Date of Birth: February 12, 1912

Date of Death: September 22, 1988

Place of Birth: Belarus

A Strong Woman, before Her Time

Frieda Stollman (née Ginsberg) was a beloved philanthropist and community leader. Born in Belarus in 1912, she committed herself to the Jewish community, in Detroit and abroad. She was a pioneering fund-raiser and philanthropic leader who remained grounded and unpretentious. Her daughter fondly recalls that “although she held very important roles in the Jewish community and strongly influenced many of these organizations, she was a very down to earth person." Family remembers that she would drive a car long past its “shiny and new” phase, retaining wide-eyed wonder at “new” innovations like power windows when she did finally relent to getting a new car.  


Frieda's husband, Max, and brother-in-law, Phillip, founded Biltmore Building Company, which developed much of the city of Troy, including Somerset Park. Frieda and Max’s home in Oak Park (as well as their summer home on Lake Angelus) hosted family, friends, and many important dignitaries and luminaries in the founding days of the State of Israel.


Frieda was involved in the founding of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, along with Max and Phillip. Frieda was a member of Bar-Ilan’s global board of trustees and founded the Detroit chapter of American Women for Bar-Ilan. Lawrence Jackier, former co-chairman of the Detroit Friends of Bar-Ilan, recalled after Frieda’s passing that “She was the grand lady of Bar-Ilan...she infused the university with her presence.” Frieda was awarded an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan, in recognition of her commitment to Jewish education.


Frieda and Max were the first couple to be jointly awarded the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s highest honor, the Fred M. Butzel Award, along with brother-in-law Phillip Stollman in 1980. The Butzel Award honored the Stollmans for their longtime service to the Detroit Jewish community. Upon accepting the award, she offered her perspective of the Jewish world: “We are all related – related by our common commitments, related by our common joys and hopes and worries, related by our common humanity, and most of all, by our common community. We are a community and we are kin…Detroit and Israel and wherever else there are Jews, whether they be rich, poor, Orthodox, Conservative or Reform, are all one family and all Jews belong to it.”


Her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit (formerly Detroit’s Jewish Welfare Federation) was deep and multi-faceted. Frieda was the first woman elected to be a vice president of the Federation, served as President of the Women’s Division, and was a member of Federation’s Culture and Education Division. After her passing in 1988, Federation lay leaders reflected on her immense contributions. Former Federation President Dr. Conrad Giles recounted that “Frieda was a tireless worker on behalf of all segments of the federated community. Her own dedication to the Orthodox movement significantly influenced Federation’s role in broadening its own programming…her counsel was always available, freely given and frequently followed.” Dulcie Rosenfeld, a former member of the Federation’s board of governors, said “She was a mentor and role model for every woman in the Women’s Division…she was very gentle and very strong.”


Frieda was one of the founders of Akiva Hebrew Day School and an advocate of the day school movement. She was an active supporter of the Young Israel movement in Detroit and member of Young Israel of Oak-Woods. Frieda’s philanthropic endeavors also included serving as a board member for United Jewish Charities and a leadership role with the Joint Distribution Committee. Frieda served as President of Women of the Jewish National Fund, which honored her and Max by planting and naming a forest in Israel in their honor.


Frieda was honored in August of 1986 as “Lady of the Year” by the National Board of the Women’s Division of State of Israel Bonds and was presented with Israel’s Gates of Freedom Award. She was the former chairperson of the Women’s Division of State of Israel Bonds in Detroit.


Frieda and Max had three children, Bernard, Melvyn, and Sandra, and remained close with her brother and sister-in-law, Aaron and Anne Ginsberg, as well as her nieces and nephews. Frieda’s daughter, Sandra Greenstone, warmly recalls that Frieda was someone “who adored her children and enjoyed being with both family and friends.” Sandra remembers the ping-pong table in their house – which was used not only for recreational table tennis, but also converted to a banquet table for Seders and Rosh HaShana dinners, became a “pickling table” (where cucumbers and tomatoes would be pickled, jarred, and distributed to family and friends), and transitioned to a gift-wrapping station around the holidays, including wrapping dozens of Christmas presents for all the contractors and employees who worked for their building company.


Frieda’s niece, Annette Stollman described her as "a strong woman, before her time…she was kind to everyone and took charge of the family." Frieda is remembered as having been kind, understanding, bright, forward-thinking, and eager to help anyone and everyone without any expectation of reciprocation. Frieda’s family remembers her always saying “You give of your money, but more importantly – you give of your time.”


Written by Amy Rothberger


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