By COLlive reporter
Mrs. Rivka Korf, a pioneering Chabad Shlucha for 58 years who helped plant the seeds of the state-wide empire of Chabad centers, synagogues, schools and social institutions in Florida, passed away on Wednesday, 28 Tishrei 5778.
She was 75.
Born Rivka Eichenbaum, her family was part of the Breslev branch of Chassidim. She studied in the Beis Yaakov girls school system and would write for the Yiddish newspaper Algemeiner Journal.
Boarding with a Chabad family in Crown Heights, her hostess was also a shadchanis. Rivka was soon introduced to Abraham Korf, a Lubavitcher bochur who studied in the underground yeshiva in the hunger-stricken Communist Russia before arriving in America in 1953.
The couple got married outside 770 Eastern Parkway on a Tuesday, 13 Shvat 5720 (February 11th, 1960). The mesader kiddushin at the chuppah was the Rebbe himself, a distinct honor that wasn’t available in later years.
A year after their marriage, Rabbi Abraham and Rivka Korf uprooted themselves from the tight-knit Chassidic community in Crown Heights and headed to Miami Beach on behalf of the Rebbe.
What they encountered was a South Florida community on the verge of a vast transformation with an influx of retirees from out of state and a swell of Jewish immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, Chabad.org writes.
By 1960, the state had about 175,000 Jewish residents. Miami had a total of 3 synagogues and only 2 mikvahs in all of Florida. Miami had modern Jewish day schools, they didn’t suit the needs of frum Jewish families.
Unfazed by his sparse and halting command of the English language, the couple viewed every obstacle as an opportunity and forged ahead. Even though money was extremely tight and their welcome wasn’t always certain, they established the Landow Yeshiva in 1966.
“It started off with 6 children,” Rabbi Korf recalled, “then, 32 children the next year, then 67, and then hundreds. As people started hearing about it, it grew.” Along with the school, the Korfs built a synagogue and a Gan Yisroel Jewish overnight camp. They each led Torah classes.
With kosher products hard to come by in those days, cholov yisroel dairy products were almost unheard of. Undaunted, Rabbi Korf headed out to the farms and milked the cows himself. Fifty years later, the Korfs marvel at the thousands and thousands of kosher products available in Florida supermarkets.
Rivka Korf earned fame among area women for her Shabbos afternoon classes on the weekly Torah portion and the Mishnaic tractate known as Pirkei Avot. She also taught public school students about Judaism as part of the release time program at Miami-Dade Public High School.
Leah Weintraub, a Friend of Lubavitch of Florida, described Mrs. Korf as having “a bubbly personality, intelligence, and refined speaking skills that hinted at her sensitivity for others.”
VIDEO: Rabbi Avraham & Rivka Korf on the 50th anniversary of their Shlichus
Mirroring the growth of other programs, today, under the umbrella of the Lubavitch Educational Center, what began as the Landow Yeshiva incorporates a preschool, an elementary school, the Beis Chana High School for Girls, and a rabbinical college. The complex serves approximately 800 students.
Today, Florida boasts the third-largest Jewish community in the United States with about 750,000 Jews. Some 180 Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries are spread throughout the state in some 145 locations.
She is survived by her husband Rabbi Avraham Korf, children Rabbi Yossi Korf – Hollywood, FL; Mrs. Rashi Raices – Postville, Iowa; Mrs. Shevi Sossonko – Miami Beach, FL; Rabbi Benjy Korf – Miami Beach, FL; Mrs. Leah Jacobson – Crown Heights; R’ Mendy Korf – Miami Beach, FL; R’ Motty Korf – Miami Beach, FL; Rabbi Zalman Korf – Walnut Creek, FL; Ms. Sari Korf – Miami Beach, FL; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The levaya will take place tomorrow, Thursday, leaving shomrei hadas in Boro Park at 2:00 pm, passing by 770 at 3:00 pm.
The family will be sitting shiva at 1219 President street on Thursday after the Levaya. There will be early shacharis Friday morning as the family will be returning to Florida after Shacharis.
Baruch Dayan Haemes.