Rebbetzin Yocheved Grossman doesn’t do labels. When asked if she’s chasidish, Litvish, or… whatever, she responds, “We’re Jewish!” It’s that open attitude that has enabled her to act as a physical and spiritual activist for Jews from all walks of life for over 20 years. Rebbetzin Yocheved was born in Israel and has lived all over the country. Her father, a”h, passed away when she was 12. From the moment she married her husband, Rabbi Idan Grossman, and moved to Meah Shearim, she was committed to creating an “open house filled with chesed.” In the 23 years since, thousands of guests have passed through her doors, religious and secular, from yeshivah bachurim to soldiers and pilots.
When her husband founded Mercaz Meydah Li’Yahadut, the Center for Jewish Information, which is committed to helping Jews of all sectors with a variety of needs, Rebbetzin Grossman came on as project director—in other words, the organization’s Swiss Army knife. Offering guidance to secular girls in need of direction, providing soldiers with encouragement, making phone calls and coordinating events—the rebbetzin does it all while raising five children.But beyond this, Rebbetzin Grossman is a vocal activist. For the past 15 years, under the Merkaz umbrella, she has coordinated food package deliveries to soldiers during all of Israel’s major military operations. During the evacuation of Gush Katif, she organized prayers and Tehillim on behalf of the settlers.
In 2009, she founded a women’s group whose members spoke out in support of segregation on Israel’s public buses, in response to statements that rabbanim were forcing them into it. “The other side makes it sound like we haven’t been asked about it,” Rebbetzin Yocheved told the press. “Women are the daughters of kings! We have a say as well!” Her passion for helping klal Yisrael even landed her on television and radio last year, when plans were under way to give Dovid Hamelech’s kever to the Vatican. Armed with a psak from Rav Chaim Kaneivsky and other gedolei hador, she set out to alert the public. Along with her media appearances, she appealed to government ministers for assistance.
Eventually, the plans to give Dovid’s tomb to the pope were derailed. Five years ago, during Operation Cast Lead, Rebbetzin Grossman started another bold initiative. At that time, a few rabbanim, wrote a letter urging all Jews to daven for the soldiers in action. “This was done originally during the time of Moshe Rabbeinu in the war against Midian,” Rebbetzin Yocheved explains, “and also during the wars in Dovid Hamelech’s time. For each soldier who went to battle, there was someone who davened for his welfare.” Inspired, the Grossmans started Elef La’Mateh, a project that matched up individual soldiers with avreichim and yeshivah boys who davened and learned on their behalf. Mothers and wives called the organization to give their loved ones’ names, while others called to receive a name. “We received thousands of calls daily, and it’s not only men and boys who call to receive names, but women and children, too,” says the rebbetzin.
Last month, when the Jewish world was awaiting the return of the three kidnapped boys, H”yd, Rebbetzin Grossman made thousands of phone calls to mobilize a veritable army of people to say the entire sefer Tehillim hundreds of times every day. She also spoke on the radio to recruit people, not knowing, of course, that the boys were no longer alive. Now, as Operation Protective Edge rages on, Rebbetzin Yocheved is pairing civilians in Israel and abroad with individual soldiers so that the learning and davening done at home in their merit will strengthen and protect them on the battlefield. This sort of passionate activism is a tall order for anyone, let alone a woman from a neighborhood where it’s unusual to be involved in politics.
But she doesn’t see it that way. “This isn’t politics, this is am Yisrael! Whether secular, religious Zionists, chareidim, chasidim or Litvish, we’re all Hashem’s beloved children. We’re all brothers.” The rebbetzin continues with great earnestness, “Hashem is running the world. Everything is from Him, so davening to Him, crying out to Him, begging Him for rachamim and protection, and learning His Torah can obviously have a very strong effect. Last time, after Operation Cast Lead, there were amazing stories of great nissim, miracles that were reported after the war which were attributed directly to the learning and prayers on the soldiers’ behalf.” Men, women and children are davening and learning; Tehillim are being recited; the Tomb of Dovid is being protected; food is being sent. And organizing all this is a rebbetzin in Meah Shearim who dedicates her life to doing whatever she can for the sake of am Yisrael.