Myrna Seidman


Myrna Seidman, died quietly at home on Feb. 2, after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 87. A native of Brooklyn, NY, she graduated from James Madison High School and Brooklyn College, and she received a Master’s Degree in Demography and Population Studies from Brown University and a subsequent mid-career Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan.

Myrna moved to Washington, D.C., at the end of 1961, where she went to work for Washington Action for Youth and a number of other programs in the war on poverty. After the birth of her sons, she returned to work as an instructor at the Washington Institute of Technology and in the Sociology Department of Howard University, where she developed and taught a course on the culture of poverty.

For the last 25 years of her career, she applied her public health credentials to the design and management of international programs in maternal health and family planning and was actively involved in evaluating and providing training and technical assistance to programs in Somalia, the Philippines and over a dozen other countries in Asia and Africa. Myrna was also active in community leadership and volunteer service.

For the last 20 years, she served in a variety of capacities for her synagogue, Adat Shalom Congregation, including president, board member, chair of adult education and co-developer and facilitator of an 18-month program of foundational studies in Jewish scholarship and ritual practice for adults.

She served for many years as a community member of the Washington Hospital Center Institutional Review Board, where she reviewed research proposals to ensure study participant safety and informed consent. She volunteered for the International Rescue Committee, tutoring Afghan refugees in spoken and written English.

She was also an active member of her apartment tenants’ association and a board member of the Friendship Heights Neighbors Network. Myrna would gladly claim the mantle of “culture vulture.”

She was an intrepid world traveler, active theatergoer, attendee of the ballet, symphony, lectures, and museum exhibits and was a member of numerous book clubs, salons and writing groups. But her favorite activity of the past 25 years has been to travel and spend time with her six grandchildren, including a near-perfect attendance record at their innumerable music, dance and theater performances.

Nor could she resist the gratification of providing sage (never unsolicited) parenting advice to her sons. She leaves them with an indelible legacy.

Myrna is survived by her family, including her two sons, Jonathan (Mary) and Jesse, six grandchildren, Carly, Ava, Isabelle, Sophie, Ethan and Sam, her younger brother, Dan, two nieces, Rhona (Lou) and Caryn, five grandnieces and nephews, Jordan, Jamie, Olivia, Willow and Hayden, and her sister-in-law, Pat Dooley Seidman. She is predeceased by her parents Hyman and Pauline Seidman, her older brother Sam and her nephew by marriage, Marc Becker.

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