By: Rabbi Ari M. Solomont
When I was 16 years old, I asked my NCSY regional director Rebbitzen Peggy Weiss if she had faith in me? She responded, with one word. “NO!” I was stunned. However, that was not the end of her shocking two-letter answer. She continued, “I have confidence in you!” “Faith,” she carefully explained, “I reserve exclusively for my creator, Hashem.” Over 30 years have passed since that brief conversation. The indelible impression and incredible lesson it taught me makes it still feel like it happened yesterday.
Rebbitzen Weiss – “Reb” as she was affectionately known – was a non-judgmental listener, a compassionate friend, and an inspiring role model. She was the first woman to assume the role of Regional NCSY director, a position she held in New England for almost ten years. During those years, she influenced thousands of people – young people in their formative teen years, the most difficult years.
The Rebbitzen lived by iron-clad and uncompromising standards of integrity and humility, steeped in Torah values and trust in Hashem. The manner in which she demonstrated what was proper and just, inspired us all. There was a softness about her that could only be described as the manifestation of a living soul. However, she was never about savings souls: she succeeded by sharing a glimpse into her own. And share she did. The life lessons she taught were through the example that she and her beloved husband, Rabbi Saul Weiss, set for their family and for us.
The Rebbitzen was a trailblazer. She was creative, dynamic, outgoing, and approachable. Yet, simultaneously, she lived by the highest standards of modesty. She was a lesson in contradictions. She could fill a room with her comforting, gentle, and yet overwhelming presence. Regardless of the number of people who wanted her attention, or needed her attention, everyone felt like she was there for them. In fact, sometimes in a room full of hundreds of people, you almost felt alone with her.
Rebbizten Weiss was all about tachlis. What mattered was that we mattered. She helped us grow, and grow-up, each according to our own potential. She had that keen sense of what to say, when to say it, and how to hone in on “what we needed,” and “what was important for us to hear.” When she spoke to crowds, her messages were intensely personal. Yet, these lessons, while drawn from her own life, were never about her, they were always for us.
Reb was driven by a mission, and her kids – her NCSYers and her biological kids – were the foundation of her focus. We knew it, we felt it, and we understood it. Even when many years had passed, she never forgot about us, her “non-biological kids.” She remained interested in and connected to us all. Although she was fairly new to it, she loved following us on Facebook. She rarely missed an opportunity to comment on a picture, send blessings on a simcha or just to “check-in” and say hello. She derived so much nachas from our families and our accomplishments.
Jewish lives exists today because of Rebbitzen Peggy Weiss, and Jewish families will continue because of Rebbitzen Peggy Weiss! Her presence and her impact on thousands of teens and their families will never be forgotten.
Less than two hours before Kol Nidre, Rebbetzen Peggy Weiss, Perel Leah bas HaRav Shlomo Dovid v’Yafa Bayla was buried in the land she loved, surrounded by people she loved.
May her memory always be for a blessing and may her husband and beautiful family be comforted by the extraordinary legacy and the “NER” (light) she leaves behind.
A native of Lowell, Massachusetts, Rabbi Ari Solomont was an National NCSY Officer for two years and Regional Officer for three years. Rebbitzen Weiss served as his Regional Director. A graduate of the New England Academy of Torah in Providence and Touro College, Ari served with distinction as Regional Director of New England NCSY for a decade before making aliyah in 2003. Ari and his wife are members of NCSY’s Ben Zakkai Honor Society and recipients of the Ezra Ben Zion Lightman Memorial award. He is currently the founder of the Cycle for Unity Foundation. Today he lives in Hashmonaim with his wife Sarah Beth (President of Atlantic Seaboard Region 1983-84’) and four children.
Visit this site to read more or submit your own memories: http://rebbetzinpeggyweiss.weebly.com