Edith Kriwitzky Gittleman, 88, of West Harford, CT, passed away on Friday, July 27, 2012 at the Hebrew Home and Hospital. A unique “woman of valor,” Edith was the widow of Arthur Gittleman, her cherished husband of 63 years. Born on Feb. 13, 1924 in Hartford, CT, Edith was the sixth and youngest child of Clara Wolf Kriwitzky and Aaron Kriwitzky, a noted Talmudic scholar, teacher, principal, and poet who published a book of Yiddish poetry at the age of 89 in Israel. From a young age, Edith was very influenced by her father. His love of theatre, tradition, family, education, and community service became leading themes of her own adult life. In a published interview several years ago, Edith recalled, “My favorite memories are those of the holiday plays in Yiddish that my father wrote and directed. I will always remember Papa’s daily ritual of spreading the Yiddish newspaper Der Tog (The Day) across the kitchen table, and proceeding to read about the latest events. As he read, Papa provided a running commentary all his own. He would mumble or chuckle or sigh, muttering approval, disapproval, or even astonishment at the events that had taken place. Another one of my most vivid memories is that of my father poring over the gemora (Torah commentary), engaged in passionate discussions with his scholarly peers.” Throughout her junior high and high school years, Edith appeared in her father’s plays and took elocution lessons to further her budding dramatic talents. The once shy little girl blossomed into a talented young thespian. Edith excelled in character portrayals that featured a wide variety of dialects. Her most memorable role was as the Statue of Liberty. “Edie’s a good little actress,” said the Variety column of a local newspaper in the early 1940’s. After graduating from Weaver High School in 1941, Edith attended Hillyer Junior College (now the University of Hartford) and the Randall School of Drama while pursuing her acting career in local stage productions. She also worked at the Aetna Insurance Company in Hartford until she met the love of her life, Arthur Gittleman of New Britain, CT, with whom she would spend the next 63 years. Edith and Arthur were married on June 29, 1947. Even after her marriage, Edith continued to perform on stage. In 1948, she starred in the Players’ Guild production of “The Whole World Over,” which was performed at the Avery Memorial Auditorium (now the Bushnell Memorial). In 1949, Edith gave birth to her first child, daughter Ann Louise. A son, Stephen Paul, was born four years later, but died shortly after birth. In 1954, the Gittlemans family was made complete with their son, Stuart. Edith began teaching religious school in 1958, and continued for the next 45 years. Following in her father’s footsteps, she taught in local synagogues throughout the greater Hartford area – at the Beth Hillel Synagogue in Bloomfield and at the B’nai Shalom in Newington, CT. Her holiday plays became the highlight of her students’ religious school experience. At the Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, Edith became the supervisor of the tutorial department and helped many students succeed in their religious studies. She also offered guidance, encouragement, and inspiration to the tutors who worked under her supervision. In 2005, Beth Israel honored Edith for her 25 years of dedicated service. The “teacher’s teacher,” she was recognized for “the dedication and devotion to her work, her professional demeanor, her understanding of children, the example she sets for others in dealing with the community, her honesty in dealing with children and parents, and for the belief in her work.” Her home was always the center for family events, birthdays, graduations, and holiday celebrations. For nearly 20 years, she hosted weekly groups for bible study, and her drama skills continued to be on display in local plays and musicals. Edith was passionately involved in civic and religious organizations while continuing her own education at the Boston Hebrew Teacher’s College Branch in West Hartford. She was deeply involved in Hadassah (the women’s Zionist organization of America) for many years, and held many leadership positions. She served as President of the Henrietta Szold Group from 1977 – 1980 and Hartford Chapter President from 1981 – 1984. From 1984 – 1885, she was the vice-president of the Connecticut Region of Hadassah. In 1986, she was named the Hands of Healing Honoree commemorating her outstanding contributions to Hadassah. In 1991, she received a Hadassah Service award as a valued member of the Hartford Chapter Board. During her community career, she became an honorary director of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, and established The Aaron Kriwitzky Young Scholarship Lecture at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford. In 1997, she collaborated with fellow author, Fran Waltman, and published a 55-page memoir entitled Days of the Talmud Torah: a Legacy of Learning. The book documents the early history of the Hartford Jewish community by featuring its Hebrew school teachers and Talmud Torahs – a project which Edith felt honored her own father’s legacy. Her greatest pleasure was reading and translating her father’s Yiddish poetry. She appeared on the Internet in 2009 reading her father’s poems following an interview with the Massachusetts-based Yiddish Book Center. She is survived by her daughter Ann Louise Gittleman and James Templeton, of Post Falls, ID; and her son and daughter-in-law, Stuart and Sandra Gittleman of Cornelius, NC. She was the proud grandmother of Shira Beth Gittleman of Raleigh, NC, Isaac Aaron Gittleman and Daniel Ryan Gittleman of Cornelius, NC. She is also survived by many beloved cousins, nephews, and nieces. The family extends gratitude to Family Connections of West Hartford, CT and the staff of the Hebrew Home and Hospital, West Hartford, CT.
Funeral services will be held Monday, July 30, 2012 at 1 p.m., in the chapel of Weinstein Mortuary, 640 Farmington Ave., Hartford, CT. Rabbi David J. Small and Cantor Sanford Cohn will officiate. Interment will follow at the Emanuel Synagogue Cemetery, 1361 Berlin Turnpike, Wethersfield, CT. Following interment, a memorial lunch will be observed at the Hebrew Home and Hospital, 1 Abrahms Blvd., West Hartford, CT. After the memorial luncheon, Kaddish will be recited at the daily minyan at Emanuel Synagogue Chapel, 160 Mohegan Dr., West Hartford, CT at 7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Edith’s memory may be made to the Hartford Chapter of Hadassah, 740 N. Main St., West Hartford, CT 06117. For further information, directions, or to sign the guestbook for Edith, please visit online at www.weinsteinmortuary.com.