Bracha Zaret’s Story

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Reb Meir worked at the Western Wall. That was his office. And I, hired by the American Peylim organization, was to be “the woman at the Wall”.  First, I just watched Reb Meir in action. I remember when he sidled up to Gila Manolson.  She was a Yale graduate, with a pack on her back and a map in hand.  He asked her something, she backed away. Reb Meir looked at me and signaled that I should go talk to her. I did, and she is now a popular author on topics of tzniut (modesty) and male/female relationships.

Reb Meir was dogged.  He walked relentlessly around and around through the Shuk and the Jewish Quarter and back to the Wall, looking for people.  I, being the demure (and somewhat lazy) young woman, stayed put at the Wall, waiting for young American girls in their 1970’s ‘uniform’:  long hair, parted in the middle, dungarees and backpack. I would initiate conversation, asking if they had the time or if this was their first visit to the Western Wall… Reb Meir taught me how to do this.  “Don’t think so much, just go over to them and start talking.” Those were his instructions and I followed them.

For three years I worked alongside Reb Meir, bringing girls to Neve Yerushalayim, picking them up at their youth hostels, setting them up for Shabbos. Then I got funding to expand our “haunts”.  We hired women to stalk Hebrew University.  I hired the now famous Miriam Kosman. She was surprised but ready as we walked through Tel Aviv University together and I demonstrated how to knock on doors with names that were obviously American and begin a dialogue.

This lasted another three years. With a team of 12 people we were at Central Bus Stations, in touch with kibbutzim and with American organizations running programs. We did a “Fabulous Friday Night’ with 50 students coming to our neighborhood of Ezras Torah for Shabbos dinner every week.

Eventually,  I followed my Kollel husband to Los Angeles. After some time, we opened a successful outreach organization here. All that is mine, started with Reb Meir. He would visit us every time he came to LA for  fundraising.  I would bring my children to them, telling them I want them to meet a tzaddik. This was no exaggeration.