The deep sadness which overcomes us with Shiva Asar B’Tammuz and the beginning of the “Three Weeks” was deepened further this past Tuesday by learning of the passing of my dear friend, Lorraine Hoffmann a”h.
Lorraine was very active in the Orthodox Union lay leadership and recently was named a National Vice President. She dedicated herself to a number of important causes in her home community, Milwaukee. She was active in her favorite synagogue, Lake Park Synagogue, and served as its president. I visited that shul several times as a scholar-in-residence and was impressed by the care she gave to every aspect of its function. She was a strong supporter of the Wisconsin Institute of Torah Study, a yeshiva situated just several blocks from her home.
I first met Lorraine during a visit to Milwaukee. Lorraine owned a large business which she inherited from her father. It started as a factory producing shoe polish, but she expanded it to the production of various products designed to protect all sorts of leather goods. I met with Lorraine often; several times in New York when she came into town for OU events, and once or twice in Chicago.
Her special interests in the OU were NCSY and OU-JLIC. She was particularly supportive of the small community conferences and was happy when some of the conferences resulted in young couples moving to Milwaukee and joining her shul.
Lorraine was the daughter of German Jewish immigrants and was proud of her heritage. My wife and I were privileged to be guests in her home, where she proudly guided us through a wide variety of family heirlooms, all brought to the United States from Germany.
Lorraine came to Orthodox observance relatively late in life, and her personal religious odyssey is an interesting and inspiring story. She appreciated the friendliness shown to her by the Orthodox community, especially by the members of her shul, its various rabbis over the years, and the faculty and student body of the yeshiva. The campus of Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study, a truly lovely campus, was a place in which she felt at home and welcome.
Lorraine collapsed while walking in the street last week and apparently never regained consciousness before her passing on 17th of Tammuz. Her death was a shock to all who knew her and all who respected her greatly.
She will be especially missed by her shul, by WITS, and by the OU lay leadership. In her capacity as National Vice President, she brought a fresh perspective to the senior lay leadership of the OU. Hers was a woman’s voice, a voice from a region of the country which is generally not well represented, and the perspective of someone who knew the special challenges of Jewish communities far from New York City. Her perspectives on Orthodoxy were insightful and wise.