“Thank God I can do this for others,” was the typical refrain of Sylvia Blajwas whenever she made a gift to the Jewish Council for the Aging (JCA), where hers is the name behind the Sylvia & Abe Blajwas Center for Productive Aging. Through the Blajwas Center, JCA shatters negative stereotypes about growing old while providing programs to help older adults land jobs and learn new technologies. “Those are programs that make people feel truly alive,” she said. “They make a difference.”
At a young age, Sylvia and her family emigrated to the U.S. from England, eventually settling in Washington, D.C. She worked at the Salvation Army so she could attend the George Washington University at night. At GW, she received a B.A. in psychology and fell in love with fellow student Abe Blajwas. Abe and Sylvia married in 1935, and then worked together to build and maintain his medical practice. They had a son, Harold, now in California.
Sylvia’s mother taught her the importance of charity, but it was a trip to Israel that was the catalyst for an adult life centered on philanthropy at Hadassah, JCA, and other organizations. “The thing about giving,” she said, “is that it comes back to you many times over. … And the best part is knowing that your gift continues to give long after you make it.”
Sylvia told JCA leaders that she would like to be remembered as “a nice Jewish girl who knew the inspiring love of a wonderful husband, a dear family and close friends. Those gifts made everything else possible.”
Sylvia died on Sept. 18, 2013, yet she had lived to celebrate her 100th birthday last year. She was predeceased by her beloved brothers Sidney and Lester Poretsky, and her beloved Abe.