This is one of our early “In The Press” features of a historical nature that relate to the Twerski family. It is from a newspaper article dating back more than 42 years ago…
Twerskis’ Marriage Spans 50 Years, Two Continents
Friday – January 28, 1972
By Sylvia Bernstein
Of The Journal Staff
The house numbered 2720 North 54th Street is a very modest white bungalow. You would never dream that royalty lives in it. But to those persons who practice Orthodox Judaism in Milwaukee, the occupants, Rabbi and Mrs. Jacob I. Twerski qualify as royalty.
On Sunday evening,members of Congregation Beth Jehudah, founded by the rabbi and located next door to his home, will sponsor a dinner party in honor of the Twerskis’ 50th wedding anniversary. It will be held at the synagogue.
Judging from past celebrations, it would not be surprising to find representatives of all professions, all faiths attending.
Helped in Court
During the more than 40 years he has been in this city, the rabbi has been more than a spiritual leader. For years he has acted as mediator in and out of the courts when the cases involved those of the Jewish faith.
The Twerski home serves as a haven for the homeless, a friendship center for the friendless and the vortex of countless human tornadoes that have been calmed and quieted within its walls.
The rabbi’s ancestors have been rabbis since the days of Peter the Great. His is a heritage of Chassidism (a sect with strict observance of rituals) dating back more than 250 years and distinguished by ancient forms of dress and worship.
Mrs. Twerski, or rebbetzin as she is respectfully called by observers, has shared more than marriage with her husband. Theirs is also a shared heritage since they have mutual blood lines.
Although she was born in Bobowa, Poland, and he in Hornostaipol, Russia, they were betrothed as children by their relatives.
“I was 10 and the rabbi was 12,” she recalled. “I was playing outside our home when my family came out. ‘Take this white handkerchief,’ one of them said to me, and I did.”
The handkerchief is a Biblical symbol signifying the closing of a contract. In this case, it was followed by an exchange of classical gifts: a pendant set with diamonds and a ruby for her and a pocket watch for him.
The families were then content to allow a respectable period of time to elapse. The world was not. With the outbreak of World War I, all communication stopped between them.
Eventually, the rabbi’s family was smuggled out of Russia to Cracow, Poland. Mrs. Twerski, the eldest of 12 children, fled with her family to Vienna when Russian troops occupied their village.
“When we came back, after the war, we found our floors scarred forever by horses’ hoofs. They had been riding them through the house… All of our belongings were gone, even my grandfather’s plush chair which my father had hoped would be my bridal chair,” said Mrs. Twerski.
Somehow, magically, the chair was recovered as it was being taken out of the village on a cart. It was indeed her bridal chair.
The young couple were reunited at last and the wedding was held on a Wednesday, a popular custom of the pious.
The rites were performed under the sky, as prescribed by Biblical edict, under a wedding canopy. Everyone was invited. In the “shtetl” as small towns were called, it was considered a deadly insult not to ask the total community.
“There were 50 or 60 rabbis there,” said Mrs. Twerski, “and I remember that my girl friends had to climb up into the trees so they could see what was happening.” She wore a long, pale yellow gown, since white was not then the accepted mode, and her face was heavily veiled, her hair covered. It was cut, also in the prescribed manner, the day after the marriage. A bride’s hair is the symbol of virginity, hence the haircutting is done the day following the nuptials.
“I was very fashionable. I had a wig long before It became so popular,” she quipped.
With their marriage, Jacob Israel and Leah Devorah, each named for ancestors who themselves had been husband and wife long years before, reunited the names once again.
The young Twerskis came to Milwaukee soon after. Here they raised their five sons: Rabbi Shlomo, a Talmudic researcher in Denver; Rabbi Abraham, clinical director of St. Francis Psychiatric Hospital and Gateway Rehabilitation Center, Pittsburgh; Rabbi Motel, public certified accountant, Brooklyn, N. Y.; Rabbi Aaron, professor of law at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh; and Rabbi Michael, assistant to his father.
Each is married and has children. All are steeped in a tradition of trying to alleviate human problems. It is what they learned and absorbed all the time they were growing up in their unique home.
“Even Motel, the accountant, takes more charity cases than paying ones,” commented his brother Shlomo, who is here for the Sunday event.
The kosher Jewish home is the container of the family, just as the synagogue is the container of the Jewish spirit. In her home, Mrs. Twerski has practiced all of the precepts ingrained within her.
Strict adherence to the laws of “kashureth” (kosher) is observed. There are two sinks, two stoves and two refrigerators to accommodate milk or meat meals which can never be mixed. In fact, there are two of everything —dishes, towels, pots and pans. There is also a category called “pareve” (these utensils can be used for either since the foods eaten from them contain neither animal fat nor milk products).
Mrs. Twerski is now a great-grandmother. There is a serenity in her face born of devotion to prayer and a twinkle in her eye. “I don’t think you age outwardly … I believe one ages from within.” She obviously has no intention of doing that.