By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN /Â Community News Editor
Cecelia Rose Waldman, known affectionately as Cece, was a pillar of the St. Paul Jewish community. She was a founder of Herzl Camp and executive secretary at Temple of Aaron for more than 40 years.
Waldman died Sept. 4. She was 91.
When Waldma, a passionate Zionist, met her future husband Irv, he suggested that she help him lead a Young Judea youth group. They married in May 1940 and part of their honeymoon included leading a group of Jewish teenagers to the organization’s regional convention in St. Louis.
Her staunch Zionism fueled her passion for Herzl Camp, which she and Irv founded, along with several other couples, in 1946 — two years before Israel was created and when Waldman was only 27.
The camp’s first summer session was held in White Bear Lake, but when the site was sold to developers the following year, Waldman and her husband, together with Harry and Rose Rosenthal, spent winter weekends in Wisconsin searching for a new location. The group finally settled on Devil’s Lake in Webster, Wisc., where the camp has been situated ever since.
For the first seven years of Herzl’s existence, Waldman ran the day-to-day operations of the camp from her dining room in their home on Grand Avenue.
“She worked to create an institution that, God willing, is going to be here 64 years from now,” Herzl Camp Director Anne Hope told the AJW. “I think it’s amazing that from the vision of the Rosenthals to the hard work of Cece Waldman, we are a thriving, vibrant organization with as much passion today as they had when they founded it.”
Continuing Waldman’s Herzl legacy, this year her oldest great-grandson, Max Roether, went to Herzl Camp for the first time. Waldman’s granddaughter, Sue Roether, was installed as president of Herzl’s board of directors on Sept. 12.
At the age of 34, Waldman opened a Jewish gift store — also from her dining room — that supplied area synagogues and families with Hanuka decorations, Passover items, mezuzas and other imported Israeli goods.
In 1961, Waldman went to work as executive secretary at Temple of Aaron. For 27 years, Waldman assisted the late Rabbi Bernard Raskas. When he celebrated his 70th birthday, Raskas wrote a letter to Waldman in which he celebrated their friendship and partnership.
“I don’t think I would have achieved so much personally and professionally without you being at my side,” Raskas wrote. “Whatever praise I receive (in credit), I share with you.”
After Raskas retired in 1989, Waldman worked as the assistant to Cantor Mitchell Kowitz. She retired from that post 10 years later.
Temple of Aaron Executive Director Ken Agranoff first met Waldman when he began working at the synagogue in 1984. He acknowledged her meticulous organizational skills.
“She started working here in the era when there was no technology,” Agranoff said. “Whereas people would have all kinds of data on the computer, she would have rolodexes. Her rolodex could provide the information more thoroughly and just as quickly as any of us in the office trying to access the computer.”
Agranoff said Waldman had “a wonderful knowledge” of Jewish traditions and rituals, but also knew the “fabric of the community” and was a “tremendous resource” for the clergy.
“She knew where people’s interests were and she could take clergy direction and enhance it,” Agranoff said. “Many people can’t do that. They can follow it, but they can’t add value to it.”
Both Agranoff and Rabbi Alan Shavit-Lonstein, in his eulogy, referred to Waldman as a woman “ahead of her time.” Among other things, she officially changed her name in her 50s to include Rose, her maiden name.
In his eulogy, Waldman’s son Jerry reflected that his mother “died as she lived — with grace and dignity.”
“She never lectured us on anything,” Waldman said, “just modeled through her words and actions what to do.”
Waldman is survived by daughter, Barbara (Stephen) Liebo; son, Jerry Waldman (Judith Belzer); grandchildren, Susan (Geoff) Roether, Michael (Erin) Waldman, Naomi (William) Haun, Aaron Liebo, Patsy (Russell) Payne and Dodie Waldman; six great-grandchildren; and nieces, nephews and many friends.
(American Jewish World, 9.17.10)