Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, The Maiden of Ludmir, also known as the “Ludmirer Moyd”, was the only female Rebbe in the history of the Hasidic movement.
She was born in the early nineteenth century in the shtetl of Ludmir, Volhynia region of modern day Ukraine to Hasidic parents. Her father, Monesh Verbermacher. was a devout Hasid of Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, known as the “Maggid of Chernobyl”, as well as a wealthy businessman. He provided an extensive education for his only daughter, which included many fields of Torah study.
She appears not to have been a remarkable child, but underwent a transformation in her late teens. Declining marriage, she started to fulfill all the commandments, including those not incumbent among women, and increased her Torah study. She gained fame as a scholar and holy woman with powers to perform miracles.
As her fame grew she assumed functions generally reserved for Hasidic Rebbes, such as receiving female audiences and accepting kvitlach (prayer request notes), and to preside over a Tish (the traditional Sabbath meal in the company of one’s Hasidim) at which she would offer Torah teachings and pass shirayim (leftovers from a Rebbe’s meal), although many accounts say that she did so from behind a screen out of modesty.
However, she remained an anomaly and had to withstand strong opposition from the fiercely traditional Hasidic community, who were made ill at ease by this unusual woman. At some point the pressure for her to refrain from her activities grew strong, and her father asked her to consult with his Rebbe, the Maggid of Chernobyl, on the matter. The Maggid convinced her to discontinue her unusual behavior, and encouraged her to marry and assume the traditional role for Hasidic women.
After the visit to the Rebbe, Hannah Rachel temporarily halted her activities as an Hasidic leader and teacher. She even married, although it is disputed how long the marriage lasted.
Later she moved to the Land of Israel and settled in Jerusalem. There she attracted a small group of followers. On Shabbat afternoons, they would come to hear her recite words of Torah, and on Rosh Chodesh she would accompany them to Rachel’s Tomb for prayer. She died on the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, and is buried on the Mount of Olives.