Frances Taylor Eizenstat '65 1944-2013


Fran Eizenstat’s lifelong deep and abiding love of Israel began with her participation in the Brandeis Hiatt program, under which she spent a semester of her junior year studying in Israel in 1963. She transmitted her commitment to the State of Israel to her sons Jay and Brian and her husband Stu.

Fran was born and raised in the working class Boston suburb of Everett, Massachusetts, to parents, Eli and Sarah Taylor, who transmitted the best of American and Jewish values to Fran, and her sisters Evelyn and Naomi. Fran’s father Eli frequently told Fran of the desperation of life during the Great Depression, and this was emblazoned on her mind. The common thread that ran through her professional career and remarkable volunteer non-profit activities was to help disadvantaged Americans enter the mainstream of life, and to care for needy Jews around the world.

Fran was never a bystander, but a woman of action. Her professional work for the disadvantaged ranged from the Model Cities anti-poverty program in Atlanta to the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington; from the White House Conference on Families to the low-income housing section of FNMA.

But it was in the non-profit voluntary sector that she made an even greater mark. Fran developed the first screening program for Tay Sachs disease, a malady particularly affecting children of Ashkenazi Jewish women, as Vice President of the Atlanta chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, which served as a model for the nation and prevented countless tragedies. She founded and co-chaired the Atlanta Institute of Adult Jewish Studies, and was selected for the prestigious Leadership Atlanta program in 1976. She was active in the Soviet Jewry movement; served two terms on the national board of Mazon, the Jewish response to hunger; and for 12 years until her death on the international board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which helps Jews in distress worldwide. She was a key leader of the Defiant Requiem Foundation, whose concerts, lesson plans and documentary honor the artistic and cultural resistance of Jewish prisoners at the Theresenstadt concentration camp. Fran created the first all-kosher ambassadorial residence in U.S. diplomatic history, when Stu served as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union in Brussels.

Fran embodied a unique set of qualities: courage in the face of medical adversity; a regal bearing; elegance and sparkle; a pervasive sweetness and generosity of spirit; an incandescent smile; and a remarkable ability to develop deep friendships wherever she lived. The milk of human kindness flowed through her veins.

Frances Taylor Eizenstat’s husband, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, lovingly created this special endowment in Fran’s name, supported by her family and friends, to provide grant funds for up to five Brandeis students annually to travel to Israel for a variety of specific projects and study programs. This endowment combines Fran’s connection to Brandeis and Israel, both of which were important parts of her life. Stu and the family hope it will deepen the Brandeis students’ connection to Israel over their lifetime.

All of those Brandeis students selected for this unique award in the name of Frances Taylor Eizenstat will honor her memory of a life well-lived.