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Shoshana S. Cardin z”l

Shoshana S. Cardin served as Chair of the Conference of Presidents from January 1991 through December 1992.

An iconic figure in global, national, and local Jewish organizational and philanthropic circles, Shoshana Shoubin Cardin was born in 1926, in Tel Aviv, in what was then Palestine. In 1927, her family immigrated to the United States and settled in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating high school Cardin entered Johns Hopkins University, attending from 1942 to 1945. She completed her BA at UCLA in 1946; later, she earned an MA in Planning and Administration from Antioch University in 1979. Beginning in 1946, Cardin taught reading and English at Southern Junior-Senior High school in the Baltimore County school district. She married Jerome Cardin in 1948 and had four children. In 1950, she retired from teaching and focused her energies on raising her children and initiating her volunteer efforts.

Cardin became involved in various groups within the community that promoted Jewish and women’s causes. She was a member of numerous boards of local nonprofit organizations, such as Maryland’s Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations, and served as its president. In 1967 Cardin was elected to serve as a delegate from Baltimore County at the Maryland Constitutional Convention of 1967-1968, where she worked specifically on committees that addressed suffrage concerns. After the Convention, she served on the board for the Maryland Commission on the Status of Women, which was designed to ascertain the opportunities available to women in various occupations and to work with government agencies to open up more fields to women.

She was an active participant in planning events during the International Women’s Year of 1975, working with the Commission to introduce various seminars addressing women’s health and legal concerns, including volunteerism, education, credit, employment, the Equal Rights Amendment, and rape. Cardin realized the need for care and guidance for females, specifically those in poor domestic situations, and convened the first state conference on battered women, which eventually led to the creation of the House of Ruth in Baltimore, a shelter for abused women. In addition, in 1974 she wrote a pamphlet, titled Women: Where Credit is Due, that advised women of their economic rights in terms of how to get credit and how to ensure fair credit laws.

In the late 1970s Cardin focused her efforts on Jewish causes. She began advocating for heightened Jewish involvement, both within her Baltimore community and around the world, to foster a greater sense of world equality and peace. In 1984 she was elected as the first woman president of the Council of Jewish Federations, becoming the first woman to lead a major national Jewish organization.

From the 1980s to the present day, Cardin has been the only person to have ever chaired all four of the major national Jewish organizations: the Council of Jewish Federations, the National Council on Soviet Jewry, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, and the United Israel Appeal. Through these prestigious positions, Cardin has been able to drastically and positively affect Jewish affairs on an international scale.

When asked to identify her biggest personal accomplishment, Cardin said, “The most significant accomplishment was to personally persuade former Soviet President Gorbachev in 1991 to condemn anti-Semitism and racism in a public statement and to remove such anti-social action from government policy.” The meeting was the first official gathering between the Soviet leader and leaders of the U.S. Jewish organizations.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s U.S. Jewish organizations pressed for freer immigration of Jews from the Soviet Union and religious freedom within the country. Cardin’s meeting with Gorbachev was a monumental step in achieving these goals and promoting better conditions for Jews around the world. Also in 1991, numerous members of the nation’s Jewish community, Cardin included, were embroiled in a conflict with President George H.W. Bush over a U.S. loan guarantee to Israel. Cardin became a highly publicized leader of the lobbying efforts both for American Jews and the government, who were in opposition to the President’s efforts to prevent a loan to aid Israel. As with all her activism, Cardin continued with unceasing hope and energy to lobby for her cause.

Throughout the 1990s, Cardin continued to actively serve on boards of various Jewish organizations, including the Jewish National Fund and the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and was awarded numerous honorary degrees from universities around the globe. Cardin also received many awards over the course of her lifetime of service.

Shoshana Cardin passed away in 2018 at the age of 91.