Talking about Barbara Levin Himmelrich and looking at her numerous accomplishments, it becomes immediately apparent that she was tenacious, a go-getter and a steadfast community-builder. In fact, this is a woman you could count on to get things done.
For more than seven decades, she was at the forefront of making change, a champion of both the Jewish community as well as an advocate for numerous social action, women’s and arts causes.
She passed away on Oct. 31, 2022 at the age of 91.
She was born on March 9, 1931 and grew up in Newton, Mass., with her sister, Elaine Levin Goldberg. The girls lost their mother in the Cocoanut Grove Night Club fire in November 1942. It was a defining moment in Himmelrich’s life, she once told her granddaughter in an interview she gave to her on NPR’s “StoryCorps” program.
When she was 15, she traveled to Baltimore. It was there, at a Park School dance, that she would ultimately meet her future husband, Samuel Himmelrich. Despite the long distance, the two remained in touch. When she moved to Baltimore to pursue a degree at Goucher College, they began dating in-person on a regular basis and soon became engaged.
Like many of her generation, she would leave college early to get married. The couple had four children: Sue Himmelrich (Michael Soloff), Samuel K. Himmelrich Jr. (Pamela Miller Himmelrich), Alfred Rice Himmelrich II (Dana Heath Himmelrich) and William Bernard Himmelrich (Shelly Pechter Himmelrich).
Years later, Himmelrich returned to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in English. She went on to receive a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, a degree she believed would help her be a better volunteer.
And volunteer she did. In keeping with her values of tikkun olam, she sat on the boards of organizations that ranged from the United Way of Central Maryland and the Maryland Institute College of Art to the House of Ruth, Sinai Hospital and the Park School.
And, of course, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, where she held multiple positions. Over the years, Himmelrich served as The Associated from Campaign Chair to president of The Associated’s Women’s Division. She spearheaded the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations when it came to Baltimore in 1992, and she credits Carole Sibel, of blessed memory, for her hard work in making the event a success.
In 1997, she rose to become The Associated’s chair of the board. It became the first time the agency would be led by a spouse of a former chairman.
‘Judaism, Jewish survival and Jewish continuity’
According to Himmelrich, three issues dominated the 1997 Annual Campaign that as board chair she was determined to address. First was a recession, and with the help of dedicated volunteers and professionals, The Associated successfully raised more than $22.5 million to address the burgeoning needs.
Second, was immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union and the commitment to their successful resettlement.
And finally, she was passionate about ensuring Jewish survival and identity.
She once said in an article to the Baltimore Jewish Times, “I hope that I can mobilize the community to move in ways that enhance Judaism, Jewish survival and Jewish continuity.”
Even at 91, Himmelrich remained engaged. She was a firm believer that The Associated be involved in efforts to help the entire community, particularly downtown Baltimore. And the well-being of The Associated remained close to her heart, as she stayed in contact with Marc B. Terrill and Darrell D. Friedman, former president of The Associated, talking to them on a regular basis about the Jewish community’s future.
Himmelrich was predeceased by her husband in 2020.
The couple’s family has kept up her spirit of giving. Referred to affectionately by her grandchildren as “Barbie” (because “she was too young to be called grandmother”), she doted upon them: Anna Himmelrich (Matt Kozlov), Jacob Himmelrich (Sarah Munson Himmelrich), Carrie Salem (Emeel Salem), Ella Himmelrich, Hilary Soloff, Molly Soloff, Hannah Himmelrich, Samuel Heath Himmelrich, Max Himmelrich, and Charles Himmelrich (who predeceased her in 2020), and great-grandchildren Julia Kozlov, Henry Kozlov, Edith Himmelrich, Ansel Himmelrich and Jack Salem.
JT staff contributed to this story, which was submitted by The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.