Shoshana Shoubin Cardin, an iconic figure in global, national and local Jewish organizational and philanthropic circles, died on May 18. Mrs. Cardin, who was in failing health for the past couple of years, was 91.
Funeral services will be held at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 8100 Stevenson Road in Pikesville, on May 22, at 1 p.m.
“Shoshana’s impact is immeasurable — globally, locally and personally,” said Debra S. “Debs” Weinberg, chair-elect of the board of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and former executive director of Acharai: The Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute. “Her legacy will continue to shape our community through her efforts and the leaders she has inspired.”
Associated President Marc B. Terrill called Cardin “Jewish communal royalty. She had it all. Shoshana was smart, politically astute, empathetic, passionate, articulate and certainly not afraid to speak truth to power. Her leadership will serve as a standard of excellence for all to follow.”
Mrs. Cardin’s passing comes a little more than a week after the deaths of such local Jewish communal leaders as Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz and former Jewish Community Services Executive Director Barbara Levy Gradet.
“Shoshana Cardin was a natural leader of the Jewish people at a critical time in our history,” David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement. “Her wisdom, resolve and political skill played a critical role in the liberation of Soviet Jewry, helped shape the post-Cold War contours of the U.S.-Israel relationship, reinforced the indelible bond between American Jews and Israel, and strengthened the fabric and fiber of Jewish life in the U.S.”
Born on Oct. 10, 1926, in Tel Aviv to Sraiah and Chana Shoubin, Latvian-born chalutzim, or Jewish pioneers, Mrs. Cardin came to East Baltimore as a 2-year-old and was raised in a fervently political and committed Zionist household. Her father taught religious school while selling cheese-slicing machines on the side.
“I grew up in a home where responsibility to community, to fellow man, to people, was part of life,” Mrs. Cardin told The Sun in a 1991 profile. “So I knew that I would have to return to the community whatever blessings I had.”
One of Mrs. Cardin’s fondest childhood memories was standing outside of a popular movie theater in Baltimore one Sunday afternoon in 1938 as an 11-year-old, collecting money for Jews being resettled in pre-state Israel. She recalled filling up a pair of canisters, and as a result was given a prize by the local Jewish National Fund.
A bright and determined student, Mrs. Cardin was a 1943 graduate of Western High School. Under her high school yearbook photo was the quote, “I love life and ask no more.”
‘She Stood Up’
Mrs. Cardin studied at Johns Hopkins University’s McCoy College, taking night school classes in hopes of becoming an attorney, and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a bachelor’s degree in English. (She eventually earned a masters of arts degree in planning and administration from Antioch University in 1979.)
Mrs. Cardin taught for five years at Southern Junior High School in Baltimore before marrying local attorney, real estate developer and future savings-and-loan proprietor Jerome S. Cardin in 1948. The Cardins, who were married for 45 years, had four children: Steven, Ilene, Nina Beth and Sanford.
The Cardins were reportedly among the first Jewish families to live in Baltimore County outside of I-695, the Baltimore Beltway. When Mrs. Cardin became involved in activism as a young mother, her family residence became a focal point for community and political gatherings. With her sharp mind, amiable personality and strong leadership skills, she quickly moved up the ranks of Jewish organizational life.
Locally, Mrs. Cardin chaired the Maryland Commission for Women and served as president of the Maryland Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations. In 1983, she became president of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund (known today as The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore), thus becoming the first woman in the United States to lead a major Jewish federation.
In addition, Mrs. Cardin served as commissioner of Maryland’s Commission on Human Relations from 1979-1982 and as chair of Maryland’s State Employment and Training Council from 1979-1983.
In 1984, Mrs. Cardin, a longtime Chizuk Amuno congregant, became the first woman elected president of the Council of Jewish Federations, the umbrella organization for the groups that raise funds and coordinate social and educational services in 189 North American Jewish communities.
In addition, she became the first woman to lead such major national Jewish organizations as United Israel Appeal, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Center for Learning and Leadership, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, and JTA, or Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Mrs. Cardin led numerous delegations to the former Soviet Union and met with officials and leaders there to campaign for the release of refuseniks.
