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Hassenfeld, Sylvia Kay


HASSENFELD, SYLVIA KAY , U.S. philanthropist, community activist. Hassenfeld was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after World War i, the daughter of Sophie and Joseph Kay. After marrying Merrill Hassenfeld, she moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and joined his family members in their extensive service to the Jewish and local community. As the Hassenfeld's family business expanded from pencil manufacturing to the Hasbro Corporation, one of the foremost global manufacturers of toys and games, Sylvia Hassenfeld became involved with the Hasbro Children's Foundation, Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, and other philanthropic initiatives. She also occupied Jewish communal positions of increasing responsibility and influence, chairing the National Women's Division of United Jewish Appeal, serving as a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and becoming the first female president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (jdc). During Hassenfeld's tenure as president of the jdc from 1988 to 1992, she worked to protect the Jewish populations of Eastern Europe as the communist Soviet Union dissolved. She also supported the Israeli government's efforts to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel. After her term as president of the jdc was over, she became the chairman of the board of the jdc. Hassenfeld was a longtime advocate for Israel and a major figure in the Jerusalem Foundation. Other Jewish communal activities included sitting on the boards of the United Israel Appeal, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the Council of Jewish Federations. She was on the boards of the New York University Medical Center, the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University as well as the Hasbro Children's Foundation. She was also appointed a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. In 1994 the American Jewish Historical Society honored her with the Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award, an award that was noted in the Senate of the United States. As one of the few women to achieve such stature in the world of Jewish philanthropy, Hassenfeld was an important and effective member of the American Jewish community.

[Melissa Klapper (2nd ed.)]

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