Rabbi Simcha Krauss, women’s rights advocate, dies at 84

Rabbi Krauss, he said, was a gentle and humble person and not a fighter by nature, but “he was not afraid to be alone.”

Rabbi Weiss recalled that in the mid-1990s, when women in his congregation in Hillcrest, Queens, began holding separate prayer services with Torah readings for bat mitzvahs, the rabbinical association local Orthodox, the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, issued a resolution banning such services. Rabbi Krauss was one of only two dissenters and was the subject of vitriolic criticism from his colleagues.

“You can hurt me, you can insult me, but in the end it’s not about me,” he told reporters at the time. “We stand up for these women, and if we win, the whole community wins, and if we lose, we lose more than we can ever know.”

Descended from a line of rabbis going back more than 10 generations, Simcha Krauss was born on June 29, 1937 in Czernowitz, in present-day Ukraine, and grew up in the Romanian city of Sibiu. His father, Abraham Krauss, was the city’s chief rabbi; his mother, Pearl Ginzberg, was a traditional Rabbanite and housewife.

The family survived the Holocaust, but with the Communists taking over Romania, the family fled to the United States in 1948. Elder Rabbi Krauss was appointed head of a congregation in Upper Manhattan, near the George Washington Bridge.

Simcha studied at Yeshiva Chasam Sofer in Brooklyn and then, after high school, at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, who ordained him and where he studied with Rabbi Hutner. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the City College of New York and a master’s degree in that field from the New School in Manhattan.

His first professorships were in Utica, NY, and St. Louis, and he simultaneously taught political science at local colleges. These positions were followed by his appointment as head of the Young Israel of Hillcrest, his congregation in Queens, where he remained for 25 years. He taught classes at Yeshiva University and was active in the Religious Zionists of America, serving as its president for a time. His wife, Esther (Wiederman) Krauss became the founding principal of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, NJ, where her students could study the Talmud, whose labyrinthine legal arguments were traditionally reserved for boys and men.