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Jacobs honored for volunteerism

November 24, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Last week, Jeanne Jacobs was honored inside her beloved synagogue for the work she does outside the synagogue.

"They are giving me the Boneh Award, which means 'builder of the synagogue,'" Jacobs said.

The first such honor was bestowed last year on Ben Chlebnikow, who like Jacobs is a tireless volunteer at Congregation B'nai Abraham.

Jacobs, 78, said the award recognizes her efforts to help the synagogue grow and develop. She said that means growing within the community it calls home, namely Hagerstown.

"Jewish people are here in Hagerstown and we are all growing the synagogue in the community," she said. "More than just the rabbi, we all need to be active in the community."

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Jews long have taken on roles at area hospitals, clinics, hospice and in the recent surge of interfaith interaction going on in Washington County, Jacobs said. She said she is one of many who give freely of their time in those areas.

One of Jacobs' key roles within her synagogue is that of membership chairman. In that role, she is kept current on new people moving into the area who may be interested in joining the congregation.

"When I hear of someone new, I send them a packet of information, and then I contact them," Jacobs said. She often invites newcomers out to her Scott Hill Drive home for a meal around her huge, but cozy dining room table.

"I love to cook, so that also gives me a reason to do that," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said she can remember what new people are feeling, since she and her late husband, Harold, came to Hagerstown when he retired in 1974.

"We chose Hagerstown, mainly because it had an active synagogue. At that time our youngest child was still in Hebrew education, so a synagogue was vital," Jacobs said.

The Jacobses had five children, who range in age from 37 to 55. All live relatively close by and visit their mother often. She also has seven grandchildren.

"I'm hoping most of them will be here for the service," Jacobs said of the event held Friday.

Born in Paris, Jacobs lived there through World War II.

"Those were very different days. I remember being scared all the time," Jacobs said.

She came to America in 1947 with her American husband.

Harold Jacobs, who died 19 years ago, worked in the textile industry in New York before the war. When he joined the military, he was sent overseas, where he met his future wife.

A housewife and mother of three at that time, Jacobs decided to go home to France to have her fourth child while her husband was stationed in Korea. When he got out of the service, the growing Jacobs family settled in Silver Spring, Md., living there for 17 years, she said.

Her husband encouraged her to complete her education, so she earned her master's degree at the University of Maryland. After his death, she put her education to work as a French teacher at Williamsport High School for 12 years.

"Later, I taught English/French to executives at Mack Trucks when they were owned by Renault," Jacobs said. Then she taught at Hagerstown Community College and St. James School for two years, later tutoring there.

Congregation B'nai Abraham is at 53 E. Baltimore St. Jacobs describes it as being a healthy size with active older people and young members with children.

"We were welcomed here so many years ago. Now I am happy to welcome others," she said.

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