Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sophie Silfen, 97

Just came back from Sophie Silfen's funeral this morning. She was not only a friend to me after my father died, she was a remarkable person. There were over 250 mourners, in addition to the 5 rabbis on the bimah. Her flag-draped coffin was taken to Arlington for military burial after the eulogies.

Born on the Lower East Side of New York, Sophie had been a career WAC who served Generals MacArthur, Westmoreland, and President Eisenhower before she started teaching Hebrew school at my synagogue after retirement some 30 years ago. She had reached the rank of Master Sargeant, and I sometimes called her "Sarge," which made her smile. I remember that she told me that she thought President Truman made a mistake when he fired MacArthur. Her oral history of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam has been recorded by the Veteran's History Project of the Library of Congress.

She never had a television, even in her nursing home room. She never owned a car, either, preferring public transportation.

Sophie will be missed by an awful lot of people. I was lucky to have known her. Here is her Washington Post obituary:

On Sunday, December 26, 2010, Sophie Silfen of Washington, DC. Beloved sister of Celia Silfen; also survived by her nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. Funeral service will be held at Adas Israel Congregation, 2850 Quebec Street, NW, Washington, DC on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 10 am. Interment private in Arlington National Cemetery. Contributions may be made to Sophie Silfen Shalom Tinok Fund c/o Adas Israel Congregation. Arrangements by Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home, Inc. under Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington Contract.