About Reb Meir

– by Shimon Apisdorf

How does one write a biography of one of the most remarkable figures in modern Jewish history.  Rabbi Meir Schuster is a living legend; a man who has been a constant, iconic presence at the Kotel (the Western Wall) for almost forty years; a man who has personally and dramatically impacted thousands and thousands of Jewish lives, a man who single-handedly introduced more Jews to Judaism, quite possibly, than anyone else in Jewish history. Who shall we emphasize: Rabbi Schuster z’tL the tzaddik, the scholar, the devoted husband and father – or the man whose persona is the epitome of humility and selfless devotion to his fellow Jews, a man beloved by countless thousands.

Early Years
Meir Tzvi Schuster z”tL was born on January 22, 1943 to Morris and Mary, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Typical of the Jewish experience at the time, young Meir attended public school. At the age of eleven, his parents enrolled him in Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski’s afternoon Hebrew School. Rabbi Twerski took a personal interest in helping Meir catch up to the other students and the two formed a close bond. After two years, in 1958, Meir went to study at the Yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois – Bais Medrash L’Torah. Two years later, he transferred to the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland where Rabbi Schuster stood out as someone who was passionately devoted to Torah study, to prayer and to mitzvah observance.

Each morning, Reb Meir would wake his fellow students in the dorm, calling out, “Wake up. Wake up. It’s time to serve Hashem!” He was also a talented artist, and together with his friend Chaim Kass, who was a sofer, he created a number of beautiful ketubos. On Shabbas, Reb Meir spent the entire day studying in the bais medrash with a box of dates or figs at his side. With the exception of prayer and Torah discussions, he did not speak—the holy Shabbas was reserved exclusively for spirituality. Rabbi Shlomo Porter, the founder of Etz Chaim in Baltimore, still remembers the intensity with which Reb Meir would recite the Birkas Hamazon after eating. Indeed, anyone who has ever seen Rabbi Schuster daven at the Kotel, or anywhere else, can’t help but see that he is engaged in an intense, personal encounter with his Creator.

The Kotel
Rabbi Schuster and his Rebbetzin, the former Esther Garfinkle of Monticello, New York, were married in 1967, six months after the Six Day War. Three months later, in March 1968, they came to Israel, for a year of Torah study in the Mir Yeshiva. As if to foreshadow the kind of impact the Schusters would eventually have on so many young Jews, they decided to extend their stay—for four decades! The Schusters settled in the Ezras Torah neighborhood of Jerusalem and had four children.

Not long after moving to Israel, Rabbi Schuster and his old friend Chaim Kass were at the Kotel where they a saw a young man wearing a backpack who was obviously deeply touched by his encounter with the Wall. Reb Chaim went over to the young man and asked if he would be interested in learning about Judaism, and the young man responded that he was. Unbeknownst to anyone at the moment, that young man who had been moved to tears at the Kotel, represented the beginning of a revolution. For the next two weeks, Reb Meir and Reb Chaim kept returning to the Kotel to try to interest more people in exploring Judaism. By nature, Rabbi Schuster is particularly quiet and reserved, an introvert not naturally given to conversation, and so Reb Chaim initially did the talking. Within a couple of weeks, however, Rabbi Schuster began to take the lead, and he never, ever looked back.

Rabbi Schuster, in his unassuming yet confident way, would walk up to people and begin by engaging them with the simplest of questions; “Are you Jewish?” “Do you know what time it is?” These questions became doorways to conversations that eventually led to other questions; “Have you ever experienced a Shabbas meal?” “Would you like to meet a wise man?” And so Rabbi Schuster would meet people—first dozens, then hundreds and eventually thousands—and he would arrange for them to be hosted for a Shabbas meal, or to take their first taste of Judaism at Aish HaTorah, Ohr Somayach, Neve Yerushalayim, Dvar Yerushalayim, the Diaspora Yeshiva or wherever he felt was the appropriate place for that particular young man or woman. For forty years, day in and day out—day after day and night after night—Rabbi Meir Schuster was a fixture at the Kotel.

