In Yerushalayim everyone knew her to be “Bubby Quinn”. She merited to establish an amazing family, with hundreds of her descendants scattered throughout the world. The story about the establishment of her family and her immigration to America over one hundred years ago, is wedged in the story of a bracha (blessing) – an amazing bracha, that this woman received from the Rebbe Rashab, zt’l (the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Schneerson 1860-1920).
He blessed her also with arichut yamim (long life) and good years. From generation to generation the story has been told over – the story of the bracha which she received from the Rebbe Rashab zt’l.
Bubby Quinn was a special woman, strong, modest, and generous. All her life
she was involved in charity and kindness. She established a large family in
America and later on in other places in the world. Despite the fact that
America in those days was a difficult place to raise children in the path of
Torah and mitzvot, she merited to do exactly that. She was able to bring up
her children in a framework of Torah and awe of Heaven.
Devorah Miriam Quinn was born in the year 5628 (1868), in the city of Dvinsk,
Latvia. In this city two great rabbis lived, the Rogatchover Gaon (1858-1936)
and also Reb Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk (1843-1926). Her family came
from an old Chabad family. At a young age, Devora Miriam was orphaned
from her father and left only with a mother who had a number of little kids to
care for. Her uncle, her mother’s brother invited them to come live with his
family and he would take care of all their needs. Young Devorah Miriam was
the oldest of the children. When she became of age, she dreamt about getting
married to a Talmid Chacham (a Torah scholar). But Divine Providence had a
different plan in mind.
Her uncle, who had observed her noble character while the family was living with them, was approached by a business partner of his, who wished to take Devorah Miriam as a bride for his fine, G-d fearing son. It sounded like a perfect match. The groom’s family was ready to give the young couple a generous dowry and pay for all wedding expenses. Her uncle and the family benefactor approached her mother with an offer of a match for her daughter.
Devorah Miriam’s mother was in a quandary.
One the one hand her daughter had dreamed of marrying a Torah scholar; on the other hand, it was difficult to refuse the offer of the person who sustained them for years. At the end, the mother agreed realizing that it would not be so easy to find a good shidduch for her daughter since she did not have any money herself.
Reluctantly, Devorah Miriam agreed to be married to Zalman Pinchus Quinn.
The beginning was not very easy. In the family they say, that the shidduch
was very emotional. On the night before the wedding, Devorah Miriam cried
and cried about the fact that she had not merited to get a groom who was a
Torah scholar. After the wedding, the young couple decided to live in the city
of Dvinsk, where the great scholar and rav, the Rogatchover Gaon lived.
As it turned out, their house was next door to the home of the Rogatchover Gaon.
Many times, when they had a halachik query (question in Jewish law), they
would go over to the house of the Rogatchover Gaon and ask him their
question, which he graciously would answer. A warm relationship developed
between the Rogatchover Gaon and the couple.
Ten years after the wedding, the couple was still not blessed with any
children. Unfortunately, Devorah Miriam went through five miscarriages, and
the doctors did not know how to solve her problem. Her friends told her that
maybe it’s time to get a divorce and seek a new husband and try to establish
a new home. She decided to approach the Rogatchover Gaon and seek his
advice. After giving it some thought, the Rogatchover Gaon said to her that
such a question is not for a Rav to answer.
True that according to halacha, it would be acceptable to do so, however, he continued: “This is a question for a Rebbe!” He suggested that she travel to the city of Lubavitch and ask the advice of the Rebbe Rashab,zt’l (1860-1920). With a heavy heart and great concern, Devorah Miriam decided to go to the Rebbe.
She entered the room of the Rebbe Rashab and saw that the Rebbe was
sitting and looking deeply into a sefer (a holy Jewish book). Before she even
opened her mouth to tell him what was on her heart, the Rebbe said to her:
“What people say that you should seek a divorce and start a new life is not
right. ‘Meshane makom meshane mazal’ (Change your place and your luck
will change for the good). Travel to America and there you will have children.”
As she was leaving the room, he added one more blessing: “Tizki l’arichut
yamim,” (you should merit to have a long life). And thus, ended the Yechidut
(private audience) with the Rebbe Rashab.
The words of the Rebbe fell on the couple like a thunderbolt. America in those
days was considered a real golut (exile). Compared to Europe and the
flourishing Yiddishkeit (Judaism) which was going on there, in America there
was little in the way of Jewish education for children. But they understood that
they were following the advice of the Rebbe who gave them a bracha and,
therefore, they should carry it out despite the difficulties involved in this move.
The year was now 5664 (1904).
The news spread throughout the city of Dvinsk that the couple was emigrating to America – to far off America.
The Rogatchover himself gave a bracha to the young couple when they came to
say goodbye and all waited to see how things would turn out.
In those days, traveling to America was not a simple thing. For the Quinn
couple the big dilemma was how would they raise a family in the tradition of
In addition, they wondered how they would manage financially. But
they did not hesitate as they were following the advice of the holy tzadik.
In 1905, the young couple arrived in America where they moved to the
neighborhood of Williamsburg (in Brooklyn, New York).
The bracha of the Rebbe Rashab was realized. Within a short time, in the next few years, the couple had three daughters and two sons. The connection between family
Quinn and Lubavitch continued in America as well. They davened (prayed) in
the Lubavitch synagogue called Tzemach Tzedek** in Williamsburg. In the
family itself, despite the fact that many did not remain Chabad, many kept
some of the customs of Chabad. Many davened in the Chabad siddur, Tehillat
Hashem, and kept the minhag (custom) of Chabad in how they tied the knot of
the Tefillin, and other various customs.
With mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice), Mrs. Quinn watched over her children
making sure they kept Yiddishkeit (Judaism) al taharat hakodesh (in purity
and holiness), in the ‘kalte medina’ (cold country), as America was then
called. She also opened up a yeshiva, or a little Talmud Torah for her children.
