Interview with Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

Slovie Jungreis-Wolff is a popular teacher, author, and lecturer on relationships and parenting. Slovie has been teaching couples for 25 years and has taught Hineni young couples and parenting classes. She is the youngest daughter of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. Slovie is the author of the parenting handbook, Raising a Child with Soul. She has lectured throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Panama, South Africa and Europeto places.

Q: How did you get started helping couples with raising their children?

When my mother was writing her first book, she needed to have time to write. She therefore asked me to take over some of her classes. At one of those classes was a young woman who had recently got married. After listening to my talk, she said that she would love it if I would teach her and her husband and her friends who were recently married. We started out with four couples in her living room in New York City. 

Then they started having babies. She asked me if there was anything in the Torah about raising children.

“Are you kidding?” I replied. That was the driving force for my book Raising a Child with Soul. All of my classes are based on the wisdom of the Torah. The classes grew; I would say that they exploded! We are still studying today 25 years later with the same core women and their friends. It became a candle that lit many fires.

Q: What challenges did you overcome?

I am naturally shy. In South Africa, I spoke before an audience of 5,000 people. When you believe in something like your mission and you have a purpose, then your passion takes over. It is with the help of Heaven. You are able to overcome any natural obstacles you have that are placed in front of you. I would encourage everyone to believe in their mission – whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be as grand as changing the world. Sometimes it could be just changing yourself.

Q: Tell us about the time your mother flew to Eretz Yisrael on President Bush’s presidential airplane Air Force One and his aide asked your mother, “Where are you?”

They were flying over Germany at the time. In the middle of the flight, one of Bush’s aides asked my mother, “Rebbetzin, do you know where we are? Look at the radar; you are flying over Germany. You, a survivor of  Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, are flying to Eretz Yisrael on the plane of the President of the United States of America.” You should never give up hope. 

Q: Tell us what it was like watching your mother speaking at a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.

I was just a little girl. I was sitting in the front row. There were so many people that they couldn’t even close the doors. The spotlight came out. And there was my mother. She spoke about being a Jew. When I looked around I saw that nobody moved. There were a lot of tears and clearly a lot of connection to what she was saying. It was an explosion of inspiration. Old, young, frum, not frum. Every kind of Jew in the world was there. It was incredible. I will never forget seeing the enormous crowd jump to their feet at the end of the night, applauding, crying, and giving her a standing ovation. 

My mother traveled all over the world and to every continent. But to me, my siblings, and my children, Esther Jungreis was our Ema and Bubby. She loved us. I miss her so much.

Q: Tell us about the time you went with your mother to visit the Israeli soldiers in Lebanon.

When I was 16 years old, my mother took me to Lebanon during the Lebanon war . My mother was invited by the Israeli government to speak to the Israeli soldiers that were in Lebanon fighting for Eretz Yisrael. At that time everyone was trying to get out of Beirut, not come in. The traffic jam was unbelievable. We had to go off the road and on the mountains in Lebanon to find the soldiers. Rockets were flying. When we pulled up in IDF jeeps, their mouths were agape.

The soldiers were in tents when my mother came out bearing gifts and cards and giving them chizuk, “We are with you fighting for Eretz Yisrael and Hashem is with you.” They thought they were seeing a mirage. They were so grateful.

The commander who was driving us around received a phone call from the then Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin. “We would like to see you,” he said. So off we went to Eretz Yisrael. I followed my mother into the Prime Minister’s office and I will never forget the words he said to my mother with tears in his eyes, “In honor of the Rebbetzin, I would like to share my tefilah, my prayer.” 

While we were sitting in the Prime Minister’s office, we received another phone call from a prison warden in a Ramla prison for women. “Would the Rebbetzin care to come to speak to the women who were sitting in Ramla Prison?” The people sitting around the Rebbetzin asked, “How can you go from the Prime Minister’s office to a prison? These girls are criminals.”

The Rebbetzin replied, “These girls are not criminals. These girls are my daughters. These girls are daughters of Israel and of Hashem. These are daughters of the King. Of course we must go see them.” So off we went. We arrived in a prison jeep. The girls were sitting in the courtyard. Most of them were sitting with their arms folded and a cynical look on their faces. From one heart to another, somehow my mother reached their hearts. In Hebrew she said, “Seven times a righteous person falls. It is okay to fall, but you have to get up. That’s what makes a tzaddik. Anybody can fall. Do you know that what makes you who you are is that after you fall you can get up again? Everybody sitting here can get up and make it,” she told them. Slowly their faces started to soften. 

Q: What hashgacha pratit, Divine Providence, did you witness in your life? 

To be born from the ashes of the Holocaust.