BORN NOTTINGHAM, MARCH 11, 1948. DIED WESTCLIFF ON SEA, MAY 2014, AGED 66
INTERFAITH WORK, Jewish education, communal leadership, even a period as editorial secretary at the JC, were the driving forces in the life of my mother, Sybil Greenstein. She won Westcliff’s coveted Woman of the Year Award for her activities. Many emails received by the family after her death described her as a true Eshet Chayil – a woman of virtue. She demonstrated this in her self-control, diplomacy, foresight, responsibility, patience, loyalty, industriousness, kindliness, selflessness and creative talent.
Sybil Helen Applebaum was born to Marie and Willie, seven years after her brother Jeffrey. She was educated at Berridge Road School in Huyson Green, Nottingham, where she was considered a precocious and effervescent character. After moving to Southend in the summer of 1959 with her parents to care for her sick aunt, she studied at Westcliff High School for Girls between 1959 until 1965. A star pupil there, who excelled in French, English and Maths., she won prizes every year.
Her parents were regular shul-goers and were both involved in the community, something which boosted Sybil’s interest in Jewish studies, in which she also excelled, and which led to a passion for Judaism and Jewish education. Encouraged by Rabbi Shebson she started teaching the youngest children at the cheder when she was 12 years old. As a teenager, she was a Jewish Girl guide, went to Bnei Akiva, and chaired CORRA, a youth organisation. In 1965 she joined the Weizmann’s Society, a social group attached to the Federation of Zionist Youth’s Southend branch. There she began dating its chairman Jeffrey whom she married on March, 17 1968.
After leaving school she attended secretarial college and secured a job as a editorial secretary at the Jewish Chronicle in 1966, which she considered the high-point of her working life.
She worked with the editors, William Frankel and Geoffrey Paul, often having her own work published under a pseudonym. She described her experiences during the Six Day War as being “one of the most exciting. “During the days of the War there was a service every morning in the sub-editors’ room. Either the Editor or another member of the Editorial Department would say a few words.
“Of course, the fact that the Six-Day War took place at all was bad enough, but I look back on that time and realise that I was into Raymond House care home.
Actively involved in Jewish and inter-faith communities, she joined the Herzlia Day School Parents Association, was a member of the synagogue council under the presidencies of Derek Baum and David Gold for a number of years. She was chairman of the Southend & District Aid Society for over 20 years. She was responsible for the important inter-faith lectures in Southend and Basildon with schools, Womens’ Institute groups, cubs, scouts, brownies and others. She was also a member of SACRE, the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, which advises local authorities in setting a locally agreed syllabus for religious education.
For 20 years Sybil organised her legendary Yom Kippur ladies talks where she demonstrated her infinite levels of energy, enthusiasm and jois de vivre.
In 1999, however, Sybil was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She soldiered on, stoically hiding most of her worse problems. About five years ago she was upset to acquire a wheelchair. However, this did not stop her going to Rome and Paris and Israel twice. She continued as chair of the Southend Aid Society until 2009, later remaining on the committee, which raised thousands of pounds for Westcliff’s elderly.
Despite her problems she refused to give up her inter-faith talks on Judaism almost to the end. She won the Woman of the Year Award for her active work in Judaism, Jewish education, Zionism and inter-faith relations.
She is survived by husband, Jeffrey, sons Michael a solicitor, and Jonathan, an engineer and three grandchildren Jonah 7, Mia 5 and Noah 4. almost in the middle of it, without actually being in the Middle East. I like to think I did what I could at that very momentous time”.
Sybil left the paper when I was born in1972followedbyJonathan,16months later. In 1976 she returned to teaching at the cheder. She also became a full time work teaching assistant at Herzlia Day School where she taught me, my brother and many of our friends. until 1984 when she left to join the family leather goods and luggage business, Handbag House. She worked there until 2009 when Handbag House closed down. She cared for her mother Marie, for a number of years until she moved
Happy times: Sybil with husband Jeffrey