In time, Friday night and Shabbas at the Kotel became synonymous with Rabbi Meir Schuster. (He was later joined by Jeff Seidel.) All week long, Rabbi Schuster would meet people, and if he couldn’t interest them in studying, he would urge them to meet him back at the Kotel on Friday night so that he could arrange for them to have a Shabbas dinner at someone’s home. And so, every Friday night at the Kotel, after the prayer services were concluded, Rabbi Schuster would round up a handful of people, or a dozen – sometimes, several dozen – and escort them thru the streets of Jerusalem to families who were awaiting their special guests.

As the years passed, it wasn’t uncommon to see Rabbi Schuster, his son Duvi, and a volunteer or two surrounded by twenty, thirty, forty people waiting to experience Shabbas. Indeed, long before the Internet, almost any young person who was traveling to Israel eventually heard through the grapevine that if they wanted a Shabbas meal in Jerusalem, all they had to do was hang out at the Kotel and Rabbi Schuster would find them.

But then came the Intafadah of 2000.  The wave of terror attacks almost dried up the number of tourists who were visiting the Kotel. Instead of using this slow period for some much needed rest and relaxation, Rabbi Schuster launched a new, ambitious venture—Shorashim Heritage Centers, for young secular Israelis to learn about their Heritage.The first center was opened in the heart of Jerusalem’s downtown district, with subsequent centers in Herzaliya, Haifa, Modiin and Pardes Chana. Rabbi Schuster again shouldered the burden of raising all the funds and assembled a team of dynamic educators who speak the language of Israeli youth. Within ten years after opening the first center, over 50,000 young people had their first taste of Jewish wisdom and spirituality in a warm, open, non-threatening atmosphere. To date, through Shorashim, over 300 couples have met, married and begun to build vibrant Jewish families.


Heritage House & Shorashim Heritage Centers
In 1985, Rabbi Schuster founded the Heritage House youth hostel in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This was in response to his great pain at meeting young people staying in youth hostels in the Christian and Moslem Quarters of the Old City. He was a tireless visionary who raised all the necessary funds and hired a dedicated and talented staff to transform this new dream into a vibrant reality.   Over the years, Heritage House has provided tens of thousands of visitors with a unique place to stay, and if they choose, to also experience the introduction to Judaism classes, or Shabbas and holiday programs that are available through the Heritage House. Like Rabbi Schuster himself, Heritage House became a Jerusalem landmark.

His Illness
At the age of 65, still operating with the kind of dauntless energy and determination that would exhaust a young man, Rabbi Schuster suddenly began to exhibit worrisome symptoms. Soon it became clear that something was terribly wrong. Rabbi Schuster was diagnosed with Lewy Body,  a disease with debilitating symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The progression of the disease was rapid and debilitating. Yet, true to form, Rabbi Schuster wouldn’t stop. He pushed to his outer most limits and beyond—still seeking out Jews who were estranged from Judaism, still seeking out someone for whom one Shabbas meal could forever change their destiny—until he could push no more.

His Legacy
How many people has Rabbi Schuster introduced to Judaism? How many married a fellow Jew because of his hostels? How many people have experienced their only taste of Shabbas because of him? How many people had their first Shabbas, and then went on to live rich Jewish lives because of him? How many children and grandchildren of these people are now in Jewish Day Schools and Yeshivas? The number is impossible to know, and the ramifications of all his efforts are literally beyond comprehension.

The Man At The Wall

– by Bracha Goetz

Reading the stories about Rabbi Meir Schuster that are just now being collected, I am transported back over thirty years ago.

It is 1976.  The man who was to become my husband was praying at the Kotel.  Larry had finished his time in a kibbutz ulpan, and was still volunteering in a development town in the Negev, when he decided to spend the weekend in Jerusalem.  He was scheduled to return to the States a few weeks later, with no clear plans.  Larry put a note in a crevice in the Wall and then prayed sincerely to find his path in life.  When he finished, there was a tap on his shoulder.  It was Rabbi Schuster, asking him, “Do you have the time?”   Thank G-d, Larry did have the time, and he followed Reb Meir to a yeshiva for baalei teshuva where he began the process of finding his life’s path.  After nine years of learning and teaching at Yeshiva Aish HaTorah, young wandering Larry became Rabbi Aryeh Goetz.

