This week marked the end of an era for Ida Crown Jewish Academy, with the death of Academy Matriarch Hilda Ross Rapoport z”l, beloved wife of our late principal, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Rapoport z”l, mother to three Academy alumni and grandmother and great grandmother to many.
Her funeral was held February 19 at the Academy, per her request and similar to her husband over 16 years ago. Although current students didn’t merit to know her, they learned of her larger than life 102 years on this Earth, while decades of Academy alumni mourn her passing. Addressing the students in the full room, daughter Ashira Ozarowski (class of ‘72) said, “It means so much for my mother to be here in a happy place full of happy teenagers. How many people get bleachers at their funeral?! She devoted a large part of her life to teenage students, and she would have loved this, so thank you. It gives us comfort.”
Those who met Hilda even once never forgot her. She was described by her children and grandchildren as vivacious, tenacious, classy, royal, flamboyant, a force of nature and more. There was no one quite like her. She was also known for her articulate speeches, her dedication to the community, her charity work, her devotion to prayer and her ability to make every person feel special. Of course, everything she did was with a twinkle in her eye.
Hilda was a noted and popular speaker – who could captivate audiences with her humor and charm. She was extremely intelligent – entering the University of Chicago as a freshman at the age of 15 and completing her BA and MA by 19. She was a leader of numerous organizations in our community, including: Mizrachi, Yeshiva Women, AMIT Women and Academy Associates. And together with her husband, she was one of the people who helped to build our school. Today, we stand upon the shoulders of her greatness.
Rabbi Matanky wrote in a letter to students, “For many of us, Mrs. Rapoport was a constant reminder of the spirit of those visionary pioneers who founded our school. For me, Mrs. Rapoport was an inspiration and a constant source of encouragement. Her love for the Academy was immense and her ability to convey the beauty of Torah legendary.”
Even at 102 (although she would never have admitted her age), Hilda was larger than life. Her son in law, Rabbi Joseph Ozarowski, quoted poet Dylan Thomas, saying, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Indeed, she remained vibrant “running from the Malach Hamavet until the end of days,” according to daughter Ashira.
Gittelle Szydlowski (class of ’64) described the scene she imagines taking place in the Heavenly court, one that wouldn’t surprise anyone who knew Hilda. Hilda will be making a “grand entrance with her signature flair,” and she’ll give a speech, while throwing in some humor. All the angels will give a “thunderous applause because the celestial beings will know that a star has arrived.”
At the end of her days, Hilda said to her loved ones, “I didn’t know that life would be so short.”
What a lesson for those who knew Hilda and learn from her legacy. She was the quintessential—albeit unique—woman of valor. She demonstrated to everyone by example what it means to live by her credence—seize the moment—because, yes, even a life of 102 years in this world is short.
We pray that that her life story and dedication to ICJA will be an inspiration to our students, and that future generations will benefit from her dreams and visions for a strong Jewish community and well-educated and committed young men and woman. May her memory be for a blessing and may her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jersualem.
Hilda Rapoport a”h is survived by her children Gitelle Szydlowski (class of ’64), Chaya Tzirel Schwartz (class of ’67) and Ashira Ozarowski (class of ’72) and grandchildren Rabbi Eli Ozarowski, Rabbi Shalom Ozarowski, Chani Newman, Raphi Ozarowski (class of ‘10), Yehudit Schwartz and Bat-Tzion Turton.
Shiva will take place at the Rapoport residence, 6338 Whipple in Chicago through Monday morning, February 25 following Shacharit. Minyan Times Shacharit – 7AM Mincha/Maariv – 5:15PM
The family requests no visitors, between 12-1PM, 6:30-7:30PM, and after 10PM.
To make a commemorative gift to ICJA, please click here or send your donation directly to Ida Crown Jewish Academy at 8233 Central Park Ave., Skokie, IL 60076. The family will be notified of your contribution.