Jane K. Schapiro, a Baltimore philanthropist who supported both the arts and education and was a benefactor of cultural and educational organizations in Israel, died Saturday of congestive heart failure at her condominium in the Colonnade in the city’s Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood.
She was 96.
“There are not enough adjectives to describe Jane,” said Marty Waxman, a longtime friend and former vice president of finance resource development for The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore. “She was gracious, hospitable, sociable and a political liberal. Those are the best things I can say about her. She was the last of her generation, and the first of her generation to go through and break the glass ceiling and become a leader."
The former Jane Krieger, the daughter of industrialist Abraham Krieger, who co-owned the old Gunther Brewing Co. from 1931 until its sale in 1959, and his wife, Ruth Krieger, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park and at “The Wedge,” a family farm in Towson.
She was also the niece of Zanvyl Krieger, her father’s brother, the Baltimore philanthropist who played a major role in bringing the Orioles to Baltimore in 1954, and in addition to being a major investor in the team, also had a financial interest in the Baltimore Colts and the Baltimore Clippers, a minor league hockey team.
After graduating in 1940 from Forest Park High School, Mrs. Shapiro began her college studies at Goucher College and remained there until eloping with LeRoy S. “Lee” Cohen, a lieutenant commander in the Navy who was studying at the Naval Academy.
“He wanted a date to the academy tea dance. She lost when she drew the short matchstick,” wrote Jack Fruchtman, a son-in-law, in a biographical profile of Mrs. Shapiro.
“The couple fell in love and eloped when she was just 19 years old. Her father opposed the marriage given her young age and student status,” he wrote. “On hearing of their elopement, her mother met them at the airport and handed her daughter a cookbook, ‘How to Make Your Husband Happy.’ ”
After World War II ended, her husband returned to Baltimore, and within a few years reconciled with his father-in-law and went to work at Gunther’s, rising to become its president in 1954.
After studying journalism at New York University during the war, Mrs. Shapiro earned a bachelor’s degree in literature in 1952 from Goucher.
Her husband died at the age of 48 while on a trip to Israel in 1966 with his family.
Four years later, she married Marvin S. Schapiro, who founded Continental Realty, whose holdings included the Hippodrome Theatre, Town Theater, Reisterstown Road Plaza, Chartley Shopping Center, Park Plaza in Severna Park and more than 5,000 apartments.
An avid volunteer, Mrs. Schapiro and a friend established the first Child Study Group, which “eventually became a national organization dedicated to teaching young women about childbearing,” said Mr. Fruchtman, a Mount Washington resident.
She was one of the founders of what became the children’s zoo at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. She had served on the Goucher board, was head of the sisterhood at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, and was the first woman to serve on the synagogue’s board.
Mrs. Schapiro had been active for years with the work of The Associated, an organization that her father helped establish in 1920. She was the first woman to serve on its board’s executive committee. She was also the first president of the Associated’s Women’s Division, which no longer exists as a separate entity.
Along with others, she began G-Day (Giving Day), a telethon that was broadcast from the Pikesville Armory where volunteers raised money for Jewish organizations in Baltimore, including Sinai Hospital.
“In 1962, she was the first woman to have lunch in the men’s dining room at the Center Club, which until then, had set aside a separate area for co-ed dining,” Mr. Fruchtman wrote in his profile.
Mrs. Schapiro and her second husband shared a mutual interest in the cultural and educational institutions in Israel, and to that end, established a school for Arab and Jewish children in Kiryat Gat in southern Israel about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv.
Mr. Schapiro also donated money toward the redevelopment of the Kiryat Gat neighborhood, and for nine years, Mrs. Schapiro was actively involved in the creation and operation of Baltimore’s participation through The Associated in Project Renewal, whose mission was “to help poor neighborhoods in Israel," Mr. Waxman said. “She became chairman of the program and had deep feelings for the people.”
Baltimore’s partner in Project Renewal was the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ir Ganim, which was home to mainly North African Jews.
Mr. Schapiro helped establish the Maryland/Israel Development Center, which was a partnership between the state Department of Business and Economic Development, Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Jewish Agency for Israel and The Associated.
In addition to her son-in-law, Mrs. Schapiro is survived by a son, Howard K. Cohen of Bonita Springs, Florida; a daughter, JoAnn Fruchtman of Mount Washington; a stepson, J. Mark Schapiro of Owings Mills; nine grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.