Posted on May 2, 2012
Renée Dorfman was born in Chicago as the youngest of five children. Her Hungarian father worked as a cabinet maker, while her mother, of Russian ancestry, devoted herself to raising the family. The family was poor, yet Renée’s mom did all she could to make the most of their fixed budget like having a set meal each night that repeated weekly. While the Conservative Jewish family observed religious holidays, more personal celebrations – such as having a birthday party – came seldom. So when Renée’s family threw her a surprise 70th birthday party in the Temple social hall, you can imagine how overjoyed she was and in awe of the more than 100 loved ones who attended.
Renée’s life personifies the theme “coming full circle.” She was raised by a tremendously loving mother and then become one herself to her three children and three grandchildren. Then there was the time she sold her home in Seal Beach where she and her first husband, of blessed memory, had raised their family to years later marrying the very person who bought that house and her once again living there amid all the wonderful memories. There are other stories within her life where the references of coming full circle aren’t so happy. Ironically, her first beloved husband, Jerry Blitstein, died of a heart attack on September 9 (1987). Years later, Renée’s second husband, Nate Dorfman, succumbed to cancer…also on September 9 (2009). Being the positive spirit that Renée is, she is just so grateful to have had two wonderful marriages to men who were also adored by the Temple congregation. Jerry was very active as Brotherhood Treasurer and Nate helped out wherever Renée needed.
Over the course of her career, Renée worked as a legal secretary and often times took on attorney level tasks when appropriate. She also was an office manager and for a time ran her own secretarial business with an office in Los Alamitos. Al Caplan, the Temple’s first president, was one of her past employers and clients. She went on to become a realtor and found time to share her secretarial skills with the Temple as Board Secretary. She also served three terms as Sisterhood President, chaired two of the Temple’s annual New Year’s Eve parties in the early years, and is TBD’s “Latka Lady” as she manages a crew of Temple volunteers and 150 pounds of potatoes each Chanukah to ensure we have amazing latkas at our carnival. And, if you’ve received a wonderful TBD Mazelgram for your birthday or wedding anniversary filled with names of congregants wishing you well, you have Renée to thank as she’s been the one personalizing and sending those, on behalf of Sisterhood, for the past seven years.
It’s fun to note how Renée met her first husband. A man named Jerry asked her to dance at her friend’s Jewish wedding and she would soon learn he was a ‘wedding crasher.’ They dated and married within a year. When their youngest, Edie, was just 10 months old, Jerry was chosen as part of a team to help his employer expand its operations to the west coast. So the family left Chicago and settled down in north Long Beach. Their oldest son Larry lives in Sacramento and is a news photographer for NBC affiliate KCRA, while Edie is a graphic designer with a great sense for business and now works in our Temple office. Oldest daughter Gail lives locally in a residential facility for those with special needs. Visits to her are a very special treat.
Aside from doting over family, Renée likes to play Mahjong and Pan. Shopping for clothes is another favorite pastime. She and Nate loved to travel (Europe, Israel, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and cruises). They once took a 5-week cross-country trip by car, as well.
She has been an active member of Temple Beth David since 1969 where many years ago Larry and Edie were Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmed. Renée was also in the first adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah class in December 1972. She says, “My hope for TBD is that we keep going no matter what and be the best we can be. And, that we continue to love and respect one another and to always be there for one another.”
These are words from someone who makes sure those actions come full circle! And for that, our Temple and members are truly blessed to have Renée Dorfman as one of our fellow members and cherished leaders.