BDE: Mrs. Esther Bleier, a”h, 104, Daughter and Confidante of Rav Yonasan Steif, zt”l
We regret to inform you of the petirah of Mrs. Esther (Steif) Bleier, a centenarian who spent the first half of her long life at the side of her illustrious father, the legendary Rav Yonasan Steif, and went on to serve as a pillar of old-time Yiddishkeit, philanthropy, and was a repository of stories and anecdotes of her father and the incredible times she lived through.
The nifteres was born in Budapest in 1919 to her illustrious parents, Rav Yonasan and Rebbetzin Bluma (nee Reich) Steif. Rav Yonasan was already then a highly-regarded talmid chochom. The birth of his daughter, fifteen years after her elder brother, was a miracle.
“I was the miracle baby, and I received all the attention and love of a princess. Yes, I was spoiled,” she later recalled.
“My father became the dayan of Budapest in 1922. We lived in a lovely spacious seven-room apartment. We were comfortable financially and had a lot of domestic help. The main room, the sefarim shtieb, was very large and was lined with sefarim. There was a huge table that could seat 24 people,” the nifteres told Ami Magazine around her 100th birthday four years ago.
“That was the room where my father spent his entire day and where I played in the corner as a child. He would meet with people, give shiurim, answer shailos and kashrus questions, help people seeking advice, deal with shalom bayis problems, and conduct dinei Torah. People were constantly coming and going at all hours.”
Even as ominous clouds gathered over Hungary, Esther Shulamis remained at her father’s side. “For as long as I can remember," she told Ami, "I was always by my parents’ side. I never left them—not in Hungary, not in Bergen-Belsen, Switzerland or America. I was always there to help and care for them until they passed away. It was a great zechus that I never took for granted."
From Switzerland, the Steif’s were fortunate to escape on the “Kastner Train,” along with the Satmar Rov, with whom Rav Yonasan would retain a lifelong friendship, eventually arriving in America, where Rav Steif became the Viener Dayan, and one of America’s foremost poskim who garnered the reverence of all America’s gedolim.
Esther married Reb Aaron Bleier, and together they established a family that is renowned for Torah and tzeddakah. Just last week, Mrs. Bleier participated, from a distance, in the tenoyim of her first great-great-grandchild. The Bleier family has dedicated itself to the dissemination of Rav Yonasan’s voluminous writings, as well as bringing other rare manuscripts to the Torah world—all through the support of their matriarch, Mrs. Bleier.
The nifteres was known for her wit and wisdom and her support of Torah causes. In recent years, she dedicated the Satmar wedding hall in Lakewood in memory of her father.
With the passing of Mrs. Bleier at the age of 104, we have lost a true vestige of a vanished world.
The levaya will take place at 1:00 Sunday afternoon at Beis Hachaim D’Lakewood, 613 Ramsey Avenue in Lakewood.
Yehi zichra baruch