As a continuation of this yeshiva, in 1926, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz
(1886-1948) founded the first class of Yeshiva Torah Vodaat Mesivta. In this
class studied Nesanel Quinn, the son of Zalman Pinchas and Devorah Miriam.
Later, Rabbi Nesanel Quinn also learned under Rabbi Dovid Leibowitz, the
Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaat.
When Rabbi Leibowitz (1889-1941) started his own yeshiva, Rabbi Nesanel Quinn was given charge of the entire institution of Torah Vodaat along with Rabbi Gedalia Schorr (1910-1979). The family share about the struggles which Devorah Miriam had in order to keep Judaism alive for her family. She merited that all her children kept the Torah and mitzvot.
In 5687 (1937), her husband passed away from a severe lung infection. Devorah Miriam continued to bring up her children with self- sacrifice. After her husband’s passing, she moved from Williamsburg to Spring Valley, New York. She was known for her righteousness and amazing work for others.
Every day she would open up the synagogue and recite Tehillim
(Psalms) all hours of the day and she would be involved with tzedakah
(charity) in a way which was amazing. Towards her old age when she was
getting close to eighty, she decided it was time to make aliyah (go up) to Eretz
Yisrael. She did not want to be a burden on her children.
Independently, she got all her documents together, packed her bags and one bright morning she was off to the Holy Land.
She moved to a place called Batei Warsaw in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).
Here, too, in the holy city of Jerusalem, among the many righteous women,
she stood out in her many acts of kindness. She would give out tzedakah and
many Jewish people would contribute to her tzedakah. One of her
grandchildren, Reb Zalman Deutch shared that in Jerusalem she opened up a
shul (synagogue) in which she would daven (pray) every single day. On
Shabbos, she would daven in the neighborhood of Batei Warsaw where she
lived, in the minyan of the Chassidim, always taking care to daven in the
siddur of the Arizal. In the 1960’s, Mrs. Quinn broke her pelvis and from then
on she could not daven in that shul so she davened in the shul of the
Perushim which was closer to her house.
It is told that the first refrigerator which her son, Rabbi Nesanel Quinn (1910-
2005) bought her when he came to visit her in Jerusalem in the 50’s – in those
days a refrigerator was considered a luxury commodity in Israel – disappeared
when he returned the following year. He was amazed to see that the
refrigerator was not there. He asked his mother, “Where is it?!” She explained
to her son that she had given it away for hachnosat kallah (to help a poor
bride and groom). Her son decided he would buy her another refrigerator on
the condition that it stays in the house.
The second bracha which was given to Devorah Miriam by the Rebbe Rashab
was also fulfilled. Bubby Quinn passed away in Jerusalem at the age of 112
on motzoei yom rishon (the night following the first days) of Sukkot. Until her
last day, she was as clear as anything and careful to daven three tefillot
(prayers) in the synagogue. She recognized all her children and grandchildren
and great grandchildren who came to visit her. Her children too have the
blessing of long life!
Torah comes back to its source. Savta Quinn merited that one of her
descendants, Rabbi Doniel (Danny) Cohen* became close to Chassidut
Chabad and now serves as a Shliach (emissary) of the Rebbe in Chevron.
Rabbi Cohen is her great grandson, son of Rabbi Chaim Zev Quinn.
“This closes the circle,” says Rabbi Danny Cohen. “I am proud to be a Shliach
of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Chevron, the very place where the Rebbe
Rashab, who had given the bracha to Savta Quinn, had invested so much
kochot (courage and strength) to establish the Jewish community in Chevron
in those early days.
As heard on a recording and verified with Rabbi Danny Cohen, Shliach to
Chevron, Israel, and Quinn family members.
*Danny was a soldier in the IDF. During one Chanukah, his unit was stationed
far away from any Jewish community. As the soldiers pondered their
unfortunate situation, remembering the joy and light of Chanukah with family
and friends back home, they became more and more despondent. Suddenly,
in the dark of night, the sound of a jeep was heard. The soldiers did not have
long to wait. The jeep came roaring into their base and out jumped a group of
Chabadniks laden with all sorts of Chanukah treats. The joy of the soldiers
was indescribable. After lighting the menorah, they sat down to enjoy
sufganiyot (doughnuts) and accessories. Soon the Chabadnik young men
jumped up and began to sing and dance.
All the soldiers joined them and together they celebrated the most unforgettable Chanukah of their lives. As the Chabad ‘Tzivot Hashem’ (the army of Hashem) were leaving, Danny made himself a promise. “When I get out of this army,” he said to himself, “I will join that army!”
Thank G-d, today he and his wife Batsheva, are the Chabad Shluchim (emissaries) in Hebron, Israel. Rabbi Danny and Batsheva make sure that every soldier, boy and girl, stationed in Hebron are family, showered with the true love of a fellow Jew.
**Tzemach Tzedek Shul in Williamsburg was located at 125 Moore St in
Bushwick (Old Williamsburg). On the 28 th of Cheshvan,1929, the Frierdiker
Rebbe, Rabbi Y.Y. Schneerson, who had come to America for the first time
(later to return in 1940 permanently), came to this shul where he said a
maamer (Chassidic discourse) to strengthen Jewish resolve and observance
in America. The maamer is titled, Ani Chomah (Shir Hashirim) (printed in
Sefer Hamaamorim Kuntreisim Chelek 1). Thousands of Jews from all around
came to see and hear the Rebbe. Among them was Rabbi Mendelowitz and
the students of Torah Vodaat. At that time Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lokshin
was the Lubavitch Rav of the synagogue. That evening and during the next few nights, many were able to have Yechidut (private audience) with the
Frierdiker Rebbe. By Rabbi Chaim Dalfin