It is 1978, and after completing my first year of medical school, I was volunteering on the oncology ward at Hadassah Hospital, visiting with patients who were dying, while my secret mission was to learn the purpose of living.  During my first few days in Israel, I went to the Kotel, and Reb Meir Schuster found me there.  His purity and his sincerity came right into my heart.  I began to study at the women’s division of Ohr Someyach, and the process of understanding the purpose of living began for me as well.

It is 1979, and every torch is lit on the Menorah beside the Kotel, as it is the eighth night of Chanukah.  My soon-to-be husband is sitting near me on a bench in the Kotel plaza.  He tells me that on the eighth day of Chanukah, the spiritual potential for dedication is at its greatest.  He wants to know if on this night full of the power of dedication, I will agree to be his partner in life, so we can continue our separate journeys together.

Reb Meir is there, too, on the night when my husband asked me to marry him.  We both see him at the same moment.  He is looking for more and more lost neshamas, waiting to be found, including those who, like us, will be blessed to find each other too.

Reb Meir has been with us ever since, as well, helping us raise our children to strive for the simple purity that he offered both of us.  From our oldest son who has opened the Yeshiva High School of Arizona, to our youngest daughter, who is now a madrecha in the Heritage House that Reb Meir established, Reb Meir’s pure idealism has gotten infused into our children’s lives.  His gentle tap has even come to be felt by all the grandchildren that have also now blessed our lives, thank G-d.

And we were only two of the tens of thousands of neshamas that Reb Meir helped lead to the spiritual wellsprings craved.  The ripples spreading out from all the neshamas he affected, are not possible to count.  Not in this world.  The reach of this one humble man is endless.

From what I have just now learned from reading about Reb Meir, his parents were survivors of the Holocaust from Poland, and they were not observant, although Reb Meir’s grandmother still was.  Stanley, as he was known then, was brought up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended public school there.  When Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua Twerski opened a Talmud Torah in Milwaukee, through his bubbe’s gentle urging, her grandson, Meir Tzvi, known to everyone else as Stanley Schuster, became one of its first students.  Rabbi Twerski was devoted to being m’karev Reb Meir, and he helped young Meir Schuster catch up in his Hebrew studies.

Rabbi Twerski recalled Reb Meir’s tremendous thirst for learning about Judaism, and he said that he  used to daven and bentsch with such tremendous fervor, soon after he learned how, that it inspired all around him.  He remembered when “Stanley” at the age of 14, with his parents’ consent, went off to learn in yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois.  He had already become a masmid (very devoted Torah learner) and from there, he went on to learn in Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore, Maryland, where he studied for seven years, and got semicha.

At Ner Israel, he was known for being an extremely dedicated student and for doing a semi-speech fast on Shabbos, only speaking words of Torah.  According to his friends, Reb Meir was an excellent listener, but a very quiet person who spoke very little, not wanting to speak one superfluous word.  He was just about the last person any of them would have imagined going into the field of kiruv.

Reb Meir was always on the look-out for ways to do chesed and help others, and always with his great big, warm smile.  Reb Meir also took on a job that was definitely not sought after, of going around to awaken his fellow students.  He would faithfully walk through the dorms every morning, calling in Yiddish repeatedly and with such pure earnestness, “Wake up, Wake up – it’s time to serve Hashem.”

After Reb Meir got married, he and his wife, Esther, moved to Eretz Yisroel in 1968.  They came with two suitcases , and intended to stay for a year, while Reb Meir learned in the Mir Yeshiva.  He never went back to America until many years later, after he had established the Heritage House, and needed to raise funds for it. (No wonder he was able to encourage thousands of others to stay in Eretz Yisroel  longer too!)

Reb Chaim Kass, a good friend of Reb Meir’s, who now runs two health food stores in Lakewood, NJ, said that one day he was learning with Reb Meir the story of how the Netziv of Volozhin realized that he wasn’t reaching his true greatness and how he struggled to be granted the siyata d’Shmaya (Divine assistance) to fulfill his potential.  Reb Chaim said that this story resonated very deeply with Reb Meir.

