May 27, 2024
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Remembering Dr. Sara Reguer, z”l

By Ari Rieser

Sara Reguer, z”l

All of us at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Jewish Center experienced an intense shock when we first heard that Dr. Sara Reguer, z”l, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on Sunday night. When Mrs. Chani Hilewitz called me with the news, I incredulously responded, “What are you talking about? She was just in shul yesterday and was totally her energetic and vibrant self.”

To nearly all those who knew her she introduced herself as Dr. Reguer—to a very small group of people she was called Sorqi.

Webster defines “de rigueur” as prescribed or required by fashion, etiquette or custom: proper. I think that part of what made Dr. Reguer so special was her insistence that she be addressed in a manner that indicated she was to be respected. At the same time, she was surprisingly friendly and welcoming to new faces at shul and was genuinely interested in and enjoyed engaging with people in shul, even if they were significantly younger.

At a time when we, and the society we live in, all too often prefer familiarity over formality, Dr. Reguer was a master at balancing these two opposing characteristics. Similarly, she could at the same time be both a staunch defender of tradition and a fierce and unapologetic trailblazer.

As the granddaughter of Rav Simcha Zelig Reguer, HY”D, the famed Dayan of Brisk, Dr. Reguer provided our shul and community with a direct link and connection to her family’s robust and proud Lithuanian tradition.

She was in shul this past Shabbat and I overheard her talking to R’ Yoni Rabinovitch, our rabbinic intern, about the Alter of Slabodka, who was to be the focus of R’ Yoni’s speech at seuda shlishit. Dr. Reguer exclaimed, “My grandfather was not a big fan.” Indeed the Briskers strongly and unequivocally disagreed with the Slabodka approach.

The Torah writes that at the end of Moshe Rabenu’s life “לֹא־כָהֲתָ֥ה עֵינ֖וֹ וְלֹא־נָ֥ס לֵחֹֽה” his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated. I think this exactly encapsulates Dr. Reguer. She recently retired from her position as professor of Jewish history at Brooklyn College and had her retirement party just two months ago. She was full of life and remained intellectually sharp to the very end.

In “My Father’s Journey,” her book about Rabbi Dr. Moshe Ahron Reguer, z”l, she chronicled her father’s unique and at times turbulent life before, during and after World War II and his relationship with her grandfather R’ Simcha Zelig. In fact, just eight days before she passed, Dr. Reguer spoke at seuda shlishit about her late father.

As our longest serving active board member, she had an excellent attendance record and was always among the first to arrive. Despite having strong opinions, Dr. Reguer was a true team player and patiently waited to give her viewpoint. In the many years we served together on the board, I cannot recall her ever raising her voice or being publicly critical of a fellow board member.

Upon a yahrzeit for a parent or grandparent, Dr. Reguer confidently recited Kaddish in a clear and proficient manner. She strongly advocated that women should be able to recite Kaddish at MSJC without a man reciting it along with them—several times my father was on the receiving end of Dr. Reguer’s displeasure if he hurriedly began reciting Kaddish after realizing a woman had already begun.

For many years Dr. Reguer served on our shul’s education committee and was instrumental in creating and running our Holocaust-related programming on Yom HaShoah and Kristallnacht. Her incredibly engaging interview with Mr. Walter Spier, a”h, at our Kristallnacht event five years ago is something that we are so fortunate to have been recorded and is available on YouTube.

There is so much more to share about Dr. Reguer, and our shul and community have lost a truly irreplaceable person, truly deserving of our respect and admiration.

Lastly, as I began writing this tribute late this morning, I was thinking that perhaps the reason she asked to be called Dr. Reguer was in order to motivate herself and push herself to continually achieve more. Whether or not this was the case, she certainly accomplished an incredible amount in her lifetime and with God’s help, her legacy will endure and continue to motivate and inspire us for many years to come.

If you have memories or personal reflections of Dr. Reguer that you would like to share with her family, please send them to [email protected].

Yehi Zichra Baruch.

Ari Rieser, a native of Washington Heights currently is the Treasurer of Mt. Sinai Jewish Center and served with Dr. Reguer a”h on the MSJC board for the past decade.

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