Elaine S. Mintzes, who with her husband raised millions for charities in Baltimore and Israel, died Oct. 25 from kidney failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The longtime resident of Upper Park Heights Avenue was 91.
“Elaine was smart, she was tough, she was compassionate and she wanted to do the right thing and do it well,” said Joel L. Simon, a longtime friend and director of principal gifts for LifeBridge Health Development. “As active members of the Jewish community, I knew Elaine and her husband Alvin’s reputation.”
The Rev. J. Joseph Hart, director of spiritual services at GBMC, was also a close friend of Mrs. Mintzes, and said she “wanted to do everything in this life to enhance humanity — that’s why she supported so many organizations.”
“She also believed in ecumenism; how important this was for the Jewish and Christian communities to connect,” he said.
The former Elaine Siegel was born in Baltimore and raised on Upper Park Heights Avenue. She was the daughter of Jacob Siegel and Minna Grollman Siegel.
After graduating from Western High School, which was then located on Gwynns Falls Parkway, she obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in American institutions from the University of Michigan.
“I was always an argumentative person. I was a controlling person and, of course, law school afforded you some of those things I thought I would be qualified to do, and do well,” she said in an interview with The Jewish Times. “Women in law school, when I entered in 1950, were a rarity. Moral turpitude was frequently used to deter admissions of women to law school. New York University, being in a major city, was a little bit more liberal. They admitted women with the hope they would flunk out.”
She was one of only seven women in a class of more than 700 students.
While sitting in the library one day a fellow law student, Alvin Seymour Mintzes, asked her for a date. She initially balked, but later gave in.
“After a date or two, I realized that this individual had more complex attributes than I could have ever imagine, and he just grew on me,” she said in the Jewish Times interview.
She married her persistent suitor in 1953, and graduated the next year from NYU.
The couple settled in Baltimore. Her husband, who was an attorney as well as a certified public accountant, established Castle Realty Co. in Northwest Baltimore. It was her husband’s guiding principle to “leave the world a better place than he found it;” that inspired and defined the couple’s philanthropic largess. They became involved with Jewish and non-Jewish institutions around the world, including philanthropies in the fields of education, health, religion and the arts.
For 18 years, they chaired fundraising efforts for the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and successfully accumulated $6.5 million. They also raised funds for cardiovascular research at GBMC and supported the Council on Italian American Affairs.
“They were always very generous in funding our programs,” said Mary C. Mangione, a member of the council’s board. She said Mrs. Mintzes “had high morals and was generous in every way. If she came to your house, she always brought something.”
She and her husband were awarded the Jerusalem Medal — an honor awarded to a non-Israeli by the government of Israel — for efforts that supported Israel Bonds and the Jewish National Fund, as well as work to benefit the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and fundraising for a new wing for a Boy’s Town in Jerusalem. They also assisted Magen David Adom, which is Israel's emergency medical and disaster relief service.
Locally, they supported schools including Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, Yeshivat Rambam, the Bais Yaakov School for Girls. They also supported a loan fund at the Central Scholarship Bureau Inc., in Owings Mills, and the chess club at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
They donated a 500-seat theater for use by students and the community at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Pikesville.
Betty Samuels Seidel of Baltimore, another longtime friend, wrote in a biographical profile of Mrs. Mintzes that her local cultural gifts included “an endowment for the Baltimore Opera Co., underwriting reduced price tickets for senior citizens with disabilities and a lecture program and scholarship fund at McDaniel College in Westminster.”
For their philanthropy, then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke declared Sept, 8, 1988, as Alvin and Elaine Mintzes Day in Baltimore.
During a stay at LifeBridge Geriatric Center and Hospital in Mount Washington, Mrs. Mintzes benefited from a dog named Lincoln, who aided her recovery. Afterward, she established the Alvin and Elaine Mintzes Fund for the Care of Levindale Animals.
Mrs. Mintzes also funded the creation of a kosher kitchen for use by Orthodox Jewish families whose loved ones were patients at the Gilchrist Center in Towson. She worked with an architect who designed an indoor-outdoor chapel with a fountain that flowed down a wall of Jerusalem stone.
She bequeathed her extensive Judaica collection to Towson University. It is now known as the Alvin S. and Elaine S. Mintzes Judaica Collection.
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She and her husband had visited 62 countries — including 10 visits to Israel — and enjoyed sailing aboard the Queen Elizabeth, QE2 and Queen Mary.
Her husband died in 2005.
“She really was a remarkable woman,” said Lisa Hayes, her personal representative. “Tough as nails, but at the same time generous and caring.”
“Relationships were the life-blood and definition of this amazing and yet complicated woman,” said Rev. Hart in his eulogy. He added that she was “complicated for her tenacity for justice, driving a hard bargain that at times wore people down and then at times revealed truth. She was truly, the burr under the saddle of complacency.”
Services were held Oct. 26 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.
Mrs. Mintsez is survived by a brother, Eugene L. Siegel of Silver Spring; a sister, Batsheva Israelevi of Israel; and a nephew.