The next day they were davening together at the Kotel and they watched people going to the Wall and being lit up by the experience.   And the thought struck both of them at the same time: “Why can’t someone connect with these people and bring them closer to yiddishkeit?” And then they both noticed this one young fellow with a backpack on.  He was leaning against the wall and crying. They watched as he composed himself, and starting walking away from his holy encounter.  That was the moment of epiphany when they both realized that this fellow had nowhere to go with the feelings that had just emerged.  Reb Chaim walked over to him and said, “Hi, I’m Chaim Kass – I hope we are not bothering you, but it looks like something happened for you there.  Can we introduce you to some real Judaism?” This young man’s reaction was one of appreciation, and they introduced him to a rabbi with whom he could learn.

Both Reb Chaim and Reb Meir were captivated by this experience and they started going back every afternoon during their breaks from yeshiva to speak with more young men.  They connected with about 15 young men in the first two weeks, bringing some back to Reb Meir’s house for a Shabbos seuda.  At first it was Reb Chaim doing the talking, but then Reb Meir started taking over.  He started doing it, and he began to do it very well, as if this was natural for him.  After those two weeks, Reb Meir took over completely, and he continued doing this for the next 40 years.  Day in, day out, feeling sick, with a sprained ankle, in the hottest weather and the coldest, in the rain and in the snow, as a pure chesed, receiving no monetary payment, he was there.  Being soaking wet for hours was of no importance to Reb Meir because he was searching with the utmost determination for any neshamas he could possibly tap that were ripe for finding fulfillment.

As one of the neshamas he discovered put it, “and he did all this for 40 years – not with a silver tongue – but by being real.  And ‘real’ trumps a silver tongue every time.”  People think they need to be a charismatic charmer to be successful at reaching people, but it was Reb Meir’s pure earnestness that found it’s way into another’s heart gently and directly.  Reb Meir would typically ask both men and women if they wanted to attend a class or come for a Shabbos meal.  He would often wait after class for the person or come back the next day to get his feedback.  He would travel on several buses to help someone collect their things so that it would be easier for her to return for more studies.  He would remain in touch with as many individuals he met that he could, sending cards of encouragement that managed to make major impacts – even thousands of miles away.  As one who was “pursued” by Reb Meir for years and years said, “No one cared more deeply about a soul than Reb Meir Schuster.”

Reb Meir, in a way, brings to mind Moshe Rabeinu, who was determined to overcome his most glaring weakness of being a shy and awkward speaker in order to fulfill his role for the Jewish people.  His wife said that Reb Meir’s most over-riding characteristic is his unwavering belief in syata d’Shmaya – the unimaginable assistance that is possible from the Soul of Souls.  She saw how her husband went against all odds to do what he did.  Rav Noach Weinberg, of blessed memory, agreed, saying that if Reb Meir could do kiruv, then anyone – no matter how shy or reserved they are – could do kiruv.   As such, he was a model that inspired a generation of others who didn’t think they had ‘the right stuff’ to pursue kiruv.

Rebetzin Schuster also said “when he decided to do something, he did it ‘od ha sof.’ – he wouldn’t give up until the end. When he was barely able to even walk anymore, he still wanted to go to England to raise funds for the Heritage House He is a real fighter.  Nothing could stand in his way because every action he did, he did l’shem shomyaim  (for a Divine purpose).  And he never got involved in any kind of politics.”

The souls who descend into this world spend most of their time on earth being distracted from their true purpose by getting pulled down by the concerns of this physical and transient world.  Reb Meir tried valiantly to never get distracted from his true purpose, and his wife got to witness this each singularly precious day, for 43 years.  She said that as the disease began stealing away his ability to think and remember and communicate, he redoubled his efforts in learning – sitting with a Gemorah in his hands 8-10 hours a day, every day.

In the 1980’s, seeing that there were only youth hostels run by Moslems or Christians in the Old City, Reb Meir became determined to create a Jewish youth hostel where young Jewish men and women could stay and learn about Judaism in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. if they didn’t want to go to a yeshiva.  This unlikely speaker then became a fundraiser, establishing the men’s and women’s Heritage House, and traveling around the world for three months a year collecting funds – when he wasn’t collecting Jewish people at the Wall, to gather them in closer.  In its busiest years so far, 5,000 people a year got the chance to absorb the warm Jewish welcome that can still be found in a Heritage House experience.

