Frances Eizenstat, a leader and a role model

A leading light in non-profit sector, Frances was the driving force behind the first screening program for Tay Sachs disease.

Frances Eizenstat 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader)
Frances Eizenstat 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader)
Frances Carol Eizenstat was born in the Boston suburb of Everett, Massachusetts, 68 years ago to Eli and Sarah Taylor. She was the wife of 45 years to Stuart Eizenstat, the mother of two surviving children, Jay Eizenstat and Brian Eizenstat, mother-in-law to daughters-in-law Jessica Eizenstat and Erin Eizenstat, and grandmother to seven grandchildren (Menachem, Bracha, Eli Kalmon, Michal, Yitzchock, Julia and Caroline).
She was a role model for women balancing professional accomplishments, non-profit leadership, and a loving friend, sister, wife, mother and grandmother. She combined a life of professional accomplishment focused on the disadvantaged in the US, and on Jews in distress around the world, especially in the former Soviet Union, with a deep commitment to Judaism, the State of Israel, and to her myriad friends (each of whom felt she was their best friend), and to her family.
She obtained her undergraduate degree at Brandeis University (1965), where her deep affection and ties to the State of Israel began, spending part of her junior year there in the Hiatt program. Years later, Fran took her two children, Jay and Brian, for extended summer stays in Israel.
She obtained a Masters in Social Work from Boston College (1967), and then in mid-career, with two teenage boys, earned a second master's degree, an MBA from George Washington, with an "A" average.
During her professional career, spanning several decades, she worked in a variety of jobs focused on helping low income Americans achieve the American dream. These included working in the Model Cities program (1968-70) in Atlanta; the Children's Defense Fund with Marion Wright Edelman in Washington; a leader of the White House Conference on Families (1979-81), where she helped shape federal programs to strengthen low income families; and after earning her MBA, serving as a Housing Manager in the low income housing section at FNMA.
But with all of these professional achievement, it was in the non-profit voluntary sector that she made an even greater mark. Fran developed the first screening program for Tay Sachs disease, a malady particularly affecting children of Ashkenazic Jewish women, as Vice President of the Atlanta chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), which served as a model for the nation and prevented countless tragedies.  As Vice Chair and President-elect of NCJW, she was recognized as one of the outstanding young leaders in Atlanta. She was selected for the prestigious Leadership Atlanta program in 1976.  Fran created and co-chaired the Atlanta Institute of Jewish Studies as a part of the Atlanta Bureau of Jewish Education and chaired the Institute with her husband and they would get over 300 people a week across the Jewish denominational spectrum for more than a dozen courses.
In 1972, Fran was a  senior leader of the Andrew Young for Congress campaign, leading the grass roots organization on the north side of Georgia's 5th congressional district, and playing an indispensable role in electing the first African American to Congress since Reconstruction days.
Her non-profit leadership took on national and international dimensions when she moved with her husband Stuart Eizenstat to Washington, when he became Chief Domestic Policy Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, and later held four Senate-confirmed positions. She served for two terms on the national board of directors of Mazon, the Jewish response to hunger.
During the Clinton Administration, as the wife of the Ambassador to the European Union, it was at her initiative that the US Ambassador's residence was the first kosher residence in the history of the US diplomatic corps.
For the past 12 years she has served on the international board of directors of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which serves Jews in distress around the world. She has been an indefatigable member of the board, participating in trips from Argentina and Russia to Israel.
For the past four years, she has served on the board of directors of the Defiant Requiem Foundation, which has sponsored "Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin", a concert drama which honors the courage of the Jewish prisoner choir and its leader Rafael Schechter at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust, which has been performed to critical and audience acclaim from the Kennedy Center and Budapest to Atlanta and Jerusalem, as well as an award-winning documentary, "Defiant Requiem", which brilliantly recognizes the defiance of the Nazis through art and culture. Most recently, she was helping to head the effort for the Defiant Requiem concert at Lincoln Center in New York with the UJA Federation of New York, with the benefits going to Holocaust survivor initiatives of the Federation.  Helping Holocaust survivors in the United States and around the world was a passion of Fran's.  This work animated her work with the Federation, the Defiant Requiem Foundation, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
But it was her sterling personality qualities that will be most remembered--her veins were filled with the milk of human kindness. She was courageous in the face of medical adversity, continuing to contribute her enormous talents through a myriad of activities and organizations. She was considered a best friend by scores, was a loving and devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. She was a fierce advocate for learning needs of her children.  May her memory be a blessing.