Elaine Siegel Mintzes, a longtime philanthropist and Jewish communal activist who was a strong supporter of such organizations as the Baltimore chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and Pikesville’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation, passed away on Oct. 25.
The Baltimore native and Park Heights resident was 91. She was the wife of Alvin S. Mintzes, who died in Jan. 2005 at age 80.
The funeral for Mrs. Mintzes will be held today, Oct. 26, at 11 a.m. at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road. Interment will follow at Beth Tfiloh Cemetery, 5800 Windsor Mill Road.
Mrs. Mintzes will be long remembered for her spirit of generosity, passion for the Jewish community, unabashed love for her husband, candor and no-nonsense honesty, and penchant for giving Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies to visitors to her penthouse residence at the Imperial Condomium on Park Heights Avenue.
The following is a Feb. 2017 Jmore article by Lisa Shifren about Mrs. Mintzes and how she met her husband.
“Marry for love and follow the dictates of your heart.” That’s the sage advice of 90-year-old Elaine Siegel Mintzes.
She should know. Her 51-year marriage to Alvin Seymour Mintzes, who died in 2005, is the stuff of storybook romances.
Elaine, who grew up and still resides in the Park Heights area, met Alvin while both were students at the New York University School of Law. At the time, she was one of seven female students in a class with 700 men.
“If you can’t beat them, join them,” she says.
One day during her freshman year, Elaine recalls she was studying in the school library when Alvin approached and said, “I bet you would make a good wife.” She remembers thinking it was odd to try to pick up a girl in a library and was initially a little concerned about Alvin’s mental health.
He continued to court her, even offering to tutor her in accounting, which was his undergraduate major. Since accounting was her weak spot, she said she readily accepted his offer and eventually fell madly in love with him.
“He grew on me,” she says. “I never intended to get married, but Alvin was irresistible. He was the personification of perfection. He had respect for everyone. He was honest almost to a fault. Admirable were his humility, consistent high capacity to accomplish things, and determination to be active despite his undiagnosed health issues. He was always very generous with me.
“I had everything! Always! He was one of a kind.”
Since the law school at that time didn’t permit relations between students, the couple waited until after graduation before tying the knot and moving to Baltimore. Elaine says her husband had a tough time finding a law firm that would hire him, so he found work as an employee for the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. Later, he worked alongside Elaine, a real estate agent, at the Castle Realty Co. in Park Heights.
Outside of their professional lives, the couple made a name for themselves as local, national and international philanthropists and civic leaders. Elaine says she and Alvin raised or contributed $30 million to Jewish groups such as Hatzalah of Baltimore, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Bais Yaakov School for Girls, Boys Town of Jerusalem’s residence hall and the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s Rosen Arts Center/Mintzes Theatre.
But their philanthropic activities weren’t limited to Jewish causes. They also supported nonprofits such as Gilchrist Hospice Care, the now-defunct Baltimore Opera Company and the American Council on Italian Matters of Maryland.
“To achieve a peaceful world, we assisted many diversified faiths in an ecumenical way,” says Elaine, who noted that Alvin “was an amazing fundraiser. No one said no to him.”
Since Alvin’s death at age 80, Elaine has worked tirelessly to continue the couple’s philanthropic legacy and to keep her husband’s memory alive.
“Alvin believed that life mattered,” Elaine says. “I thought his memory could be best sustained not by concrete and buildings alone but by projects which would have an indelible impact upon our treasured heritage.
“When God made Alvin, he lost the pattern. I thought we would have had more time in our golden years to enjoy life together. We did have exciting and challenging lives. We had ecstasy and agony. Fortunately, we had more of the ecstasy.”
Photo by Lisa Shifren.
Lisa Shifren is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and photographer.