(JTA) — Shoshana Cardin, a Baltimore philanthropist who was the first woman to chair her city’s Jewish federation, the national umbrella body of the Jewish federation movement and the powerful Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has died.
Cardin, who was in failing health in recent years, was 91.
Known for her intellect and leadership capabilities, she was from 1988 to 1992 chairwoman of the National Conference of Soviet Jewry, during a time when the priorities of the Soviet Jewry movement shifted from campaigns to free Soviet Jews to efforts to help resettle them in Israel.
Prior to that she was president of the Council of Jewish Federations, the representative body of 200 community federations in the United States and Canada.
Cardin also gained prominence in the autumn of 1988 for spearheading opposition to efforts in the Israeli Knesset to amend the Law of Return.
The so-called “Who Is a Jew” amendment, which would have denied Israeli citizenship to immigrants whose conversion to Judaism did not meet Orthodox standards, was ultimately withdrawn in the face of overwhelming pressure from American Jews.
Born Shoshana Shoubin to Latvian parents in what was then British-controlled Palestine, Cardin arrived at age 2 in Baltimore, where she later became active in local Jewish affairs.
One of her first major leadership roles in the Jewish community was as president of the Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations of Maryland from 1965 to 1967.