ORT activist Paula Goldstrom dies at 91

When Paula Goldstrom asked people to contribute to Women’s American ORT, it was hard to refuse.

“She was a very compassionate woman, very well-respected and liked, and she just had that way about her,” said her friend Marilyn Rosekind of Foster City.

Active in Women’s American ORT on both the local and national level, Goldstrom died at home in Belmont on Monday, Sept. 26. She was 91.

Born Feb. 24, 1914, in New York, Paula Klein was the daughter of immigrants — her father from Berlin, her mother from Austria.

Her father worked in textiles, but she never got to know him; he was holding his 18-month old daughter when he suffered a massive heart attack and died.

“She had a very difficult childhood, as her mother had a very difficult time making a living, especially when the Depression came along,” said her husband of 64 years, Kurt Goldstrom of Belmont.

The couple met and married in 1941. After the war, they settled in Los Angeles, and then in 1950 moved to the Peninsula, where they became active at Peninsula Temple Sholom.

Kurt Goldstrom said his wife became involved with Women’s American ORT because she was concerned with the numbers of immigrants in the United States who were “very educated, but getting minimal jobs because they

didn’t speak the language.” The organization runs schools around the world and provides vocational training.

Goldstrom spent her entire professional career working as a secretary, becoming a legal secretary for the district attorney’s office of San Mateo County the last 18 years of her working life.

She first became involved with the ORT in 1952, said Rosekind, who remembered when her local ORT chapter honored Goldstrom on the occasion of her 85th birthday.

“She read an article about an ORT meeting in South San Francisco, attended the meeting and then joined the North Peninsula chapter as a charter member,” said Rosekind.

In 1954 she was elected chapter president, and then a few years later became regional president.

In 1961, Goldstrom became national vice president of Women’s American ORT, and served 16 years as western expansion chair of the national executive committee. As such, she was responsible for the opening of chapters in many places where there had never been an ORT presence, such as Fresno, Sacramento, Denver and several in Arizona.

She also served as Israel Bonds chair of the organization and on the board of directors for the World ORT Union.

In her national capacity, she traveled a great deal for the organization, doing everything from participating in conferences, delivering keynote addresses and visiting ORT schools around the world. In one congress held in Rome, she sat on the committee that dealt with changing ORT bylaws.

Locally, she also served as the major gifts chairman, a position that suited her well, according to Rosekind. “She just had that way of soliciting people and telling them about all the work ORT does, and it was hard to say no. Her reputation of being so involved and being a giving person and all the work she did alone,” made her highly respected.

Goldstrom’s daughter, Leslie Babson, of Chicago described her mother as “very strong and determined,” noting that “she overcame a lot of obstacles in her life to get to where she was. That she was able to live a comfortable, full life was quite impressive.”

In addition to her husband and daughter, Goldstrom is survived by her son Foster of Oakland and four grandchildren.

Donations can be made to Women’s American ORT c/o Betty Bernstein, 204 Poplar Ave, San Mateo, CA 94402.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."