Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, the Founder of the Bais Yaakov Movement in America, is a massive book in every sense of the word—and it ought to be required reading.
This biography of the founder of the Bais Yaakov movement in the United States is also much more than the story of one person’s life. Beneath the covers lies a tapestry of fascinating stories reaching back two hundred years.
Rebbetzin Liebowitz, who was one of Rebbetzin Kaplan’s early students, has us meet Vichna Kaplan in context. That is, she paints a portrait of the world in which Vichna Kaplan was born and raised, bringing to life the homes of gedolim of previous generations.
It is also a window into the daily lives of Yidden in Poland in the pre-war years, poor in material goods, perhaps, but immeasurably rich in ruchnius. We are not painted a false idyllic picture, however. The early Bais Yaakov teachers in Europe and in America faced challenges teaching Jewish girls that many modern parents, unfortunately, will relate to only too well.
Along with watching Vichna Kaplan grow up, we meet legends: Rav Elchanan Wasserman, the Chofetz Chaim, Sarah Schenirer, Dr. Judith Gruenfeld, Rav Aharon Kotler, Rabbi Yosef Yakov Herman, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, among many others who shaped the young woman’s outlook on life.
The story of Rav Baruch Kaplan, Rebbetzin Kaplan’s husband and partner in building Bais Yaakov in America, is as interesting as hers.
The authors make us feel the difficult move the young Rebbetzin Kaplan made, traveling to America to get married, leaving behind her large network of family and friends, knowing that many of them she would never see again.
And then, of course, there is the incredible story of how, together, Rebbetzin Kaplan and her husband built an entire educational movement from an initial group of four girls, some of whom didn’t even want to be there, meeting around a dining room table.
We get to meet these girls—and many others—throughout the years. There are moments of triumph, such as when we learn that people only started to take notice of the school when they realized that every single one of the graduates of the 1938-40 classes
The stories read like a novel but the material is so meticulously researched that it must have taken years to assemble. The copious footnotes indicate the authors’ uncompromising efforts to fact check and verify even the tiniest of details.
Don’t let the size of this book (579 pages) dissuade you. Beneath the covers lies a fascinating story, so meticulously researched that it must have taken years to write.
Buy now from Amazon.
Published by Feldheim.
We received a review copy from the publisher.