Lakewood, NJ – Thousands gathered in Lakewood to pay their respects to Rebbetzin Rischel Kotler, the wife of Reb Shneur Kotler, z’l, the former rosh yeshiva of Beis Medrash Govoha. Rebbetzin Kotler passed away unexpectedly in her Lakewood home this past Friday night at age 92.
Rebbetzin Kotler, the daughter of Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Friedman of Vilna, became engaged to Reb Shneur in 1940. The two managed to flee the Nazi regime and came to America to join Reb Aharon Kotler in 1946, settling in Lakewood. Reb Shneur joined the kollel division of Beis Medrash Govoha, eventually taking over as the rosh yeshiva after his father’s petira in 1962.
Rebbetzin Kotler was the mother of eight children and the grandmother and great-grandmother of many. Levaya notices hung in Lakewood described Rebbetzin Kotler as “the mother of the royalty of Torah, the yeshiva Beis Medrash Govoha.”
The levaya began this morning at approximately 10 AM at the yeshiva, with entrances for men and women on separate blocks to accommodate the large crowd, which authorities estimated at 10,000. Several streets were closed off between Lakewood and Forest Avenues during the funeral to accommodate those who came to pay their respects to Rebbetzin Kotler, with throngs standing in the street, despite the intense heat and humidity, to listen to the hespedim which were broadcast over loudspeakers. The levaya was also streamed live on the radio and by phone, with call in numbers available for both America and Israel.
While Lakewood has grown exponentially throughout the years, Rebbetzin Kotler, whose warmth and brachos inspired many during her lifetime, was remembered as an essential part of the community whose presence linked small town Lakewood of decades ago to the thriving community that continues to flourish today.
“She tied together so many aspects of Lakewood, old and new,” Lakewood chiropractor Dr. Howard Tornopsky, a lifelong resident of the area, told VIN News.
Chaveirim, Misaskim, Lakewood Civilian Safety Watch, the Lakewood Police Department and Lakewood Emergency Medical Services were all on hand during the four hour levaya.
The funeral procession left Lakewood with a police escort via Forest Avenue to County Line Road before heading to JFK airport. Rebbetzin Kotler will be laid to rest on Har Hamenuchos. She is survived by her children Rav Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva of Beis Medrash Govoha, Rav Aron Kotler, CEO of Beis Medrash Govoha, Rav Shraga Kotler, who serves as a member of the yeshiva’s hanhala, Rav Isser Zalman Kotler, Rebbetzin Sarah Yehudis Schustal, Rebbetzin Batsheva Krupenia, Rebbetzin Esther Reich and Rebbetzin Baila Hinda Ribner.