By Sheri Steinman
The year was 1978, and Lorraine Astren was President of the Midwest Branch of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and attending a National Women's League Convention in New York. Lorraine, along with branch delegates from the three synagogues of Minneapolis (Adath, Beth El and B’nai Emet) brought up a motion that the Conservative seminaries should allow women to be trained as rabbis, cantors and educators—but their motion was tabled. However, two years later at the next National Convention, the same motion was brought up, and this time it was unanimously passed. It was then sent to the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) where they subsequently passed the motion and the Conservative Movement’s seminaries became open to women.
Following her groundbreaking term as President of B’nai Emet Women’s League, Lorraine went on to serve as Vice President for the International Women’s League of Conservative Judaism and as President of B’nai Emet. Lorraine’s husband, Alex (z”l), was also a President of B’nai Emet.
Lorraine and Alex (z"l) were originally from Duluth. Lorraine came to Minneapolis in 1943. Alex returned from military service in the Far East in 1945, moved to Minneapolis, and they were married in 1946. They always believed in Jewish education and the perpetuation of Judaism. Both of their children pursued degrees in Jewish studies and have pursued Jewish education, with Fred becoming a professor and department chair of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University, and Jeanne teaching at Talmud Torah on the side.
Driven by their passion for Jewish education and Jewish community, thirty years ago the Astrens decided to create The Lorraine and Alex Astren Family Jewish Studies Scholarship Fund to give scholarship support to future rabbis and others planning to serve the community. Thanks to Lorraine, this merit-based scholarship helps both women and men to continue their Jewish educations. The scholarship is a personal acknowledgement of special efforts showing how important Jewish life is to the recipient. This year’s Astren Scholarship recipient is Stefanie Gedan.
Stefanie wants to be a rabbi in order to continue as a very active member of the community. She said, "I was involved in synagogue activities and wanted to continue helping people who didn't have the same opportunities that I have had." She chose to attend the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York because she felt the large city will give her the opportunity to explore religious and spiritual practices. She will be starting at JTS this fall. Sadly, Alex passed away in 2012, but Lorraine has carried on his legacy through the Astren Scholarship. The Astren Fund is just one of several permanent endowment funds that honor the B’nai Emet legacy of Jewish education, leadership, and commitment to Jewish life.
With an initial permanent gift to endow the fund, Lorraine and Alex (z"l) planted a seed that has now produced the fruit of annual scholarship support to future leaders for more than a generation. We thank them for their vision in establishing the fund, and for their generosity in making possible a substantial annual scholarship for deserving members of our community – of any gender.
You too can plant a seed by establishing an endowment fund with the Adath Foundation. You can also honor the special people in your life, or celebrate special occasions by investing in the Astren Fund with a gift of any amount, at any time.
Please contact Evan Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org or 952.215.3916 to plant your seed or to include Adath in your estate plans.
Adath clergy, staff, and congregants share