Former State Senator Barbara Hoffman dies at 81

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Former state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman
Former state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman (Barbara A. Hoffman)

When a nightly news report during the Yom Kippur War showed the Israeli Defense Forces shooting down an Egyptian plane, Alan Hoffman and his siblings cheered. But not his mother, former state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, who died June 20 at 81 from multiple myeloma, which she’d been diagnosed with in 2015.

“My mother got very upset,” said Alan Hoffman, a resident of Silver Spring, “and says, you know, ‘We don’t celebrate when someone dies.’”


Alan Hoffman remembers his mother as passionate, well-prepared and having a strong moral compass she strove to pass down. She was also one of the smartest persons he had ever met, he said.

Growing up in Baltimore and attending Shaarei Tfiloh Synagogue, Barbara Hoffman went on to enroll at what is now Towson University, Alan Hoffman said. Later, she worked at Morgan State University in their education program and co-authored the first volume of an English-language textbook, “Journeys in English.”

Barbara Hoffman was initially appointed to her seat in the Maryland Senate after her predecessor and mentor, state Sen. Rosalie Silber Abrams, resigned, said Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-41). Barbara Hoffman joined, and eventually chaired, the Budget and Taxation Committee, which Rosenberg described as the most powerful committee in the State Senate.

Rosenberg would often work with Hoffman on community or neighborhood issues, he said. He remembered her being intimately involved in a 1987 piece of legislation that both allowed for Sunday racing at Pimlico Race Course and required that the Preakness Stakes remain there, barring some kind of emergency or disaster.

“It is that language in the law, from 1987, that was fundamental, crucial to our ultimately keeping the race track open and the Preakness here and the major redevelopment that’s going to take place on that site,” Rosenberg said.

Alan Hoffman saw his mother’s work on reproductive rights as a highlight of her career.

“Both her and Paula Hollinger, when Roe v. Wade was threatened at the federal level, led the effort to codify that in Maryland, and that was very contentious,” said Alan Hoffman, referring to a 1991 law that would keep most abortions in Maryland legal, even if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Barbara Hoffman believed strongly that Maryland law should not be silent on a woman’s right to choose if the federal law was struck down, Alan Hoffman explained.

“As one of the most influential Maryland legislators, Sen. Hoffman’s 20-year leadership and advocacy has become legendary,” said Baltimore City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (D) in an email. “The constituents of the 42nd District and the entire state of Maryland owe Sen. Hoffman a debt of gratitude and appreciation for her selfless service.”

Alan Hoffman most wants people to remember his mother as a person of high moral standards and integrity.

“People snicker and … make bad jokes about politicians being self-serving or crooked,” Alan Hoffman said. “That wasn’t the case with people I knew, and it totally wasn’t the case of my mother.”

Barbara Hoffman had been married to her husband, Donald Hoffman, for over 60 years, Alan Hoffman said. They would have had their 61st anniversary the day after her death. Together they had three children, Alan, Michael and Carolyn. She is also survived by sister Sheila Eller; sister-in-law Ruth Hoffman; grandchildren Dorianna Hoffman, Josh Hoffman, Meital Hoffman, Asher Hoffman, Sidra Hoffman and Gili Hoffman; and nephews Brian Eller and Jonathan Eller. She was predeceased by parents Sidney and Eve Marks.

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