Irene Fishman Siegel, college instructor, social activist, mother, and beloved wife of Bernard “Bernie” (blessed memory 2015) died of COVID-19 on Friday, May 22, at Holy Cross Hospital, Maryland. She was 91.
Born on April 6, 1929 to David and Ita (nee Goldseker) Fishman. Irene grew up in Baltimore, where she graduated from Forest Park High School. She went on to be the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. She graduated from the University of Maryland with Honorable Mention, majoring in Social Studies with a minor in Business Education. Upon graduation she accepted a full-time teaching position at her alma mater Forest Park High School in shorthand, typing, bookkeeping, junior business training, and office machines. She interrupted her teaching career to raise three children. She resumed her teaching career, first at Catholic High School in Baltimore, and later as an instructor at Villa Julie College (now Stevenson College).
The central themes of Irene’s life were pride in her Jewish identity and dedication to family. Irene was the essential cog in maintaining the cohesion of the survivors of the extended Fishman-Goldseker family clan who fled death and persecution in Europe. She was the keeper of the family history for many years, organizer of reunions, bridge to family members in Israel, and helped document the Fishman-Goldseker families’ history in Mylynov, Poland (now Ukraine).
Irene’s dedication to family fueled her and Bernie’s interest in genealogy and after extensive research they were able to construct a family tree dating back generations. This included identifying and reestablishing a connection with family members in various countries who had lost contact with the family when they fled Europe nearly a century earlier.
Always central to Bernie and Irene was their love of Israel and the Jewish people. Active throughout their lives as members of Chizuk Amuno Synagogue serving in leadership positions in the Brotherhood, Sisterhood, Couples Club, Hatikvah Club, and Adult Education programs. Bernie and Irene donated Torah scrolls and Magilot to synagogues and schools. They contributed generously to many Jewish and Israeli charities, including the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Yemin Orde Orphanage (Israel), Naamat, Hadassah, and Friends of Ben-Gurion University. Volunteering in Israel during the Gulf War of 1991, they actively worked in the civilian front. When not focused on family and the Jewish community, Bernie and Irene were tireless activists for social justice causes in their community, country, and around the world.
Irene met Bernie during a stroll in Patterson Park on Yom Kippur. She married the love of her life on July 15, 1951. They had three children together Paul, Marc, and Yoni. Bernie and Irene were absolutely inseparable throughout their lives (64+ years). Always active, they traveled the world together, visiting Israel 25 times, and attending numerous elder hostels.
Irene will be remembered as a loving mother and wife and for her never-ending willingness to give of herself and help others. Irene was always ready to lend a helping hand and fight for justice.
She is survived by her children, Paul Bennett Siegel of Costa Rica; Marc Howard Siegel (Linda Zangwill) of San Diego, California and Yoni Siegel of Greenbelt, Maryland; her grandchildren, Dahlia (Preston) Canter of Kirkland, Washington, Maya Siegel of Seattle, Washington, and Emma Siegel of Austin, Texas; and her great-granddaughter, Marni (Dahlia and Preston). She is also survived by her older sister Selma Bacher.
Funeral services are private.
Please omit flowers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to Jewish National Fund, 78 Randall Avenue, Rockville Centre, NY 11570. Please direct acknowledgement cards for any contributions to Yoni Siegel, 10 Plateau Place, Unit M, Greenbelt, MD 20770.