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Giving Back: Lenore Feldman Fischler

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Lenore Feldman Fischler was a past president of NCJW and, by all accounts, a leader and friend, a mentor and role model, a pragmatist and idealist, and a powerful voice for the organization she loved.

by Erica Brody

Lenore Feldman Fischler’s presidential address at NCJW’s Washington Institute 1987 captured her voice and her vision perfectly: “If I sound determined, I am. If I sound tough-minded, I am that, too. And I want you to be…. We know we must wear our power like a comfortable second skin…. Let us remember one more thing — that exercising power requires courage.”

Lenore was committed to NCJW from her first Peninsula (NY) Section meeting in 1959 to her untimely death on August 3. “I couldn’t imagine rising to such heights,” Lenore once said. But she soon found herself increasingly engaged with many aspects of the organization, culminating in a remarkable tenure as NCJW president from 1987 until 1990.

Describing that triennium, Lenore wrote of a “quiet revolution to build lives … not the stuff of 20-second news bites nor 60-point type. Rather it is a dynamic reshaping and restructuring of the policies which affect millions of everyday lives.” That quiet revolution took form in the campaigns launched under her leadership: the National Family Day Care Project, the Work/Family Project, the Raising America’s Children campaign, the NCJW Choice campaign, and the implementation in the United States of Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY).

NCJW President Phyllis Snyder related one example of Lenore’s successes: “Lenore was a true pioneer. She made a bold move, and the right call, when she led NCJW in its outspoken — and unprecedented — opposition to an egregious Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork. Even after her presidency ended, Lenore continued to weigh in on the local and national levels, sharing her expertise, her compassion, and her energy. Just this year, she and her second husband, Ed Fischler, joined us for a memorable, and now bittersweet, mission to Israel.”

Honorary NCJW board member Adrienne Taft, one of Lenore’s closest friends and a traveling companion on the mission, recalls Lenore’s “charisma” enveloping hundreds of thousands of listeners when she took to the podium at the 1989 March for Women’s Equality/Women’s Lives. Beyond America’s borders, Lenore served as both an officer of the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) and a board member of the NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education (RIFIE) at Hebrew University.

Through the years, Lenore balanced her emotional commitment to NCJW with a financial commitment, taking important strides to ensure NCJW’s future. As NCJW’s president she spoke openly about the importance of money. And as an NCJW supporter, she practiced what she preached — becoming a charter member of NCJW’s Second Century Society, setting up an endowment fund with her first husband, the Lenore and George
Feldman Memorial Fund, and naming NCJW a beneficiary of her life insurance.

Lenore Feldman Fischler’s legacy is one of strong and selfless leadership. Her belief in action — both within and beyond NCJW — will resonate for many years to come. Those whose lives she touched will find personal truth in the words of Lenore’s daughter, Sharon Danzger: “It will take the rest of my life to try and live up to the example that she has set.”

“Giving Back” is a regular column in the National Council of Jewish Women’s flagship magazine, the award-winning NCJW Journal. Each issue showcases a member or donor group whose support for NCJW exemplifies the compassionate and courageous spirit of the organization. Learn more about how you can participate in one of NCJW’s many giving opportunities.