Marlene Ostrow looks straight ahead at the camera.

Submitted by Adath Israel Congregation. Photo courtesy of Mitch Cohen.

On May 1st at 7:30 PM, Marlene Ostrow will be the honoree at Adath Israel Sisterhood’s Torah Fund event. Heidi Weisman, President of Sisterhood said, “Marlene is a true Eshet Chayil, Woman of Valor. She gives with her heart and soul.” Natalie Wolf, Adath Israel President said, “I’ve known Marlene for many years, both as a dedicated volunteer at Adath Israel Congregation and in our shared passion for volunteering for candidates and issues that improve the lives of all women in our community. I am so pleased that Sisterhood chose to recognize Marlene for her strengths, dedication, and passion.”

When Marlene heard she would be honored, she said, “I was excited, of course, but more importantly, I was both humbled and grateful to be recognized by my peers and dear friends with whom I have worked over the past two decades.” The Sisterhood chose Marlene for her years of dedicated service at Adath Israel. She said, “My first volunteer gig was selling ads for the synagogue’s ad directory fundraiser. It was a great way to work with people I already knew from the Jewish community and a wonderful way to meet other members of our shul.” Marlene became Corresponding Secretary for Sisterhood, working from home with a toddler. She helped with publicity by submitting articles to the American Israelite. She chaired the annual Purim Palooza carnival. She also started a Sisterhood Book Club in 2014. She said, “The book club is still going strong after nine years. It’s one of my proudest accomplishments.” She spoke about chairing Sisterhood’s IHN (Interfaith Hospitality Network) dinners for the homeless. Marlene sat on the Sisterhood’s Executive Board in 2015 and served as Adath’s Sisterhood President from 2019-2021. 

We asked her about her biggest challenges as Sisterhood President, and she said, “Without a doubt, my biggest challenge was addressing the need to pivot, regroup and adapt to the world while living with COVID during the early stages of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. We had to move to holding all of our activities online, including board meetings, Sisterhood Shabbat services, programming, and special events. There was definitely a learning curve in that process.” Marlene continued, “I would say we were successful in keeping the Sisterhood Board and membership engaged, active, and still feeling connected outside of the walls of the shul. I could not have done that without the efforts and support of all of my dedicated Sisterhood Board members. Just as COVID changed our world, Sisterhood changed and responded to our new reality.”

Marlene talked about how fundraising was a challenge during the pandemic and that she was advised to put fundraising efforts on hold, such as requests for donations to the Women’s League of Conservative Judaism (WLCJ) Torah Fund. The WLCJ Torah Fund supports Conservative and Masorti seminaries around the world. Marlene said, “Without the Torah Fund, the future of our Conservative movement would be less certain and less secure. Torah Funds help prepare the next generation of Conservative clergy leaders and educators.”

Marlene and her husband Bernie Lenchitz came from Manhattan and Northern New Jersey and joined Adath in 2001. Marlene said, “Bernie and I are the proud parents of two grown children.” Her oldest is pursuing a Ph.D. in Music Theory and is also beginning work as a Server Systems Engineer. Her daughter will receive a B.A. in English and Cultural Literacy and a B.S. in Medical Science. She is pursuing a M.S. degree in Narrative Medicine that Marlene says, “combines both of her talents and passions.” Marlene concluded by saying, “I am thankful that past Sisterhood leadership reached out to me, personally, and made me feel welcome both at Adath and within Sisterhood. I feel so fortunate to have had close working relationships, meaningful friendships, and the chance to study with three amazing Rabbis at Adath Israel: Emeritus Rabbi Irv Wise, former Associate Rabbi Ben Chaidell, and now our current Senior Rabbi, Moshe Smolkin. I also participated in Women’s Rosh Chodesh study groups with our Emeritus Rebbetzin, Kathy Wise. I want to give a huge shout-out of gratitude to my husband, Bernie, and my two children for their respect, love, and support of my work for Adath Israel Sisterhood and WLCJ.”

Lynn Kling is the chair for Sisterhood’s Torah Fund event, which will include a presentation in Adath’s main sanctuary honoring Marlene Ostrow followed by a dessert reception. The program will also be live-streamed. Visit Adath Israel’s website to RSVP.