Mrs. Esther Mentz, 87, AH

Mrs. Esther Mentz, who merited to receive unique kiruvim from the Rebbe, and who was president of the Crown Heights chapter of N’shei Chabad for a number of years, passed away on Monday.

By reporter

Mrs. Esther Mentz, who merited to receive unique kiruvim from the Rebbe, and who was president of the Crown Heights chapter of N’shei Chabad for a number of years, passed away on Monday, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5782.

She was 87 years old.

Esther first came to know of Chabad in 1954, after moving from Rhode Island to New York following her completion of high school. Although she had been raised in a nonreligious family, she began educating herself about Yiddishkeit when she was sixteen, after her mother’s passing.

Soon after, she moved to East Flatbush, where Reb Zalman Schneerson, the Rebbe’s distant cousin, taught her Chassidus. He also introduced her to the Chabad community, and she began attending the Rebbe’s farbrengens.

In 1955, she was introduced to Binyamin Mentz. Before they got engaged, they asked the Rebbe for a bracha, which took some while to come, she later recalled. But once the Rebbe gave his bracha, he both personally officiated at the wedding, and ensured that a large crowd would attend the wedding meal and dancing, seeing that she had no mother, and her father was opposed to her lifestyle.

Shortly after her wedding, with her husband not yet earning much, the young couple were unsure how they would make Pesach, with the many expenses involved. “As any good chossid would do, I wrote to the Rebbe about my problem,” she recalled.

Immediately, she got a response from the Rebbe’s secretary Rabbi Hodakov, telling her that the Rebbe said to buy whatever she needed and put it on the Rebbe’s bill. When she chose to buy the absolute minimum, not wanting to spend the Rebbe’s money, the Rebbe himself had a complete set of silverware ordered and delivered to her house. The Rebbe continued sending her a Pesach stipend every year before Yom Tov, even after she tried returning the check one year, saying she no longer needed it.

Thus began her unique relationship with the Rebbe, where the Rebbe showed her unique kiruvim, and constantly encouraged her to increase her activities.

At one point, Mrs. Mentz’s sheitel became worn out, and she began wearing hats and scarves. When her father passed away and the funeral was held in Florida, Mrs. Mentz attended the funeral with a winter hat, and was embarrassed by her appearance and the way people looked at her strangely. When she reported the incident to the Rebbe, the Rebbe had Rabbi Hodakov call her and tell her to go to the best place for wigs, and order the finest wig, all on the Rebbe’s bill.

Together with her family, Mrs. Mentz also merited a number of yechidus with the Rebbe, where the Rebbe showed special sensitivity both to her, and her children.

In 1974, Mrs. Mentz became copresident of the Crown Heights branch of N’shei Chabad. In her role, she created a Bikur Cholim Society, helping women, especially baalei teshuva who had no family support, when they fell ill or following a birth.

“After some time, I became tired. It took a lot out of me. And it took me away from my children. They were home on Sunday, but I wasn’t. So I decided I wanted to quit. I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ And the next time I saw the Rebbe, I told him, ‘This is the last year, and then I’m letting it go,’ she recalled decades later.

When the Rebbe asked why she was stopping, she said she was tired, and doing it all alone.

“He looked at me. ‘You’re tired and you don’t want to do it anymore…’ Then he asked me, ‘What should the Rebbe say – the Rebbe is tired and he doesn’t want to do it anymore? But the Rebbe continues doing it,” she recalled

The Rebbe then asked her to continue for one year, which she agreed to do, eventually staying for another two years.

In 1979, she came to tell the Rebbe that she would be moving out of Crown Heights.

“You’re leaving Crown Heights?” the Rebbe asked her. “Will you continue to be my friend?”

“I was so stunned by his question you could have knocked me over with a feather,” she later recalled.

“But it was ten years before I returned. When I walked in, the Rebbe’s face lit up with a big smile, and he declared, ‘My friend has returned!’,” she related.

She is survived by her children, Hendy Mentz, Baltimore, MD, Rabbi Chaim Mentz, Bel Air, CA Rabbi Yossi Mentz, Los Angeles, CA, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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