NCJW Study Group: Edith

For fifty years or more, Edith Hellerstein challenged our collective social conscience with ceaseless questions that probed our inner souls. She made us think how we could better the world. Last week, she passed away.

The Friday Study Group began in 1954 under the auspicious of The National Council of Jewish Women. A few years later, Edith, then a young bride, moved to our city and joined us.

Over the years, we shared our homes and work experiences. We learned that Edith had a master’s degree in social work and that Stanley, the love of her life, was a pediatrician whose work in nephrology improved the lives of countless kids. Together Edith and Stan raised three children in whom they took great pride.

We knew Edith’s opinions on politics, education and philosophy but, after fifty years, here’s what we didn’t know:

That as a young girl, she worked in a cottage cheese factory or that she joined the WAVES, (Women Accepted for Volunteer Services) a World War II organization formed by congress to “expedite the war effort by releasing officers and men for duty at sea.” We didn’t know that she served as an aerographer’s mate whose job, among others, was to warn ships at sea of hazardous weather and sea conditions.

She never told us that her immigrant father didn’t believe girls needed an education so she used her G.I. benefits to go to the University of Colorado at Boulder.

It was left to her children to tell us that she baked pies until she learned to do it perfectly and then never baked another one and that she had a passion for art.

Over the years, members of our study group produced more than 70 children. Now, we delight in passing around pictures of our grand children and great grandchildren. Most of us went to college, a few like Edith earning Master’s degrees. We even boast a PhD’s or two. We’ve worked in the world of business and banking, education and health. We are artists and writers and have volunteered countless hours to worthy causes.

We’ve read and discussed hundreds of books and thousands of articles. If left to our group, we would have long since solved the problems of the world.

We continue to meet for lunch twice a month at each other’s homes. We are such excellent cooks that we once published a cookbook and shared our most favorite and secret recipes.

In 1990, we answered the question “If you could make a change in the world what would it be?” Our response today remains unanimously the same. “We want solutions to the problems of drugs and AIDS, and the pollution of the environment and homelessness. We want peace and freedom, a more caring world, and the opportunity for every child to be born free of hunger and fear, to be healthy, {well educated}  and hopefully happy.”

To which Edith would heartily agree.

At her funeral Edith’s daughter Alice greeted us warmly and, with tears in her eyes, told us, “You were my mother’s people.” We understood what she meant for we are and will continue to be there for each other until, like good soldiers, the last of us fades away.

One Response to NCJW Study Group: Edith

  • What a lovely tribute, Betty. Your group really has something special – such history, such love among you…..I was really touched reading this. thanks for sharing it. love, Linda

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