Miriam Tzivia (Heller) Kranz, who for 55 years was rebbetzin of the Silver Spring Jewish Center, died on Jan. 12. She was 88 years old. A lifelong teacher, she headed classrooms in Jewish schools around the Washington area.
She was born on Oct. 14, 1933, at the Rothschild Hospital in the Old City of Jerusalem. The daughter of Yitzchak Aharon and (Shifra) Shprintze Heller, she was the seventh generation of her family born in Israel. Her ancestors arrived in Tzfat more than 300 years ago.
She studied at the Beit Tzerot Mizrachi Teacher’s Seminary in Tel Aviv. For three years she taught Hebrew to refugees at Gan Kadima in Hadera, Israel. She arrived in the United States in 1958 and married Rabbi Herzel Kranz in 1960. As soon as she arrived in Washington, D.C., she became a Hebrew school teacher.
She taught at Temple Israel in Silver Spring for 13 years and at Temple Emanuel in Kensington for 10 years. She was a first-grade Hebrew teacher for 30 years at Hebrew Day School of Montgomery County (now Jewish Academy of Fine Arts). In addition, she was a mikvah attendant at the Silver Spring Jewish Center for 35 years.
“In Rebbetzin Kranz’s classroom, I learned the aleph bet, and I credit her with enabling me to learn Torah,” said Abraham Shalom, a former student. “She taught me to love Yom Tov [Jewish festivals], and how each holiday we celebrate is unique and special, and she gave the best hugs. My family’s experience with her kindness was similar to so many members of the Kemp Mill community.”
Shalom said that one evening with friends when he was a student in a public high school, the subject of religion came up. “Eventually I mentioned the name ‘Kranz’ in passing. Two faces in the group lit up in recognition, and it was explained that they had indeed been taught by Rebbetzin Kranz. They fondly remembered Hebrew Sunday school lessons with her.”
Her husband, Rabbi Herzel Kranz, said, “Rebbetzin Kranz was the inspiration behind the founding of the Silver Spring Jewish Center in 1970. She was instrumental in founding this fourth Jewish community in Kemp Mill, which was a community of Jews, not a Jewish community. A Jewish community consists of a synagogue, school, mikvah, kosher supermarket and restaurant. This was the legacy Rebbetzin Kranz left behind along with all of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who are all Torah observant Jews.”
Rabbi Yitzy Fox, of Chofetz Chaim Kollel (at Silver Spring Jewish Center), called her “a longstanding pillar in the Silver Spring Jewish Center, which is where our kollel learns and teaches, and leader of the community. She stood by Rabbi Kranz, the founder of the shul, mikvah, Jewish day school and much more.
“I believe that one of the things that made Rebbetzin Kranz so successful and well respected was her understanding of her role of being the leader in the home and the back office,” Fox continued. “In those arenas, she was the role model leader and gave Rabbi Kranz the unwavering support and encouragement that he needed.”
“She knew how important children were,” said Sheila Gaisin, a Kemp Mill resident who taught first grade with Rebbetzin Kranz. “She was nurturing, intuitive, patient and she had a beautiful faith in God that He wants good things for the children.”
In addition to her husband, Rebbetzin Kranz is survived by her son, Arye Kranz; her daughters, Adina Greiniman, Chaya Kranz and Esther Pinter; her sister, Penina Zilber of Jerusalem; her brother, Menachem Dov Heller of Tzfat; 34 grandchildren and 73 great-grandchildren.
Gaisin said Rebbetzin Kranz was not only nurturing to her students, but to her teachers as well. “Every day she would give me a chocolate,” Gaisin said. “She said, ‘You’re so sweet. I want to keep you sweet.’”
WJW Editor David Holzel contributed to this article.