Judith Zukerman Kaufman
Judith (Judy) Zukerman Kaufman, our most beloved mother, wife, daughter, sister, grandmother, aunt, teacher, and friend died of a heart attack at the Capitol Lakes assisted living community, where she was recovering from a staph infection. Judy was born in 1937, in Chicago, and grew up in a rich and vibrant immigrant Jewish family. From her family, she gained a life-long appreciation for music, graduating as a harp major from the University of Illinois-Champaign. In Champaign, she met her beloved husband of 53 years, Jerry, who asked her to sing Renaissance madrigals with him on their first date. She received a master’s degree in education at Champaign and with Jerry she moved to the south side of Chicago, where she became active in the civil rights movement. Judith taught first grade at an African-American school and, with her own money, purchased books for the children that portrayed their own experience and history. She later worked for Catalyst for Youth, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young African-American and Latino high school students attend college.
In 1971, Judith moved to Madison with Jerry and her two young children, Ariel and Daniel. In Madison, she served as the director of the Head Start program. She also became a pillar of the Jewish community, dedicating herself to living Jewish religious and ethical precepts as well as transforming Jewish tradition to allow for the full and equal participation of women. She served as the first female president of Beth Israel Center, a ground-breaking role that influenced many women in the community. Afterwards, she attended the Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York, where she gained a second master’s degree. More recently, Judith played a key role in founding Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, a Reconstructionist community in Madison. She tutored students for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah-beginning with her daughter, Ariel-until the end of her life.
A passionate lover of life, we know of no one who loved music, dancing, art, and literature more than Judith. In her fifties, she began learning Italian out of a life-long love for the language and culture. She also began to write poetry, which was rooted in her life experiences and the immigrant Jewish world of her family. In 2004, she published a book of her poems, “Amsterdam Days,” about the two years she spent living in the Netherlands with Jerry. Those personal efforts were twinned with an unshakable commitment to social justice, rooted in the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam-an ethical concept that calls on people to try and “repair the world.” Even in the last few years of life, when she was battling many illnesses, she continued to volunteer: delivering meals to the elderly and those less fortunate, canvassing for political causes and candidates, and mentoring high school students at Malcolm Shabazz City School. She enthusiastically participated in the protests at the Capitol against Act 10 and other anti-worker measures.
We are bereft from her passing. Rest in peace, darling mother, sister, bubbe, and friend. Our grief is infinite, but we are comforted knowing that you will be lying beside your beloved Jerry forever.
Judith is predeceased by her parents, Chaim and Dorothy Zukerman, and her husband and life partner, Jerry. She is survived by her children, Ariel of Madison, and Daniel, of Brooklyn, NY; their spouses Michael Kissick and Juliette Mapp; her cherished grandsons Benjamin and Luca; and her sister, Elyse Zukerman, of Chicago.
The funeral service will be held at Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Drive, Madison, on Monday, March 20 at 11 am. Burial will follow in Natural Path Sanctuary, Verona, WI.
In lieu of flowers, you may make a donation by check or online to any of the following organizations Judy loved: Malcom Shabazz City High School, 1601 N Sherman Ave Madison, WI 53704, www.shabazz.madison.k12.wi.us/support-shabazz; Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St., Milwaukee, WI, www.woodlandpattern.org/support/; Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., 302 N. Jackson St., Milwaukee, WI, 53202, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/.
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