Blanche Meisel, Devoted Torah Fund Supporter, Shares Her Story

Posted on Apr 06, 2022

By Mimi Pollack

Blanche Meisel met me in the beautiful lobby of her senior residence facility in Boca Raton and escorted me to her lovely, spacious apartment.

Blanche grew up in a comfortable home on the West Side of Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois, where she met her future husband, Phil Meisel. Blanche grew up in an urban setting; Phil came from a small town in upstate New York.  Growing up, their family lifestyles were different, yet their religious backgrounds were very similar. They moved to Springfield, New Jersey, had four sons, and were always connected to synagogue life.

Blanche’s first experience in sisterhood was when she was asked to become the Torah Fund chair, and she vividly recalls walking from house to house in the neighborhood, usually pushing one of their children in a stroller, distributing Torah Fund pins. Her sisterhood was a group of young women, and she remembers when Evelyn Auerbach (a past international president of WLCJ), a role model, came to one of their meetings to speak about how women can and should wear many hats.  Inspired, Blanche took this idea, always volunteered in her sisterhood, and continued to move up the leadership ladder. Her parents always encouraged her, and when she was asked to help, she always said yes. Blanche recalls that when she became sisterhood president, she asked her 16-year-old son to write a speech for her. He gave her another bit of advice: just be yourself.

Blanche and Phil had grown up with Jewish values and were both generous people. When Blanche wanted to support Torah Fund, Phil always acquiesced.  Blanche loved to support Torah Fund and never felt badly about asking others to participate. She felt everyone could contribute at any level, and no one could feel left out in giving small or large amounts. She always said, “Just give something.” Any amount given is always appreciated.

Blanche recalls that when her sisterhood actively supported Soviet Jewry, she chaired the committee. An opportunity arose to visit the Soviet Union and Blanche eagerly agreed to be part of the delegation. Her background as a dietician was part of the humanitarian reason for the visit. She received a three-day briefing in New York by the Council of Soviet Jewry and was given an itinerary of where to go and who to visit while there. The agenda included visits to Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and she brought jeans and medication to give to the people she was meeting. Blanche was there for three weeks and when she returned, she was debriefed.

Not living far from The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), Blanche took advantage of courses offered by Women’s League Institute each spring and fall. She learned about Judaism and recalls how exciting it was when Shuly Rubin Schwartz would teach some of the sessions.

When Blanche moved to Las Vegas, she became part of the Pacific Southwest branch (now region) of Women’s League. She willingly and eagerly traveled to attend branch events in California with other women and loved being in their company, remarking how creative and vigorous they were. They too were eager to learn, just as she was, and Blanche spent time learning more about Judaism.

Realizing the importance of Jewish education, about twenty years ago Blanche and Phil decided to support JTS by endowing scholarships for students in the rabbinical, cantorial, and graduate programs. The stipulation was simply to use the funds where needed. Blanche very proudly revealed that over 55 graduates of JTS have benefitted from these scholarships. She plans to be in New York to attend the upcoming JTS graduation and installation of her dear friend and teacher, Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, the newest chancellor of JTS.

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