Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Rebbetzin Leah Kagen, a”h

(Hamodia) The Jewish community of Denver deeply mourns the petirah of Rebbetzin Leah Kagan, wife of, ybl”c, Harav Yisroel Meir Kagan, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Toras Chaim, and daughter of Harav Shmuel Ehrenfeld, zt”l, Mattersdorfer Rav. With her deeply rooted ahavas haTorah and ahavas chessed, the Rebbetzin played a key role in building the yeshivah, as well as the city’s kehillah. She was 83.

The Rebbetzin was born in 1933 in the Austrian town of Mattersdorf, where her father served as Rav. Her mother, Rebbetzin Rochel, a”h, was also a member of the Ehrenfeld family, who are direct descendants ofthe Chasam Sofer and Harav Akiva Eiger, zt”l. The Rebbetzin managed to meld an unassuming manner with a regal presence — an unmistakable inheritance from the noble home in which she was raised.

Shortly after the Anschluss, the Ehrenfelds fled Austria and emigrated to the United States. They settled on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where the Mattersdorfer Rav quickly set about establishing Yeshiva Chasan Sofer. Young Leah, together with her mother and siblings, worked tirelessly to help ensure the sustainability of what was then a fledgling mosad.

In the mid-1950s she married Harav Yisroel Meir Kagan, one of the prized talmidim of Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l. The couple settled in Lakewood, where Harav Kagan had already established himself as one of the prominent members of Bais Medrash Govoha. Although they lived in abject poverty, Rebbetzin Kagan would later recall with happiness and gratitude this interval when she was able to support her husband’s continued growth in Torah.

In 1966, upon the advice of Harav Shneur Kotler, zt”l, the Kagans moved to Denver, Colorado, where Rav Kagan became Rosh Yeshivah at Yeshivas Toras Chaim. Despite the difficulty of living in what was then a very small frum community very far from her family, the Rebbetzin, with her signature ahavas haTorah, wholeheartedly embraced the move, knowing that it would facilitate her husband’s harbotzas Torah.

Together with her unending dedication to the yeshivah, she played a key role in building the community. For decades the Rebbetzin was a beloved kindergarten teacher in the Hillel Academy of Denver. As busy as she was teaching and raising her family, she seemed to have an unlimited capacity to do chessed for others, especially the community’s most needy.

A levayah was held Monday morning at Yeshivas Toras Chaim. An additional levayah was planned to take place at Yeshivas Chasan Sofer in Boro Park Monday evening, before continuing to Eretz Yisrael for kevurah.

The Rebbetzin is survived by, ybl”c, her husband, Harav Yisroel Meir Kagan, shlita; brother, the Mattersdorfer Rav, shlita; sisters, Rebbetzin Gittel Cohen and Rebbetzin Esther Paler; sons, Harav Chaim Ozer, Maggid Shiur in Bais Hamedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore; Harav Dovid Tzvi, R”M in Yeshivas Shaarei Torah of Monsey; and Harav Aaron Baruch, R”M in Yeshivas Toras Chaim of Denver; daughters, Rebbetzin Miriam Kamenetsky, Rebbetzin Chava Furman and Rebbetzin Gitty Lifschutz, as well as by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A longer tribute will follow, b’ezras Hashem, in a future edition of Hamodia.

Yehi zichrah baruch.

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