinu HaRav HaGaon Rav Shaul David HaKohen Margulies (niftar February 25, 1988) who led Khal Degel Israel at the corner of 68th Drive and Main Street since 1958. The Margulieses resided at the shul, dedicating each day and night to spread the fire of the Torah. The Rebbetzin had much self-sacrifice for her devoted husband, as she recognized his love of Torah and his place as a leader for the Queens community. Rebbetzin Zissel remained at the shul for the next 32 years, continuing the ambitious legacy of Rav Margulies, and kept his vision shining ever so bright. The couple’s fierce adherence to mitzvos merited their daughter and son-in-law, HaRav David Zussman and Rebbetzin Rochel Sheinfeld to join Rebbetzin Zissel in continuing to build on the foundation that Degel Israel was built.
Rav Margulies was the Av Beis Din of Prushkov, near Warsaw, Poland, where he also acted as the examiner for Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. He was among the first disciples of HaGaon Rav Meir Shapiro zt”l, the originator of our Daf Yomi cycle. Rav Margulies was a talmid of Rav Shapiro many years before the establishment of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin.
Rebbetzin Zissel is best remembered for her love of Torah and its many laws and traditions. The Rebbetzin would jump at the opportunity to dress royally and participate in t’filah at her makom kavua at the shul, standing as a role model for all who encountered her saintly aura. Rebbetzin Zissel merited to have the congregants of the shul admire and honor her for her humility and passion of the Torah. As years passed, the Rebbetzin maintained her devoutness to the shul and its members, always eager to learn of each accomplishment and milestone, never allowing anything to slow her down. Watching the shul shine as a beacon of Torah learning and shiurim in Queens gave the Rebbetzin much comfort, especially in her later years.
Rebbetzin Zissel was a Holocaust survivor, having been in Auschwitz, where large portions of her family were killed. Nevertheless, she remained steadfast in her emunah in Hashem and her piety. The Rebbetzin took much pride in her long ancestry of rabbinical sages and encouraged this pious Torah lifestyle for her adored grandchildren and great-grandchildren. On a near weekly basis, Rebbetzin Zissel’s grandchildren would grace her home. At the l’vayah, one of her grandchildren, Yosef Reuven, remarked, “As we grew up, Bubbe would have us stand at the kitchen door post, and she would pencil-in our respective heights. In retrospect, “this was done to encourage each of us to reach new heights in our Torah learning.” Each grandchild continues to shine as a servant of Hashem in his or her own right. This theme was best underlined by another grandson, Shaul, who explained, “Seeing the achievements of each grandchild and great-grandchild was the highlight of the week for our grandmother. She strived to inspire us to evolve independently.”
Just before heading to Eretz Yisrael for burial on Har HaZeisim, Rebbetzin Zissel’s aron was brought to her beloved shul for a final goodbye to the k’hilah she helped build. The Rebbetzin, who recently celebrated a centenarian birthday, is survived by her daughter, the shul’s current rebbetzin, Mrs. Rochel Sheinfeld, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, whom she cherished very much. Y’hi zichrah baruch.
By Shabsie Saphirstein