Obituaries for June 15

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Esther Gelman, former Montgomery County councilmember, 84

Esther Paper Gelman, a three-term member of the Montgomery County Council and longtime power in the Democratic Party, died June 6 at her home in Potomac. She was 84 and had been ill for several years with pulmonary hypertension.


Gelman was a leader on planning and zoning issues, the author of the first legislation to ban smoking in restaurants and sponsor of the second shelter for abused women in the country. She was also the first woman to head the Maryland Association of County Officials.

On completing 12 years on the council, Gelman ran for Congress, losing in the Democratic primary to Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a former member of the Maryland General Assembly.

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After leaving public office in 1986, she went on to head the local Israel Bonds office. Soon after leaving that position, Gov. William Schaefer asked her to establish a public-private partnership promoting Maryland trade with Israel. She then went on to establish Gelco, a zoning consulting practice.

In addition to close working relationships with Govs. Parris Glendening and Schaefer, Gelman played an active role in the careers of Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen, congressional candidate Jamie Raskin, Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett, Maryland Delegate Aruna Miller and others.


At the request of then-Superintendent of Schools Paul Vance, Gelman later took the lead in creating the Montgomery County Public Schools Educational Foundation, which provides scholarships for needy students at Montgomery College. She also procured a headquarters building for Mobile Med and worked with U.S. District

Judge Roger Titus, who was then in a private law practice, to obtain the necessary zoning for the facility.

Gelman, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Ostrava-Lubelsk and a native of Baltimore, grew up in Denver. She was an honors graduate of the University of Colorado, which later awarded her a distinguished alumna award. She and her husband of nearly 65 years, Norman I. Gelman, moved to Montgomery County in 1957.

The Gelman family were members of Ohr Kodesh Congregation (originally MCJC) from 1957 until 2000, when they became affiliated with Adat Shalom, where their daughter was then the congregation president. Gelman was also a life member of Hadassah.

In addition to her husband, Gelman is survived by daughters Judith Gelman of Bethesda and Sharon Gelman of Los Angeles and Potomac; three grandchildren, Aviva Diaz of Tampa, Fla., Ezra Salop and Joshua Salop of Bethesda, and a great-grandson, Zion Diaz.

Robert H. Weiner, JCC leader

Robert H. Weiner, an executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Washington who helped develop what became the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, died on June 1. The Chevy Chase resident was 97.

He grew up in Rochester, N.Y. As a child, he developed a lifelong love of music, particularly opera. He played the violin from a young age, served as concertmaster of the Eastman School of Music Youth Orchestra and continued to play as an adult. He was a founding board member of the Washington Community Music School, serving inner-city youth, and served on the boards of several local civic opera companies.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Buffalo. In 1942, he received a Master of Science in social service administration from then-Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

After working for two years with at-risk youth in the Midwest, Weiner began his years of service to the Jewish community. He worked in the Jewish community center field in Louisville, Ky., Buffalo, N.Y., and San Antonio, Texas, from the mid-1940s to the late 1950s.

In 1958, Weiner was invited to serve as executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Washington, then located at 16th and Q streets NW. He provided professional leadership in the planning, construction and development of what became the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. When he retired in 1983, the board named him executive director emeritus.

Weiner mentored many in his professional and personal lives. He served his local community as Democratic Party precinct chairman, and was on the Montgomery County Recreation Board and the Community Services Coordinating Committee; he also served on and chaired the state Commission on Ethnic Affairs. Through the years, he also served on the boards of synagogues and other Jewish organizations, including Amcha for Tsedakah.

Family and genealogy were his central interests during retirement. He and his wife of 66 years, Jane Lasner Weiner, traveled widely in the United States and around the world to locate and befriend their cousins.  He also did oral history interviews with many family members and wrote more than one book telling their stories.

His wife died in 2008. He is survived by his children, Jerry (Hedy) Bookin-Weiner of Columbia and Marilyn (Allen) Kohan of South Orange, N.J. Survivors also include grandchildren Michal (Michael) Tingson, Rafi (Arielle) Kohan, Noah (Elise) Kohan, Sara (Matt) Brookner, Talia Kohan and Dr. Eitan Kohan. He is also survived by great-grandson Caleb Tingson and fiancée Charlotte Gottlieb.

Memorial donations may be made to the Robert H. Weiner Fund for Staff Training or the Jane L. and Robert H. Weiner Museum Endowment, both at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD 20852.

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