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Honoree Fran Stier and her family
Honoree Fran Stier and her family

Tikkun Olam in Media

A true friend of the community

Congregation Beth Israel of Media today announced that Fran Stier has won its 2006 "Friend of the Community Award." She is being recognized for her work as leader of the social action efforts of Congregation Ohev Shalom of Wallingford, PA. Led by Ms. Stier, the Social Action Committee of Ohev Shalom has created and participates in numerous programs that provide food and education to those in need in Delaware County.

Ohev Shalom, a Conservative synagogue, was founded in 1891 in Chester,  Pennsylvania, and moved to Wallingford in 1961. The congregation never forgot its roots in Chester, and today many of its social action programs benefit that community.

Ms. Stier, a member of Ohev Shalom for 23 years, remembers her first social action effort. "Several families volunteered to bring Christmas dinner to the Chester Salvation Army, but were overwhelmed by the logistics. Genuardi's take-out saved the day. From that dinner, we joined the congregations like Beth Israel who serve dinners at the Life Center in Upper Darby, and got involved with Habitat for Humanity's Haven House. The Talmud says: one mitzvah (good deed) draws another mitzvah in
its train."

One prominent project that Ms. Stier helped create is the Reading Partners program, which pairs volunteer reader/teachers with young children in Chester. She recalls that in the early days "we wanted an incentive for the kids to concentrate --- our teen volunteers suggested candy, but the recreation department head wanted to promote healthy eating. Instead, we started letting the kids keep any books they read."

In addition to the Reading Partners program, Ms. Stier has inspired Ohev Shalom congregants to participate in a wide variety of food programs. Members prepare and serve meals at the Life Center in Upper Darby, make Thanksgiving food donations to the Chester Eastside Ministries, raise funds for the Baby Manna program of the Greater Philadelphia Food Bank and "adopt" needy families at holiday time with PathWaysPA, a local non-profit social agency.

Said Ms. Stier of her work, "I was standing on another volunteer's doorstep, talking with her about how hard it was for a few volunteers in an after school program to have much impact when Chester's schools are so troubled and the families are in so much turmoil. The other volunteer quoted Rabbi Tarfon, who said 'It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it'."

Ms. Stier attended the University of Michigan and received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona. She taught at Purdue and worked for the US Agency for International Development, then became an actuary. In 2000 she was honored by Ohev Shalom as its Woman of the Year. Her husband, Steve Maurer, is Professor of Mathematics at Swarthmore College. They reside with their two sons in Swarthmore.

Fran Stier will be honored at a ceremony to be held at Congregation Beth Israel on Friday, April 7 at 6:30 PM. For further information, contact Congregation Beth Israel at (610) 566-4645.

Since 1998, the Social Action committee of Congregation Beth Israel has presented the "Friend of the Community Award" to individuals or groups whose work in Delaware County exemplifies the Jewish value of "Tikkun Olam," or repairing the world. Members of Beth Israel participate in a range of community projects, such as serving home-cooked meals at the Life Shelter in Upper Darby, organizing a coat drive to benefit families in shelters in Chester, and collecting donations to MAZON, the Jewish Response to Hunger.

Congregation Beth Israel is affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and has served the Media community for more than 70 years. It is located at 542 South New Middletown Road in Media, PA.