Addressing more than 400 people from Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s bimah, Sanford R. Cardin bemoaned the inadequacy of mere words to express his feelings about his mother, Shoshana Shoubin Cardin, and all of her achievements.

“Where should I begin?” he said at Mrs. Cardin’s funeral on May 22. “Should I begin by talking about her as a mom or as a leader, as a mentor and role model? How can I adequately describe how she loved, enabled and inspired all of her children? …

“She was simultaneously visionary and grounded,” he said. “She was the beloved matriarch of our incredibly tight-knit family. We’ll honor her legacy for fighting for family and the Jewish people.”

Mrs. Cardin passed away on May 18 at age 91 after suffering from health problems for the past couple of years.

Co-officiating at the hour-long funeral were Chizuk Amuno’s Rabbi Deborah Wechsler and Hazzan Emanuel C. Perlman.

A local and international Jewish communal leader and philanthropist, the Tel Aviv-born Mrs. Cardin was the first woman to lead such organizations as the Council of Jewish Federations, 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.

Also, 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.

But in his eulogy, Sanford Cardin offered a more personal view of his mother as a family-minded person, as “someone who loved each of us unconditionally and the people that we would become. … Nothing — and I mean nothing — meant more to my mother than her family.”

Mrs. Cardin was married to Jerome S. Cardin, a local attorney, real estate developer and savings-and-loan proprietor, from 1948 until his death in 1993. They had four children.

Sanford Cardin also praised his mother for “shattering glass ceilings” as a woman in the Jewish communal world, and for being a “person of the people.”

Debra S. “Debs” Weinberg, chair-elect of the board of The Associated and former executive director of Acharai: The Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute, described Mrs. Cardin as the “ideal mentor.”

Weinberg listed many of Mrs. Cardin’s myriad Jewish communal accomplishments, from spearheading opposition to efforts in the Israeli Knesset to amend the Law of Return in 1988, to fighting tirelessly for Soviet Jewish emigration, to founding Acharai.

“To date, Acharai has trained over 136 Jewish leaders, representing the spectrum of the Jewish community,” said Weinberg.

In a moment of levity, Weinberg said that Mrs. Cardin had “unknowingly taught her about aging. She said, ‘You should live to 100 like you’re 20!’ We will continue to live on through her legacy.”

Also speaking at the funeral was Rabbi Daniel R. Allen, executive vice chairman emeritus of United Israel Appeal and former senior vice president of the Jewish Federations of North America. He spoke about Mrs. Cardin’s pivotal role on the world stage.

He compared her to the Biblical figure of Deborah, who was “smart, witty, determined, independent, full of empathy with good communication skills. Much the same can be said about Shoshana Cardin. [As with Deborah] the children of Israel came up to her for judgment and advice.”

Rabbi Allen said Cardin’s “communication skills, her keen sense of right and wrong, made sure there was a positive outcome for all.” He also said when it came to philanthropy, Mrs. Cardin “put her money where her mouth was,” while encouraging others to join her in giving to Jewish causes.

Dressed in their grandmother’s trademark hats and scarves, two of  Mrs. Cardin’s granddaughters, Sasha and Courtney Cardin, spoke about her lasting influence on women’s rights and Jewish communal life, and about her simply being their “safta,” Hebrew for grandmother.

Reading from “Shoshana: Memoirs of Shoshana Shoubin Cardin” (Jewish Museum of Maryland), Courtney Cardin said Mrs. Cardin was not particularly interested in seeing her name or photo in a newspaper. Instead, she said her grandmother “formulated her own position in concert with her moral compass and did what she thought was best for the Jewish people,” even when that meant speaking frankly to such “important people” as President George H.W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

“She gave us the tools to fight misogyny, ignorance and anti-Semitism,” Courtney Cardin said. “She was our superhero. We are her legacy, and we take that awesome responsibility seriously.”

Sasha Cardin said that she and her sister and cousins “cherished” spending time with their grandmother. “While you may have seen her appearing in effortless elegance at a state dinner, our safta opened her closet full of couture gowns and played dress-up and fashion show with her granddaughters,” she said.

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 10 great-grandchildren.

Interment was 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.

Mrs. Cardin’s family will be in mourning at 3624 Anton Farms Road in Pikesville through the morning of May 28.