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.
“The Adath Jeshurun community, regardless of its physical address, has always been a ‘second’ home to me,” said Melissa Cohen Silberman.
Her parents were documented charter members of the “new” Adath Jeshurun Congregation at 3400 Dupont Avenue in South Minneapolis. With her grandparents and parents, Melissa regularly attended Friday night services. She attended nursery school with “Miss Dolly” and Sunday School. Among her teachers were Cantor Morris Amsel’s wife, Sabina, and Adath Past President Joyce Orbuch.
In her teens Melissa attended Talmud Torah at the Adath building, was part of Adath Junior Congregation, and sang with the Junior Choir under the direction of Marlys Fiterman. Following her 1966 Bat Mitzvah and confirmation, she became a member of Adath USY and appeared on the Social Hall stage in USY plays. As her growth continued, Melissa became one of the first teachers in the fledgling Saturday Morning Program (SMP) under the guidance of Rabbi Arnold M. Goodman. And on she went, to Herzl Camp, Camp Ramah and the Ramah Pilgrimage to Israel, all subsidized with Adath scholarships.
The major highlight and life-cycle event of her life came when she met her beloved husband Sheldon Silberman, marrying him in 1982 at the 3400 Dupont Avenue building, where they held their wedding reception and dinner. “No fancy hotels or destination location for us — ‘3400’ was without question the right choice,” Melissa exclaimed.
The Adath Jeshurun community, regardless of its physical address,
Sheldon became an active partner in Melissa’s volunteer efforts at Adath from 1993 to 1995, when Adath was literally a congregation without walls. For almost three years, Melissa created The Clari-Flyer insert for the monthly Clarion, complete with Sheldon’s exquisite birds-eye photographs. Each Clari-Flyer described detailed features of the new building and its progress.
The “new” 10500 Hillside Lane building bears numerous marks of Melissa’s family, and its connections to the Adath community through the generations. The Adult Lounge was donated by her immediate family in memory of her Mother, Annette (Honi) G. Cohen. The Adath/Bnai Emet Legacy Wall opposite the library showcases a pair of tall, majestic Baroque silver candlesticks, a gift from Melissa’s family in honor of her maternal grandparents’ 50th anniversary in 1963. Family and friends celebrated the event with a grand reception at the 3400 Dupont Avenue building.
Sad life-cycle events also occurred at both Adath locations, including the funerals of grandparents and parents. Melissa’s singing continues as a soprano in the Adath Adult Choir. For more than 13 years, she has been a volunteer Haftarah teacher to hundreds of students, and has served as a volunteer tutor. She beams proudly, sitting in the sanctuary as she watches each of her “kids” become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
In line with her family’s traditions, values, and deep commitment to the Adath community, Melissa and Sheldon have decided to leave a legacy gift to Adath.
As Melissa concludes, “The Adath has given us so much over the years. It is our turn to take care of future needs of this cherished community. Long after we are gone, we expect the Adath to continue serving, educating and comforting every member as written in its egalitarian mission. Universally, we expect the Adath community to flourish and meet the growing needs—in both our Jewish and secular communities—in the name of Tikkun Olam. May our gift as Legacy Society donors honor and uphold the values and traditions of our family and the beloved Adath generations now and forever. We encourage every member to join us.”
To begin your legacy plan, contact Adath Foundation President Judy Gaviser, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Development Director Evan Stern at 952.215.3916, email@example.com.
Adath clergy, staff and congregants share