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Margaret Tishman, 84, dies

NEW YORK, March 9 (JTA) — Margaret Tishman, a longtime Jewish community lay leader and philanthropist who helped guide the merger of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York with the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, died last Friday. She was 84. Tishman, better known as Peggy, served as the first president of the merged UJA-Federation 20 years ago. She was one of the first women to lead a major Jewish federation in the United States. She died two months after her husband of 62 years, Alan. “In losing Peggy, we lose one of the most graceful, dignified and devoted leaders of our community,” said John Ruskay, executive vice president of UJA-Federation. “Peggy Tishman’s legacy to Jewish life is unparalleled, embracing the entire agenda of UJA-Federation.” “While she is correctly identified with caring about the elderly, she more recently became deeply involved in issues relating to Jewish identity and renewal and increasingly engaged in issues related to Israel’s long-term security and well being.” Tishman, twice a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, was a founder of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, a UJA-Federation beneficiary. She was president of the Jewish Community Relations Council and a board member of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Jewish Home and Hospital for Aged. She also was a director of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. At 21, she chaired a junior division of UJA, and subsequently accepted more responsibilities, eventually rising to the top of the organization. As president in 1986 of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, which focused on the Jewish community’s local needs, Tishman was among a group that helped steer the long-wanted merger with New York UJA, which supported Israel and other communities abroad. Tishman was elected president of the united organization, which now ranks among the largest philanthropic organizations in the country. She was asked to serve a second term when Morton Kornreich, president-elect of UJA-Federation, was elected chairman of the national UJA fund-raising campaign. “Everyone by then was so enthusiastic about her performance that nobody cared to recall which side she had come from,” Stephen Solender, former executive vice president of UJA-Federation, said Monday during his eulogy for Tishman at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York. “In 18 months she had charmed everyone.” “She saw it as her responsibility to bring together two disparate constituencies, two very different kinds of leaders,” Solender said. “And she did. She made it clear to everyone on every occasion that her personal focus was to help Jews in need wherever they were.” Tishman made several solidarity trips to endangered Jewish communities in Israel, Argentina, the Soviet Union and other countries. In one 1987 column for the New York Jewish Week following a private fact-finding trip to the Soviet Union, she wrote that she would never forget the experience of talking with refusenik Yosef Begun, “a man of such remarkable purity of thought and mind that one can never forget his triumph over suffering. After seven years in prison, his Jewish spirit is indomitable.” “I will never forget sitting with Vladimir Slepak and listening to him talk about his grandchildren in the United States, whose voices he has never heard. I will never forget Naomi Shapiro’s sitting at the piano, wishing to entertain her parents’ guests. Her only desire is to see her grandparents in Israel.” Tishman graduated from Wellesley College and received a master’s degree in psychology and education from Fairfield University. She received honorary doctorates from Hunter College and Marymount Manhattan College. “In order to be a leader,” she once said, “a woman needed to be a little better than the next guy, study a little harder, and go over the material a lot more times.” “She was an unselfish booster of other women,” Solender said in his eulogy. “She said that the first thing she set out to do when she became [UJA-Federation] president was to see that women professionals and lay leaders got a better shot at everything. She said she was going to give it the woman’s touch. She used her power to help women coming up behind her.” Tishman lost two children during her lifetime, David Henry Tishman and Virginia Alexander. She is survived by a daughter, Peggy T. Hall, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.