Remembering Irene Rodman: An Accomplished Leader in The Jewish Community
Looking back at a life well-lived of a JWI member for over 67 years who greatly contributed to the Jewish community.
By Sue Tomchin
“Teach us to number our days that we may obtain a heart of wisdom.” This quote from Psalm 90 comes to mind when one thinks of the life of JWI member Irene Rodman of Southfield, Mich., who died last November at age 104. She was a member of JWI for more than 67 years.
Blessed with an extraordinarily long life, this consummate leader in the Detroit Jewish community also used the years she had to the utmost. Rodman became president of almost every organization she joined and volunteered for and was a consultant to innumerable groups. A natural speechmaker, she always knew her audience and could galvanize them without ever using notes.
“My mom spoke from the heart—and led from the heart and mind with sechel (common sense),” said her daughter Dr. Joan Rodman Smoller. “She had an unwavering love for her family, her friends, her organizations and, indeed, as she often said, ‘for all people.’”
As a child in Russia, Rodman was a victim of a pogrom where almost her entire village was burned to the ground. She and her youngest sister, Gerty, survived by hiding in the attic of the one remaining house. Later, they were reunited with their mother and other siblings who had fled to another village.
Rodman served as JWI Midwest regional chair and many terms as president of her chapter, Marshall-Israel-Brandeis. She also worked diligently to raise funds for the JWI Children’s Home. She was deeply involved in the work of the Anti-Defamation League and served as president of the Primrose Benevolent Society, a small group of immigrant women who helped individual families in need. She was also a life member of Hadassah and Adat Shalom Synagogue.
Rodman tutored, drove cancer patients to treatment, took care of her own parents, siblings and husband, and was always there for children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Blessed with good health most of her life, at age 103, she remarkably came back from a fall and a minor stroke after doctors told her family she would not recover.
“What was the secret of her longevity?” her daughter asks. “Incredible strength, determination, natural intelligence, good genes, a great heart and love for all people—and despite her own share of tragedy, the loss of a daughter—always a positive attitude.”
Jewish Woman thanks Dr. Joan Rodman Smoller for her contributions to this article.