Ode To A Matriarch

October 19, 2012
BY Maayan Jaffe
Celebrating Hannah Storch and 30 years of keeping Jews Jewish
Hannah Storch was among the founders of Jews for Judaism. This weekend, the organization will pay tribute to her as part of its 30th  anniversary celebration. (Justin Tsucalas)

Hannah Storch was among the founders of Jews for Judaism. This weekend, the organization will pay tribute to her as part of its 30th
anniversary celebration. (Justin Tsucalas)

The community will come together on Oct. 21 to pay tribute to a team of people who have worked tirelessly, some of them for 30 years, with one goal: keeping Jews Jewish.

There has been one who shines above the rest — who has given more, physically and emotionally, than any other. That person is Mrs. Hannah Storch.

At Jews for Judaism’s 30th anniversary celebration, Mrs. Storch will be honored alongside her board colleagues as the founder and philanthropist who has kept the organization’s lifeblood pumping. An 11 a.m. reception will take place at Beth Tfiloh Congregation.

“She made it happen,” said Jews for Judaism Executive Director Ruth Guggenheim. “Hannah not only had the knowledge and the vision, but the wherewithal to start Jews for Judaism and the true commitment to the Jewish community that such an organization would be developed.”

Mrs. Storch remembers the epiphany well. She recalled how in the early 80s Jewish leaders, she and her husband among them, caught wind of a growing missionary epidemic. Christians were targeting Jews for conversion through new and undercover tactics.

“We got together, five of us, at my home, and we decided to organize a group, go out and do something,” said Mrs. Storch. “This was something really new. Most people knew little about these missionaries; the only ones familiar with it were those hurt by it. I felt we had to do something right away.”

Mrs. Storch recalled that one of the five agreed to give a donation to launch Jews for Judaism. The team sent out a letter to the Baltimore Jewish community about the missionary threat and the importance of having such an organization. Among the five at the meeting was Rabbi Motty Berger, who became Jews for Judaism’s first executive director.

The urgency of the organization’s creation and the passion that Storch put forth was a mere drop in the bucket of the life of chesed, kindness, which she led — and still leads.

During the 18 years that Hannah and her late husband, M. Leo Storch, were married, they were considered pillars of the Baltimore Jewish community. Mr. Storch founded the Baltimore Vaad of Kashrut, known as the Star K. He also served as president of Bais Yaakov School for Girls, among other important roles.

Following Mr. Storch’s passing in 1972, Mrs. Storch continued the legacy. In addition to founding Jews for Judaism, she helped establish the Women’s Institute of Torah, an adult education center for women’s Torah learning, in memory of her mother, Rebbetzin Freida K. Hirmes. She was among the founders of Etz Chaim: The Center for Jewish Living and Learning and has been an active member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation for 60 years.

Son Frank Storch said it was a privilege to grow up and learn from his parents and that despite their busy schedules, the children were given nothing but “love, time and attention from our very generous mother.”

“We learned the importance of community service, volunteer work and charitable contributions. We learned the importance of listening to the needs of the community and of acting to fulfill those needs,” he said.

But Mrs. Storch was always very humble, explained Frank Storch. And Guggenheim noted that Mrs. Storch’s ego was never involved in her work.

“She is one of the most private individuals and has such a sense of dignity and pride,” said Guggenheim, who noted that Mrs. Storch calls almost daily to check on Guggenheim and the organization. “It is truly like a mother who has given birth and wants to hold that child’s hand, make sure the child is thriving the way he ought to be. And even as that child is an adult, you know, a mom is always there. If there is anything she can do for us, she will do it.”

The organization does plan to bestow a special surprise honor at the event upon Mrs. Storch; the details could not be published in advance. Jews for Judaism also will pay tribute to the other board members who have worked for the cause. Those include Paysach Diskind, Molly Koch, Larry Levey, Marilyn Leavey Meyerson, Marlene Resnick, Howard Rosenbloom, Louis Schwartz, Aviva Weisbord and Andrew Wohlberg.

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