Dorothy Yarock Benjamin


"Both my brother Howard and I were extremely proud of my mother, her accomplishments and her commitment to K'lal Yisroel.  It is our wish that in each generation of women, there will be many to emulate her," says Nancy Leavitt.  The Dorothy Benjamin Women's Leadership Fund, established by her daughter Nancy Leavitt and son Howard Benjamin in her memory, will carry forth her role model.


Dorothy was born in Slutsk, Beylorus, near the end of the 19th century, and after her mother died when she was an infant, her siblings brought her to Worcester in 1903 to join her father and older brother.  The family had most modest means themselves, but, as she used to say, "the door was always open to anyone who needed a meal or a bed."


Following the untimely death of her husband Harry Benjamin in 1936, and left with two young children, Dorothy moved in with her married sister's family.  She took over her husband's electrical supply business, with which she remained involved until her passing.   


Dorothy always found time in her busy family and business life to give both her efforts and money to the Jewish community she loved.  She was an early donor to what was then the Worcester Jewish Federation, and understood the need to increase the money raised in its annual campaign.  She, along with a few other involved women, realized that women’s separate giving would both augment the campaign as well as give women more of a voice in the organization.  They established the Women’s Division of the Federation and achieved the dual goals of more involvement and more dollars raised.  She spent many years of service on the boards of several Jewish communal institutions, favorites being Women’s Division and the Jewish Service Center for Older Adults.


She was committed to involving women in charitable work – single or married – since she believed each individual should stand up for herself.  She understood well that women make their own decisions about how to spend money in the household, whether it was dollars earned outside of the home or shared.  She wanted charitable giving in her own name to be one of the important decisions for each woman to make.  She was never afraid of giving or of soliciting, and she did both well.


Dorothy taught her daughter early on the important of working for and financially supporting organizations and institutions, which helped those in need, and enhanced community life.  She made her into a most involved volunteer who became the first woman President of the Federation!  Nancy Leavitt wanted to do something for the Federation beyond annual giving, and to perpetuate her mother’s legacy.  "I did not want my mother's name or her work in the community to be forgotten. In its small way, the fund has supported, and will continue to support programs that enable the Jewish women of Central Mass to learn more about the skills they will need to become active donors, board members and officers of Jewish institutions and organizations, and continue the work about which she so deeply cared."


Dorothy Benjamin passed away in 1991.