Shoshana Cardin: A Personal Reflection

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The late Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson with Shoshana Cardin. (Photo courtesy Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan)

The Baltimore Jewish community lost a “grande dame” last week with the passing of Mrs. Shoshana Cardin.

I met Shoshana within the first few months after my wife and I arrived in Baltimore as Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (OBM) some 44 years ago. She immediately took an interest in our work and what we were trying to accomplish. Shoshana and her husband, Jerry, were prominent community figures and their support and encouragement was critical in helping us get through the difficulties of starting out in a strange city. Many of our first steps to develop Chabad in the region took place at the Cardin home in Stevenson.

It was only some years later that Shoshana’s father, Mr. Shubin, shared with me that his grandfather, a poor melamed, had been an ardent chassid of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Shmuel Schneerson) and often traveled by foot to the village of Lubavitch to be with the Rebbe for the holidays. This piece of family history turned out to be a total surprise to Shoshana.

Shoshana’s career in Baltimore as a “professional volunteer” progressed from being the president of the JCC to the Chair of the Associated Annual Campaign to president of the Associated and then continued on beyond Baltimore to the very pinnacle of organized Jewish life in the U.S. Throughout all this time we stayed in touch and maintained our unique friendship. We discussed (and debated) many of the contemporary issues roiling the Jewish world at any given time, and as can be expected, differed on some issues but always with mutual respect and appreciation.

Jerry and I once traveled to New York to participate in a farbrengen of the Rebbe and on another occasion I arranged for Shoshana to meet with the Rebbe where I had the honor to make the formal introduction. I still recall the question she posed to the Rebbe and the Rebbe’s answer, which after some time, we both agreed had been quite prescient.

Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel were her constant obsession. Shoshana was gracious and considerate to a fault. I still have many of her personally handwritten thank you notes which she never failed to send for any kindness shown to her. Yet at the same time she had a spine of steel, was intimidated by no one, and always stood up for what she believed to be true regardless of the situation or circumstances. She famously called out former president George Bush for an inappropriate public comment, which he then duly apologized for.

Another early episode occurred in 1975 with Sen. Scoop Jackson during his run for the presidential nomination. He came to Baltimore for a fundraiser and was hosted by the Cardins for supper. After the meal Shoshana asked if there was anything else he would like and his response was, “Yes, I would like a glass of milk.” Shoshana then said, “Senator, that is the one thing you cannot have since we keep a kosher home and we just finished a meat meal.” For the duration of the evening, the senator kept kidding them that as someone who was running for presidency of the U.S., he should at least be able to have a glass of milk. The next day Jerry called a dairy in Washington and ordered that a pint of milk be delivered to the senator’s office every day for a month.

In more recent years, Shoshana traveled to New York with my wife to be a guest speaker at the annual convention of Chabad Shluchos, a role she considered to be a fitting capstone of her career.

Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan is Maryland Regional Director of Chabad Lubavitch

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