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Obituaries

Barbara Levin Himmelrich, past board chair of The Associated and an advocate for the Jewish community, dies

Barbara Levin Himmelrich assisted with the enlargement of the Jewish Museum of Maryland in East Baltimore. She's pictured here in 2006.

Barbara Levin Himmelrich, a community and educational leader known for speaking her mind, died of old-age complications Monday at Roland Park Place. The former Rockland resident was 91.

Active in civic causes, Mrs. Himmelrich was a past board chair of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore. She sat on the boards of the Maryland Institute College of Art, the United Way of Central Maryland, the House of Ruth and Park School, among other institutions.

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“Barbara was as authentic as they come. She was a dynamic combination of intellect, elegance, compassion, passion and resolve,” said Marc B. Terrill, The Associated’s president. “She had a magnetic quality in her, felt in every room she entered. Nothing about Barbara was halfhearted.”

Said her son Samuel K. Himmelrich Jr.: “When she served on a board, she made it her business to understand what was going on. She came prepared, she engaged and understood the landscape of Baltimore and its people.”

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Fred Lazarus, former MICA president, said: “She was unbelievably passionate about Baltimore City and its institutions. She was one of the first people we met when we came to Baltimore.

“She developed an eclectic group of friends and we could laugh so hard when together. But she was serious. She really cared about Baltimore,” Mr. Lazarus said.

Born in Boston and raised in Newton, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of Bernard “Ben” Levin, who was in the Dainty Dot hosiery business, and Sadie Louise Levin.

At the age of 11, she suffered the loss of her mother, who died in the 1942 Boston Cocoanut Grove fire. She also lost an aunt and uncle in the disaster that claimed 492 people.

“My life has been pretty much defined by that fire,” Mrs. Himmelrich said in an oral history.

Her father remarried and she bonded closely with her sister, Elaine Levin Goldberg, with whom she lived with for a while.

When she was 15, a Baltimore-based friend, Judy Kolker, from Camp Woodlands, invited her to Baltimore for a Park School dance. There she met her future husband, Samuel Katz Himmelrich. He noticed her because she was wearing purple lipstick.

They kept in touch throughout the years. She moved to Baltimore, enrolled at Goucher College and married him in 1952.

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They wed at the Copley Plaza in Boston. Rabbi Morris Lieberman, of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, officiated.

She and her husband settled in Baltimore. After her daughter had gone off to school, Mrs. Himmelrich completed her undergraduate degree in English at Goucher. She then earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Maryland.

“Barbara always believed that she was blessed by the kind help of others, and wanted to serve her community in the same way,” said a statement from The Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore, where she was board chair and chair of its 1992 annual campaign.

“She was tenacious, a go-getter and a community builder. In fact, this is a woman you can count on to get things done,” The Associated said in a recent profile of her.

“My mother’s number one passion, though, was her family, first and foremost her husband,” said her daughter, Sue Himmelrich.

Shelly Himmelrich, her daughter-in-law, said, “She was a great leader and her entire family orbited around her.”

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While on a trip with The Associated, she and her husband smuggled books into and out of Russia to Jewish refuseniks. They also worked with U.S. Jews to drum up support for refugees from Africa and Asia in Israel.

Nearly a decade ago, she and her husband agreed to raise funds and help support the founding of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a charter high school in downtown Baltimore.

The founder of the Baltimore Leadership School, Brenda Brown Rever, said: “She brought so many people to our door and got them inside it. She was her own public relations machine.”

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“There was a time in Baltimore when people from diverse communities united to work on the common good through arts and education and politics and health care,” said a friend, Stanley Heuisler. “Civil goals, spirit, generosity and a lot of energy broke down many traditional barriers. Barbara Himmelrich and her husband, Sam, were spark plugs in all that.”

She spearheaded the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations when it gathered in Baltimore in 1992.

Mrs. Himmelrich assisted with the enlargement of the Jewish Museum of Maryland in East Baltimore.

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A Baltimore Sun article quoted her saying the expanded institution was “a signal event in the life of our Jewish community, in the history of Baltimore, and in the cultural heritage of our region and state.

She also said: “For our Jewish community, this event reaffirms our commitment to ensuring the future by preserving the past. We are a people who have always defined ourselves by our history. Remembering the past, and making it a living reality in our lives, is the Jewish way of looking toward the future.”

Mrs. Himmelrich is survived by a daughter, Sue Himmelrich of Santa Monica, California; three sons, Samuel K. Himmelrich Jr. and Alfred Rice Himmelrich, both of Baltimore, and William Bernard “Billy” Himmelrich of Gulf Stream, Florida; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Her husband, Samuel Katz Himmelrich, a chemical firm owner, died in 2020. Her grandson, Charles Himmelrich, also died in 2020.

Services are private. Her family will receive guests at Stone Mill Bakery, 10751 Falls Road, Suite 123 in Timonium on Wednesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.


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