Eleanor Betty Hirsh, an educator who championed preservation of the Lloyd Street Synagogue and was a founder of the Jewish Historical Society, died of cancer Sunday at her Pikesville home. She was 83.
Born Eleanor Betty Rosenthal in Baltimore and raised in Mount Washington, she was a 1940 graduate of Forest Park High School and earned a bachelor's degree in education from Goucher College. She was known by her initials, E.B.
She joined Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, and in 1975 became the second woman to serve as its president. She was long active in its sisterhood and founded its preschool.
She organized and directed the Mount Washington Cooperative Nursery School and helped found the Maryland Council of Cooperative Nursery Schools. In the mid-1960s, she joined the Baltimore City Department of Education to develop and run its parent education division.
About the same time, when Baltimore Hebrew's early home at the Lloyd Street Synagogue was threatened with demolition, she helped to save what was then the third-oldest synagogue in the country. She was also a founder of the Jewish Historical Society, which is now the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
She became the society's president and worked for construction of the museum at Lloyd and Watson streets.
"She loved Baltimore history and Baltimore Jewish history," said her son, Allan T. Hirsh III of Pikesville. "She was always giving tours. She had a fantastic knowledge of the city and could say from memory which pharmacy sat on which corner."
Mrs. Hirsh edited and wrote for a family business, Ottenheimer Publishers. She edited a revised edition of Webster's Dictionary and wrote a children's Bible while assisted by an interfaith editorial advisory committee. The book, published in 1973, received Roman Catholic approval.
Mrs. Hirsh also served several terms on the board of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. She held offices in Women of Reform Judaism, among other organizations.
In the early 1970s, she was president of the Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations of Maryland, and with Shoshana Cardin wrote Leadership Logic, a guidebook for nonprofit organizations.
"I am just one of thousands of volunteers across the country," she told an Evening Sun reporter when she won the American Jewish Congress' Louise Wise Award in 1973. "My family comes first, then I feel an obligation to my community. My third responsibility is to my religious convictions."
This month, Baltimore Hebrew honored her for a "lifetime of service and commitment to the congregation."
Services will be held at noon tomorrow at her synagogue, 7401 Park Heights Ave.
In addition to her son, she is survived by her husband of almost 63 years, Allan T. Hirsh Jr.; two daughters, Helene H. Waranch of Pikesville and Eleanor J. Hirsh of St. Croix, Virgin Islands; a brother, Sidney J. Rosenthal of West Palm Beach, Fla.; a sister, Emily R. Levitas of Baltimore; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.