Then, beginning in 2000, after terrorist attacks in Israel were on the rise and tourism dropped off substantially, Rabbi Schuster created yet another successful way to reach thirsting neshamas.  He established the Shorashim Heritage Centers – for young Israelis – in several locations throughout Israel.  Over 50,000 young Israelis have attended classes at these centers already.

When a person spends time in the presence of someone who is very knowledgeable in any field, he does not become any more knowledgeable about the subject.  When one is given the chance to simply be in the presence of a great baal emuna, however, that soul becomes infused with a greater emuna.   That’s how one individual – Reb Meir – directly affected the lives of probably more than one hundred thousand people.  Rabbi Michel Twerski describes Reb Meir as “an unpretentious, self-effacing legend of our time.  A rare figure of history who has touched so many lives through his profound authenticity.”  And he could care less about any recognition for himself.

Reb Meir and his wife have three children, two daughters and a son.  They lost one daughter years ago when she was killed by an Arab driver backing up a truck.  He kept on fulfilling his mission, unwavering in his emuna.  About two years ago, in his mid-sixties, while still going strong and with many more goals that he hoped to pursue, Reb Meir began to develop Lewy Body Disease.  He can no longer be the man beside the beloved Wall.  He came to require full-time care from his devoted wife and daughter at home, but he has now had to move into a nursing facility.

My daughter, Shira, who works at the Heritage House, told me that she was blessed to get to see Reb Meir about a year ago.  He was still able to get around, with assistance, at that time, but the Alzheimer’s-like symptoms of his disease had already progressed to the point where he seemed to be unable to remember or speak.  Reb Meir still only wanted to be of help, however, if it was at all possible, as he tried mightily, and repeatedly, to remain useful in any way he could.  He was even trying to help my daughter lift the big bag of laundry that she was loading into a machine.  What he still remembered was that he just wanted to be able to give.  And my daughter said that what he also still had was his same warm “biggest smile in the whole world.”

It’s getting late.  I need to pull myself away and stop reading the stories that are just now emerging about Reb Meir.

I hurry into the kitchen and see my husband, almost ready to leave for shul.  Through eyes getting blurry with the tears I am trying to hold in, I ask him, “How can this be happening to Reb Meir?  How can it be?  The pure emunah we absorbed from him…Meeting such a real and true person as him, made it possible for us… And even though we were disillusioned later on by people not observing the Torah in an authentic way, it’s the inspiration of Reb Meir’s initial purity and humility that left the greatest imprint on us …That’s what kept us going …This humble, gentle soul… ”

“How can this be happening to him now?  How can it be?”  I search in the eyes of the man who became my husband and who has shared this amazing journey through life with me, and suddenly there is an answer that over thirty years of a widening perspective has made possible.

“Oh, now I see!” I gasp to my husband.  “Reb Meir, who didn’t care about wealth, power, or prestige, and who devoted his life to the simplest form of kiruv, is now able to deliver the most penetrating kiruv message of all – through this rare illness that has taken over, not only his body, but also his mind.   Unable to speak now, Reb Meir’s message is not wavering.  It is still able to enter our hearts.  How can it be that a goodness with such earnestness like Reb Meir and his devoted family can have this be the end result of all of those selfless decades of effort?  How can it be?  It can’t be the end!!!”

“Reb Meir is leading us to see – perhaps clearer than ever – that this short life we have on earth cannot possibly be all there is.  There has got to be infinitely more – in the invisible spiritual realm that our physical eyes can’t see, but our souls know.  Reb Meir, even while so ill, is still re-directing us to the deepest and purest emes.”

It’s almost time for Shabbos.  The Shabbos that so many might have never known if not for him.

A taste of the World-to-Come.  And the World-to-Come – it’s almost here.

“Do you have the time?” he asked us simply.  Thank G-d, we all did, and we still do.  He is no longer able to walk back and forth at the Kotel, searching for our neshamas, day and night.  But he is still able to show us the way to go in life.

What just one person can do on this Earth – he has demonstrated.  And literally, or figuratively, we all got tapped by the man with a mission.

Reb Meir showed us how to tap into our own inner invincible spark, so that we could continue to brighten the world with illumination.

It’s time to light.

Bracha Goetz is the Harvard-educated author of fourteen children’s books, including  Remarkable Park,  Let Your Fingers Do the Mitzvos  and The Invisible Book, and a frequent contributor to many  publications.  She is also the coordinator of a Jewish Big Brother and Big Sister program in Baltimore, Maryland. 