“She stood up to the Soviet Union,” Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) said of Mrs. Cardin, a cousin by marriage, at the 2015 opening of a photo exhibition about the latter’s Soviet Jewry activism. “Jews are safer today because of Shoshana’s leadership on behalf of Soviet Jews. She taught us that people can change policy. There’s no question that in the State Department, this was not a top priority then. The fight for Soviet Jewry changed the landscape of politics in our country.”
During her long career of civic activism, the articulate, elegant Mrs. Cardin became well-acquainted with national and international Jewish organizational leaders, as well as American presidents, Israeli prime ministers and other world leaders.
“I can’t believe how many times I’ve challenged presidents and prime ministers,” Mrs. Cardin once said with a laugh.
Said the AJC’s David Harris: “When Shoshana Cardin spoke, everyone in the room – presidents, prime ministers, members of Congress, fellow Jewish activists, interreligious partners – listened, and was moved. Facing momentous challenges, making vital decisions, for the Jewish community, you always wanted Shoshana on your side.”
In an online encyclopedia entry in the Jewish Women’s Archive, Debra Nussbaum Cohen wrote of Mrs. Cardin, “The belief that kol Israel arevim ze la’ze, that all the Jewish people are responsible for one another, is the principle on which Cardin has built her career of service and one she instilled in her children. Cardin takes pride in the fact that three of her children — a speech pathologist working as a Jewish educator; a Conservative rabbi and editor of the Jewish intellectual newsletter Sh’ma; and an attorney working as the head of a Jewish family foundation — are deeply committed to serving the Jewish community.”
‘Confident, Smart and Beautiful’
For her myriad accomplishments and contributions to the Jewish community, Mrs. Cardin was recognized by having Acharai: The Shoshana S. Cardin Jewish Leadership Institute named in her honor, as well as the now-defunct Shoshana S. Cardin Jewish Community High School in Baltimore. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s annual leadership award was also named in honor of Mrs. Cardin.
“We were honored that our children graduated from the Shoshana S. Cardin Jewish Community High School,” Owings MIlls resident Janis Earle Miller posted on Jmore’s Facebook page. “Mrs. Cardin was a confident, smart and beautiful woman who inspired our kids every year with her presence and her words. Condolences to her family. We are grateful to have known her.”
Said Beth Gansky, executive director of Acharai: “Shoshana Cardin was a visionary founder, and for the first years the sole funder of Acharai: The Shoshana Cardin Leadership Development Institute. The fellows, board and staff join me in mourning her loss.
“Shoshana set the standard for Jewish leadership that we all aspire to. She dreamed of a place where everyone would learn together, whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist — a respectful, inclusive, collaborative environment where people could learn about leadership through a Jewish lens.”
Mrs. Cardin was inducted into the Maryland Women Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Baltimore Jewish Hall of Fame three years later. Also in 2008, her book “Shoshana: Memoirs of Shoshana Shoubin Cardin,” was published by the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
In 1990, Cardin was awarded the Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award by the Zionist Organization of America. Four years later, the Hadassah organization honored her with its Henrietta Szold Humanitarian Award.
“The most important message I have wanted to give people has been the importance, the pride and the responsibility, the blessing of being Jewish,” Mrs. Cardin once said. “That’s what gives me the strength to challenge what I have challenged and bring about change where I could.”
Mrs. Cardin is survived by her children, Steven and Marie Cardin, Ilene and Dr. Bert Vogelstein, Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin and Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner, and Sanford Cardin and Melody McCoy; her grandchildren, Danielle Cardin, Sophie Cardin, Talia Cardin, Jacob and Rachel Vogelstein, Joshua and Kathryn Vogelstein, Ahava Vogelstein, Etan and Sara Reisner, Elnatan and Lianna Reisner, Noam and Jackie Reisner, Ateret and Stu Cope, Adin Reisner, Sasha Cardin, and Courtney Cardin and Jonathan Rosner; and her 10 great-grandchildren.
Interment will be at Arlington Cemetery-Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 4300 N. Rogers Ave. Contributions in Mrs. Cardin’s memory may be sent to Acharai: The Shoshana S. Cardin Jewish Leadership Institute, 5806 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21215 or Jewish National Fund, 2 Reservoir Circle, Suite 203, Baltimore, Md. 21208.