With the passing of Rebbetzin Batya Kurtstag z”l, as a community, we extend heartfelt blessings of comfort and condolence to Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag shlita, to his children Chava Ita, Rav Avishai, Aviva and Rav Yehoshua, and the entire family, who have been pillars of our community for so long. Your loss is our loss.
This sad moment calls on us to reflect on what Torah greatness looks like when it comes alive through a person’s values and spirit, personality and deeds. Batya Kurtstag was such a woman. She carried herself with grace and dignity, exuding royalty in her every motion, and at the same time, profound humility. Always present when dealing with people, and disarmingly honest, you felt her real and immediate empathy with every interaction.
She continued the great Torah legacy of her beloved father, Rabbi Aloy – a legacy of kindness and contribution, intellect and refinement, empathy and compassion, sensitivity and courage, humble service and leadership. She supported her husband, Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, in his impossibly demanding position as head of our Beth Din – as, over decades, with his vast Torah scholarship and fearless leadership, he established it as a distinguished institution admired around the world.
Rebbetzin Kurtstag was gracious and humble as a mentor to young rebbetzins, always giving encouragement. When we just started out in the chief rabbinate, my wife asked her for advice on the role of a rebbetzin. Her words were simple yet profound, and so empowering: “Everything you need to know, you have within you,” she said. “You don’t need my answers.” In this way she showed a young rebbetzin that she could do this job.
This humility was characteristic of Mrs Kurtstag. Always ready with a kind word or kind gesture. Always eager to serve and uplift others. Never placing herself at the centre.
She personified the Talmud’s hallmark of Torah greatness – the integrity of a person whose “inside is like their outside”, whose inner life is integrated and congruent with how they present themselves in public. Sincere and gentle, Rebbetzin Kurtstag never pretended, never put on a show. She never tried to impress, which, ironically, made her even more impressive to everyone she encountered.
And she never took herself too seriously. Having endured the public eye her entire life, first as a rabbi’s daughter and then as a rebbetzin, she held its gaze with grace and aplomb; with self-deprecating humour, she laughed at the eccentricities of human nature and the foibles of public life, without being cynical.
Even in the public glare, Rebbetzin Kurtstag protected her children and raised them to be outstanding tributes to their illustrious ancestors. She taught us all that one of the purest forms of leadership is living up to your calling as a parent. Together with her husband, they raised a family steeped in Torah learning, noble service and compassion, and who continue that legacy today in Israel.
May Hashem comfort Rabbi Kurtstag and the entire family among the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim. May the awesome merit of Rebbetzin Kurstag’s life’s work be a source of overflowing blessings for her inspiring family and for us all.
Chief Rabbi Goldstein