Ernestine Waltuch, 89, was active in community, devoted to family


Ernestine (Erna) Waltuch, described as having brought to the local Jewish community a “fierce devotion to Torah,” and who was active with the Epstein Hebrew Academy, Hadassah and Young Israel Congregation, died Thursday, Oct. 9, 2009 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The cause was congestive heart failure, according to her family. She was 89 and a longtime resident of University City.

At her passing, she was surrounded by members of her family to whom she had been devoted for many years. “Mom was aware of the upcoming holidays and recited the Shma before she passed away,” said her daughter, Adinah Raskas, who was among those at her mother’s bedside. Mrs. Waltuch had been in declining health in recent weeks.

Mrs. Waltuch’s son, Rabbi Marvin Waltuch, said his mother was born Motzaei Yom Kippur in 1920 in Vienna, Austria. She escaped the Holocaust and came to the United States with her cousin in 1938. She lived with cousins in Philadelphia where she worked in an office during the day and went to Temple University in the evening. “Her parents and brother Norbert were able to emigrate, but her sister, Sara, perished in the Holocaust along with her husband and young child,” Rabbi Waltuch said.

Rabbi Waltuch added that Mrs. Waltuch and her late husband, Max, were married in 1942. “The family at first owned a small grocery store which they later sold and began to manufacture men’s outerwear. Mom and Dad worked together with Siegmund and Helene Halpern, Dad’s sister and brother-in-law, to build a business and to be active members of the community. It was an inspiration to us all to watch the devotion that they had for each other.”

Erna and Max Waltuch were both active in the founding and fundraising for the H. F. Epstein Hebrew Academy, the oldest Jewish day school in St. Louis. Mrs. Waltuch was a past president of the Epstein PTA. The Waltuchs developed the annual dinner into a major social event, with more than 1,000 people in attendance. “She headed the seating committee with several of her good friends,” recalled Rabbi Waltuch. “They spent hours and days organizing the dinner. They did not have computers in those days.”

Mrs. Waltuch was for many years active in and a past president of the local chapter of Hadassah, with Young Israel Congregation, the Vaad Hoeir and the Jewish Community Relations Council, among many other communal activities.

“She understood that to plant seeds of Jewish life that will take root, they must be watered and nourished with the nourishment of Torah education, through her lifetime commitment to the Epstein Hebrew Academy, and the organizations of Jewish life, such as Hadassah, or her shul, the Young Israel,” said Rabbi Moshe Shulman of Young Israel in his eulogy to Mrs. Waltuch.

Ruth Raskas, a granddaughter of Mrs. Waltuch said, “When we spoke or visited with our grandmother, we knew what she really wanted to hear from us, not what was going on in our professional lives, but how we were connected to our Yahudut, our Judaism, how we were giving back to our community, and of course, how we were passing that philosophy to our children.”

Mrs. Waltuch was the daughter of the late Yitzchok and Rachel Shapiro. In addition to her daughter, Adinah (Heschel) Raskas; and son, Rabbi Marvin (Rosalie) Waltuch, she is survived by another son, Dr. Sheldon (Drora) Waltuch; a brother, Norbert (Ruth) Shapiro, 12 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held on Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 at Berger Memorial Chapel. Burial followed at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, 650 White Road. Contributions preferred to Young Israel Congregation, 8101 Delmar Boulevard, University City, Mo. 63130 or the H. F. Epstein Hebrew Academy, 1138 Warson Road, St. Louis, 63132 or St. Louis Chapter Hadassah, 745 Craig Road, Suite 102, St. Louis, 63141.