Arts and Culture | Local

Esther Becker’s annual book event for women takes on a new format

Esther Jungreis speaks during the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, Feb. 14, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tristin English via Wikimedia Commons)

For the past 16 years, hundreds of women have spent summer hours reading books selected by Esther Becker of the Women’s Academy of Jewish Studies in advance of her annual book brunch. Her selections have included novels, mysteries, biographies, essays, autobiographies, and prayer.

Although the format will be different, Becker again will hold a book event in September.

“This year, COVID-19 has presented us all with challenges we never envisioned. For the book event, this created two hurdles,” says Becker. “First, what book would capture everyone’s interest while leaving us with a message that would be stirring and inspirational in these unprecedented times? And second, how would it be possible to continue the intimacy and friendship that has been so much a part of this event when we must maintain our social distance?”

The book she chose is “The Rebbetzin: The Story of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis — Her Life, Her Vision, Her Legacy” by Rabbi Nachman Seltzer.

“Most certainly, The Rebbetzin finds a place now as we discover important figures who made a difference in our world but may not have become household names,” says Becker.

Jungreis was a child Holocaust survivor who became a pioneer in Jewish outreach through newspaper columns, television appearances, bestselling books, speeches, and the organization she founded, Hineni. Often referred to as surrogate mother to thousands, she mentored singles and families, prime ministers, presidents, prisoners, and soldiers throughout the world.

“Whether in small groups or in an electrifying presentation, as she impacted the lives of thousands in Madison Square Garden, her love and message was felt by all who connected with her,” says Becker.

As for the format, “to hold a Zoom event with 100 women was not the answer I was looking for,” says Becker. Seeking to create a more personalized experience, she decided to host live video chats limited to 6-10 participants. These will be held Sept. 8-24 in conjunction with the High Holidays. Participants will have the option of forming their own group or meeting a new group of friends, with Jewish women in Southern Arizona and beyond invited to take part. For those who cannot participate in a video call, a telephone conference option is available upon request.

Registration, which includes the book, is $30. To register and receive a book, call Becker at 591-7680.

To find out more about “The Rebbetzin,” visit