An Endowment for the Mind, Body and Soul

by Carole Klein-Alexander

My mother had a tender spot in her heart for the elderly.     

And that is why David Sherman has chosen to honor his mother, Diane Sherman, of blessed memory, by creating The Susan and David Sherman Family Endowment Fund for the Diane Sherman Welcome Shabbat—Lunch and Learn Program at CJE SeniorLife. Though Mrs. Sherman passed away in 2011 at 84 years old, many people at CJE still recall her endearing smile and heartfelt compassion for older adults who were isolated, hungry or just in need of a caring touch.

Like her mother and father, Mrs. Sherman began working with the elderly at BMZ—Jewish Home for the Aged, which merged with CJE in 1971. By 1979, she had earned CJE’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award for her loving assistance at CJE’s Shabbat Luncheon program and annual community Seder at Temple Emanuel, where Mrs. Sherman
cooked and served warm meals to hundreds of older Jews, many from the Former Soviet Union. Her son, David, recalls taking on the job of Shalom Bus liaison, while he was in college, to make sure people could get to the Seders. In a recent conversation, he added gently, “My mother was an elegant, unassuming and tireless volunteer. Along with my dad (Leonard Sherman), they shared a love of philanthropy.” Diane and Leonard Sherman’s greatest legacy is the sense of responsibility to one’s community that David and his wife Susan are now instilling in their five children. As a family, they support many various causes from medical research to the World Wildlife Fund to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and, above all, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. David’s dedication to the Jewish community is deeply rooted, evidenced by his youthful commitment to work alongside his mother at CJE, enriching the lives of the elderly, as well as his enduring involvement as a distinguished lay leader at JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

The endowed Diane Sherman Welcome Shabbat—Lunch and Learn Program, launched by CJE in 2013, has been a huge success that provides a special occasion for seniors to enjoy a few hours of lively conversation and, of course, a warm meal that would make Diane Sherman proud. The room is usually filled with 40-50 community members who make a reservation to attend. Unbeknownst to many attendees, David often makes an “undercover” appearance as a volunteer, dishing up and serving lunch just like his mother loved to do.

A quarterly event, the Shabbat Lunch and Learn has featured renowned speakers such as: Sue Lewis, an educator and lecturer on Jewish culture; Betsy Dolgin Katz, who explored what happened in the Garden of Eden; Rabbi Barry Schechter, with an entertaining examination of Yiddish and Laughter; and Dr. Elana Ashley, presenting a dramatic mixed-media program combining original art, writings, and songs.

According to Gerri Fiterman Persin, Manager of CJE’s Center for Healthy Living, “It is so heartwarming to see a roomful of older adults, who may otherwise be alone, enjoying Shabbat together, acquiring fresh knowledge on Jewish-themed topics and making new friends. Of course, we also get rave reviews about the hot lunch. Basically, we provide nourishment for the mind, body and soul!”

Without a doubt, Diane Sherman would be delighted to see how her family has chosen to share her commitment to tikkun olam, honor her “tender spot for the elderly,” and sustain her legacy of love.

David Sherman is Chairman of Sherman Residential, a family-owned real estate firm that focuses on apartment ownership and management around the United States, and former Board Chair of Jewish Federation. He is an avid runner, golfer and reader. A devoted father and bedtime storyteller, he has also authored two children’s books: Precious Penelope in the Kingdom of Very Large Castles, about a young girl who comes to appreciate her own life, and Findley the Funnel, the story of a little boy who is never satisfied with what he has. By helping others, Findley learns how to not feel so empty inside.