Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

A Statement from HBI Director Lisa Fishbayn Joffe on the passing of Sandra Seltzer Silberman, z"l

September 2023                             Debs is a White women with light brown hair and wearing black Sandy is a White woman with white hair and wearing blue

HBI mourns the loss of our beloved Conversations friend, Sandy Silberman, z”l. Sandy first connected with HBI in 2005 when, along with her daughter Debs Weinberg who was then chair of the HBI board, she developed the concept of hosting book and author conversations in their homes. They met in Weinberg’s living room, as a multi-generational group of mothers and daughters, reading books by Jewish women together. Silberman loved to hear the authors speak, recalling in 2021 that “It makes the books come alive. I feel the inner emotion when someone talks about their own writing. We never stop learning and can be surprised at who our teachers are. This is learning in a life way and it’s more likely to hit you in your kishkes.”

Since then, HBI Conversations has continued exploring Jewish women's lives through new and thought-provoking literary fiction, memoir and scholarship. The program eventually grew to over 14 sites nationwide with hundreds participating. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, as with most of the world, the HBI Conversations program pivoted online, greatly increasing the number of Conversations participants to thousands while also breaking down geographic borders and allowing people to join us from around the country and the world.

In 2021, the program became the Sandra Seltzer Silberman HBI Conversations Series, sponsored by Debs Weinberg to honor her mother Sandy’s love of learning about Jewish women’s lives. Today, HBI is grateful that the Sandra Seltzer Silberman HBI Conversations Series allows us to explore the diversity of Jewish women's experiences around the world through literature, and to share HBI’s scholarship related to Jewish women’s and gender issues with an ever wider audience.