Title: Matriarch of Multitudes
Byline: Debbie Shapiro
It's not every day that the passing of a modest, unassuming Jewish housewife makes international headlines. Yet when Yitta Schwartz, a"h, of Kiryas Yoel, New York passed away at the age of ninety-three, the event was considered newsworthy enough to be mentioned in the New York Times, as she left behind over two thousand, five hundred descendents. Amazingly enough, she knew each and every one personally, and she remembered all of their names!
Bubby Schwartz was born in 1916, in the Hungarian
. After the Germans invaded village of Kalev Hungary in 1944, she and her husband, Yosef, were rounded up and sent to Bergen-Belsen together with their six children. Even amidst the horrors of a concentration camp, she remained devoted to the eternal values that she had absorbed in her parents' home. At her shivah, another Bergen-Belsen survivor recalled that when her own mother had died, it was Bubby Schwartz who had somehow managed to perform a taharah, and then dig a grave with her own hands and bury the woman. But Bubby Schwartz never viewed her acts of bravery as being something special. "For her, it was a matter of necessity," explained her daughter Nechuma.
Both Yosef and Yitta Schwartz survived the War, together with four of their six children. After liberation, they found refuge in
. Despite their own struggle to survive, they continued to help others. Survivors who found their way to the Schwartzes’ bombed-out apartment were warmly welcomed, graciously provided with a makeshift bed, and most important of all, made to feel part of their family, something which most were sorely missing. By the time the Schwartzes moved to Antwerp, Belgium eight years later, in 1953, the family numbered eleven children. Williamsburg
, Mr. Schwartz supported his growing family while Bubby Schwartz stayed at home and took care of her household. She was the quintessential Jewish mother – baking, cooking, and sewing her children's clothes. She even made all her own challos – a total of twelve pounds of dough. For her children's weddings, she starched the tablecloths herself, and baked the elaborate cakes that were served at the Viennese table! New York
Until her last day, Bubby Schwartz dazzled everyone with her high-voltage smile. Her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren adored her. Last year, when she visited the Satmar summer camp and the camp mother announced that all of Bubby Schwartz's eineklach should come to the gate, some sixty girls appeared!
Bubby Schwartz was always there for her grandchildren. One grandchild recalls, "Bubby Schwartz never missed a simchah of mine. She was there for every vacht nacht, bris, upsherin, kiddush, bar mitzvah, as well as other, smaller occasions. She even made sure to visit after I moved into my new house, and I'm just one of thousands!"
Another woman commented, "A grandchild of hers told me that one granddaughter went to Bubby Schwartz to rest after a baby, when the bubby was already eighty-six years old. She claimed it was the best rest she ever got!"
With so many family simchos to attend, Bubby Schwartz's later days were brimming with Yiddishe nachas as she ran from vort, to bris, to bar mitzvah, to chasunah, often several on the same day. One woman recalls, "I once attended a wedding where she was surrounded by a large crowd of women and children. She looked like a queen, and the endless love for her children was so obvious. The children danced for her and did all kinds of shtick. It seemed that she was more a celebrity than the kallah!"