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Originally Published in the Yated Ne’eman – 1 Tammuz 5765 – July 8 2005 (page 67)
Rebbetzin Devorah Rennert A”H : A True Aishes Chayil
On Friday morning, 24 Sivan, 5765, a modern day isha tzidkanis was tragically taken from our midst. Rebbetzin Devorah (Debbie) Rennert A”H, wife of Rabbi Shmuel Rennert YB”L, mother to 10 children BA”H, the youngest born only months ago, was returned to her Creator.
Rabbi and Rebbetzin Rennert first moved 21 years ago to become a part of the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study (WITS), an affiliate of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rabbi Rennert has been serving as mashgiach (spiritual guide) at the yeshiva since he moved. Rabbi Rennert’s erudition, dedication, and hasmada have become legendary over the years, and he has influenced countless talmidim with the aid and support of his aishes chayil.
Rebbetzin Rennert personified a genuine role model in every possible sense. An exemplary mother, wife, and eved Hashem, she conducted all aspects of her life with perfect and unwavering dedication. Everyone who knew Rebbetzin Rennert echoes the same message: her own needs were secondary to the needs of her family and the members of the community around her.
Selfless and Loving Mother
Stories of Rebbetzin Rennert’s role as full-time mother to her 10 children are so inspiring they hearken to days long gone. Her children express that they felt their mother’s selfless and constant concern for their needs at all times. Her mantra was “what can I do to help?”. Regardless of circumstance, family pressures, lack of sleep, or the steady flow of young babies that needed to be cared for, the children always felt their needs were being met.
Rebbetzin Rennert had an uncanny ability to discern and cater to the individual needs of each and every child. Michoel Rennert, the oldest child and only boy in the family until recently (the youngest boy was born only four months ago), spoke at the hesped Sunday afternoon. “She knew whatever we needed, when we needed time to talk, or even when we just needed our own space.”
Children of other families in the community found that Rebbetzin Rennert would cater to their needs as well. They were welcomed into the Rennert home as members of the family, some even jokingly referring to Rebbetzin Rennert as “Mommy”. This was the type of unequivocal acceptance and love Rebbetzin Rennert provided.
Rebbetzin Rennert was a paradigm of true mesiras nefesh, exhibiting an exceptionally unusual level of selfless devotion, commitment to Torah, and support for her husband. As part of Rabbi Rennert’s duties as mashgiach in the yeshiva, he oversaw the wellbeing of the dormitory students, a responsibility which often kept him in the yeshiva well into the night. Rebbetzin Rennert not only supported this role wholeheartedly, she encouraged it. On Friday nights, the one night of the week where Rabbi Rennert was not involved with the dormitory students, the Rennerts would host boys for an oneg shabbos which would often go late into the night with the support of Rebbetzin Rennert. Michoel recounted at the hesped how the children would frequently wake up in the morning to see their father had fallen asleep at his gemara. “How many women would be willing to give up so much of their time so their husband could learn and teach Torah? In a day and age when people are hesitant to leave the comforts of established frum communities living in close proximity to their parents, how many only daughters would be willing to move out of town, away from their family, to join their husbands in harbotzas haTorah?” This indeed was Rebbetzin Rennert, an aishes chayil par excellence, who believed so wholeheartedly in the life of Torah and Harbotzas haTorah she and her husband had set out upon that she endured and embraced all types of challenges willingly and without reservation.
Rebbetzin Rennert’s kindness and sensitivity toward others was exceptional. Aside from the chessed in her own family, she was very involved in the schools and the community where she lived. A story was told at the hesped regarding a small party held for one daughter’s friends in honor of her Bat Mitzvah. Despite all the complicated arrangements involved in planning a Bat Mitzvah with a large extended family, Rebbetzin Rennert called a parent in the local community with a special needs child now living in New York, insisting that she would not schedule the Bat Mitzvah until she knew the child would be able to be in attendance. This was typical of Rebbetzin Rennert’s selfless compassion and sensitivity toward others.
Throughout the community it was known that the door to the Rennert’s home was always open. When anyone would knock on the door, someone would regularly be there running to open it. There were many other people who passed through their doors, neighbors and talmidim alike. Over the years, quite a number of children were “adopted” by the family, practically (and at times literally) living in the Rennert home.
Tranquility and Faith
Rebbetzin Rennert was never heard to make a complaint over anything or to have anything negative to say. Despite any vicissitudes in her life, and there were many, Rebbetzin Rennert could always be found with a big smile and a sense of true contentedness. Rebbetzin Rennert exhibited a unique inner peace and tranquility which revealed a deep reservoir of emunah and unshakable bitachon in the Ribono Shel Olam.
Another incident mentioned at the hesped by Michoel involved a pregnancy several years ago. It was to be the first boy since her first child, an extremely exciting development, and yet it was all lost when she miscarried only a few months prior to delivery. Yet Michoel describes how his mother encouraged him over the phone after this tragic incident, telling him with unwavering faith, “This is what Hashem wants. It is our job to accept it.” This was Rebbetzin Rennert. This type of incredible strength is what must have allowed one of the elder Rennert teenage daughters to express before the levaya, “If Hashem took our mother away, He must feel that we [the older siblings] are strong enough to take care of the family now.”
An Incredible Family
These small insights into the Rennert family help us to perceive the incredible resolve and character of this family. The midos tovos, sincerity, kindness, chessed, and faith exemplified by Rebbetzin Rennert can be found implanted in each and every one of the children.
Rebbetzin Rennert displayed an usual level of self-effacing acceptance and secondary self-interest. Rabbi Rennert as well has become widely known by his talmidim as someone who runs away from kavod, and who regularly puts the needs of others, no matter who, when, or what, before his own. This uncanny display of humility by both parents is symbolic of a truly deep-seated recognition of Hashem and our purpose in this world.
At the hesped in Milwaukee on motzei shabbos, Rabbi Rennert expressed his incredible gratitude to Hashem for the time he was privileged to have been blessed with Rebbetzin Rennert in his life. With such incredible parents in their lives as role models, BE”H the children should have the strength to continue to grow and thrive, to serve Hashem, and to continue making an impact on klal yisroel as their parents have until now.
Undoubtedly, judging by the children’s words and actions at the hespedim alone, it is clear to the observer that these children’s words are fact: their parents have imbued them with an incredible strength, faith, and dedication to Torah and mitzvos. May Rebbetzin Rennert serve as a meylitz yosher for her family and for all of klal yisroel.
Other speakers at the hespedim included Rabbi Yehuda Cheplowitz, Rabbi Mordechai Tropper, Rabbi Michel Twerski, Rabbi Raphael Wachsman, Rabbi Chanoch Waxman, and her brother and only sibling Mr. Aharon (Allen) Erreich.
Rebbetzin Rennert is survived by her husband, parents, brother, and 10 children, ranging in age from 22 years to 4 months. Contributions are encouraged to be sent to the Keren Devorah Fund, a special fund being created to provide for the needs of the family, via WITS at 3288 Lake Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53211, or by phone at 414-963-9317 or at www.kerendevorah.org.
A project to publish a pamphlet with a compilation of inspirational experiences and stories from Rebbetzin Rennert’s life is in progress. Anyone with any story or insight to share is strongly encouraged to please contact Chaim Shapiro via telephone at 414 963-9317 ext. 24 or by email at WitsAlumni@aol.com.
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