“The quiet, unprententious individual before you right now is a walking legend in our time. Reb Meir has in his own deliberate, self-effacing, and deeply sincere way affected the lives and the Judaic content of tens of thousands of young Jews throughout the world.” – Rabbi Michel Twerski


“There was never any let up in Rabbi Schuster’s burning intensity. Nothing could be left for tomorrow. “We have to do this right away,” was one of his most repeated statements. The needs of Klal Yisrael were urgent and demanded immediate attention. And even this was not enough. After more than one Yom Kippur, Reb Meir said to me that he had done teshuva for not having done enough and that this year he was determined to do more. And then he would look at me with those penetrating eyes as if to say, “Nu, what are we waiting for. Let’s get cracking.”                         – Rabbi Avraham Edelstein


 “Why aren’t you learning?” Reb Meir once asked me. Being the good natured wise-guy that I was, I answered: “if you can beat me in arm wrestling…I’ll sit down and learn. He looked at me – as if to say “is that all I have to do?” He sat down and immediately beat me. I was more stunned than embarrassed.” – Reuven Eliyahu


‘The schools, Yeshivot, and communities of Israel, the United States and beyond abound with literally thousands of his “discoveries,” and our nation as well as untold numbers of families, have been renewed and revitalized by his efforts. Frankly, I am awed by his accomplishments, and I openly confess that I envy his portion in eternity.”    – Rabbi Michel Twerski


I have had the great privilege of working with HaRav Meir Schuster shlita (fondly known as Reb Meir) for the past 35 years. As a rebbe in Yeshivat Ohr Somayah, I watched Reb Meir almost single handedly create the teshuva movement in Eretz Yisroel by bringing in to the few fledgling yeshivot, thousands of young men and women. He accomplished this without fanfare and with great humility, yet his efforts were fired with an extraordinary passion emanating from a huge ahavas yisroel” – Rabbi Yirmiyahu Abramov

More about the Heritage House 

It was the early 1980’s and Rabbi Meir Schuster Z”TL had already become a permanent fixture at the Kotel. Although he had met thousands of young Jews and become the catalyst for their introduction to Judaism, something was still bothering him. Simply put, there was no place “Jewish” for these kids to stay in the Old City. There were youth hostels in the Christian Quarter and in the Muslim Quarter that were regularly filled with Jewish students, but there was no place Jewish for them to find a budget- oriented and sociable place to spend the night. And so, Rabbi Schuster launched his second groundbreaking venture—Heritage House.

It was clear to “Reb Meir,” as he is fondly known to so many, that if there was a cheap and comfortable place for young Jews to stay in the Old City, a place that not only had beds and washing machines, but that also featured stimulating, non-threatening Jewish programming, that he would be able to help spark more Jewish souls. And so with the need and the solution clearly in front of him, he embarked on an ambitious fund raising and building campaign, traveling the world meeting with potential funders who he hoped would understand the great need that he perceived. After many months of tireless work, he was ready to begin renovation on two locations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

In 1985, the Heritage House youth hostel in the Jewish Quarter opened its doors for the first time. The men’s and women’s youth hostels are housed in renovated Crusader Period buildings located a short walk from the Kotel. In keeping with his vision, Heritage House not only provided clean, comfortable and free accommodations, but the dedicated and talented staff created a pleasant, low key atmosphere where students could ask questions about Judaism and discuss the meaning of their heritage and identity. To date, over 60,000 young Jews from around the world have been hosted by Heritage House, and today Heritage House annually provides thousands of visitors with a unique place to stay; and, if they choose, to also experience classes in introductory Judaism – as well as special Shabbas and holiday programming – all in the heart of the Jewish world that is the Old City of Jerusalem.  Like Reb Meir himself, Heritage House has become a Jerusalem landmark. Indeed, just as it is hard to imagine the Kotel without Reb Meir, it is difficult to imagine the Rova (Jewish Quarter) without Heritage House. It is because of this great man and the great institution he founded, that literally thousands of Jews have found their way home; home not just to Israel and Jerusalem, but home to the Jewish people, to Jewish destiny, and to the timeless depth of their own Jewish souls.