By O’Neill Hayes Funeral Home. This obituary originally appeared here.
B. passed away peacefully on Sunday, October 18, 2020, with loved ones by her side and in her heart. She departed life in the same manner as she lived — with grace, strength, unconditional love for her family, and an unyielding desire to improve the world around her. B. was a steadfast partner to Steve, her loving husband who preceded her in death, an adoring mother to her son Jay, a gracious mother-in-law to Polina, a devoted grandmother to Maya, who brought her unbridled joy, and a respected leader of her community.
B. was a woman of deep faith and dedication. She was the last of her family’s generation of children whose parents fled Nazi Germany. Of her father’s six siblings, only two brothers, a niece, and a nephew escaped. B.’s parents, Gertrude Hayum and Fredrich Schlessinger, arrived in America unmarried and alone. At the ages of 40 and 50, mutual friends introduced them. Though they were still frantic about the families they left behind, they were no longer alone; they had found each other and love. With G-d’s blessing, their unlikely family came to be just 18 months later.
B. grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She was a graduate of Brooklyn College, held a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, was a lifelong member of the Texas Bar, and served as a law clerk on the Texas Supreme Court.
If you knew B., you knew her rigorous approach to the written word, which dates back to her winning a grammar prize in 8th grade. She was known to return emails to Jay corrected for grammar and syntax. She specifically instructed that a reference to her grammatical perfectionism be included in her obituary. We are grateful for her guidance in this, for all of the other lessons she taught us, and for the values she worked to instill.
B. was a remarkable, no-nonsense woman. She was known for her boundless energy, intelligence, deep faith, strong ethical and moral values, and sensitivity to the plights of the less fortunate. B. loved literature—high-brow, low-brow, and everything in between. She loved politics, fashion, and musical theater. She was also the devoted servant (not “owner”) of her beloved spaniel, Oliphant. She espoused kindness and a commitment to civic engagement and social justice, always looking to her family’s motto ‘honor, achievement, and good works’ as a guide.
She was the living embodiment of her values. For a quarter century, she served in leadership roles in the Newport Jewish community. She was the first full-time Executive Director of the Touro Synagogue Foundation in the 1990s and later served on the Board of Directors for many years, most recently as Chair of the Board from 2017 to 2020. She was also a past President of Congregation Jeshuat Israel and served many terms on its Board. During that time, she set the congregation on a path to remain independent and orthodox for generations to come. Unbeknownst to most people, B. worked tirelessly every week behind the scenes on various projects for both organizations.
She leaves behind a lifetime of wisdom and her family is proud to assume and shepherd her wonderful legacy.
Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Congregation Jeshuat Israel and the Touro Synagogue Foundation, 85 Touro Street, Newport, RI 02840.
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