Sandra Weiner: A Living Legacy
Anyone who has met Sandra Goldfine Weiner knows she has been a force for good, a beacon for change, and most definitely, a woman of action who gets things done. Time after time, in Houston and around the world, she has been a leader who makes important things happen.
Born in 1933 in Duluth, Minnesota, Sandra had a warm Jewish upbringing as one of Abe and Fannie Goldfine's three children. She was involved in Young Judea, becoming a dedicated Zionist as a teenager. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where her roommate from Houston fixed her up with Leon Weiner. "We met in April and were married in August," she recalls. "He said, 'marry me or something,' and I responded, 'marry me or nothing.' The couple moved to Houston, where Leon managed operations for his father's Weiner's Department Stores. Over the course of their 60-year marriage, they raised four children, and today, the family includes 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, who are the light and life of their beloved matriarch.
Leon and Sandra became active and dedicated members of the Jewish community on the local, national and international level. One of the ten founding members of Congregation Brith Shalom, Sandra became the first female president of a local synagogue. At the Jewish Federation, she served as Board Member for many years before assuming the role of the first female Campaign Chair and President, and at the national level served as the first woman Major Gifts Chair, raising over $250 million for the annual appeal. She served as the Chairman for the Advisory Council to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and as Co-Chairman for the March on Washington for Soviet Jews in 1987. The couple was instrumental in the growth and support of the Emery/Weiner School.
Additionally, Sandra served as both President and Chairman of the Board of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and a Board member of the Jewish Museum of New York. Over the years, she received the American Jewish Committee's Max Nathan Human Relations Award, the Jewish Community Center's David H. White Memorial Award, the Jewish National Fund's Woman of Valor, the State of Israel Bonds Eleanor Roosevelt Centennial Celebration Award, and the American Jewish Committee's Woman of Achievement. She and Leon established the Weiner Fellowship at The Kinkaid School, the Sandra and Leon Weiner Philanthropy Award at the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Leon Weiner Employment Fund at Jewish Family Service Houston.
In 2014, Sandra fulfilled a lifelong dream and became a Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Brith Shalom, which in turn, honored her impact on the community during its 60th anniversary celebration in 2017.
Sandra's roots with Holocaust Museum Houston are powerful and deep. She first learned of the Holocaust as a teenager. "I always felt guilty that I could not save the six million who perished, so I decided to work to make Israel strong, so Jews would have a safe haven to return to after the war," she explains. "I gave business to survivors when I could, and always tried to show my empathy and compassion."
In 1981, when local Holocaust survivor Siegi Izakson approached her with the idea of a Holocaust education center and memorial in Houston, Sandra used her considerable influence as president of the Houston Jewish Federation to invigorate the project and help establish the Holocaust Education Foundation and Memorial Museum. In 1992, Sandra and the Center leaders organized The Circle of Tolerance to raise funds for a new museum, and in 1996, 13 years after Izakson's first dreamt of the idea, Holocaust Museum Houston officially opened.
"The Museum quickly became a second home to survivors," Sandra recalls. "We raised the money for the building and exhibits without any government funding. Our local community is outstanding, and I'm so proud we stood up for the right thing," she adds. "I am so grateful to the many young people who continue to grow the Museum's important mission. I believe the next generation should keep their ideas in the right place so I wanted to leave a bequest to demonstrate that it's important to help good causes while you're still alive. Also, it's very important to die the way you lived, leaving what you have to causes that matter most."
"Humankind must learn to live together in peace and harmony, and the Museum fosters Holocaust remembrance, understanding and education. It stands as a symbol of hope that people will not forget the atrocities. We now have a place to preserve the memory of those who perished and the stories of those who survived." A member of the Museum's Generation to Generation Legacy Society, Sandra received the institution's prestigious Guardian of the Human Spirit Award in 2006.
"Being a part of founding the museum is one of my proudest achievements. I think it will contribute to our community for decades to come."