Lorraine Hoffmann, devoted daughter of survivors, dies at 74

MILWAUKEE – Lorraine Hoffmann, a daughter of Kristallnacht survivors, devoted her clear voice and giving nature to Jewish continuity, the betterment of Milwaukee and Holocaust education.

She died Tuesday, July 11. She was 74.

It seemed she was involved in everything.

She was a strong supporter of the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study. She was also on the board of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, president of Milwaukee’s Museum of Beer & Brewing and was vice president of the national board of the Orthodox Union.

Lorraine Hoffmann speaks at a Kristallnacht commemoration in 2014 for the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Hoffmann was a HERC board member, president of the Harri Hoffmann Co. and a daughter of Kristallnacht survivors.

“Her voice rang out loud and clear that east coast and west coast have enough Jewish leadership there but the Midwest needs a bigger voice,” said her friend Larry Pachefsky. “She wanted more programing to help in the Midwest. She believed in Jewish continuity.”

She chaired the Kristallnacht commemoration of 2014 for the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. She was also a HERC board member.

“Lorraine was a frequent attendee of all of HERC’s programs,” said Shay Pilnik,  HERC’s executive director, who was friends with Hoffmann through Lake Park Synagogue before he took on the role. “She gave her heart and soul to this organization. I always admired her strength and strong opinions.”

He said she “always advocated for what she believed was the right thing to do.” Yet Pilnik and others also remember her for her deep kindness and humility.

Hoffmann was an only child. She met the Pachefsky family through Lake Park Synagogue, 3207 N. Hackett Ave., Milwaukee, and she became like family for them.

“She came to us every year for Thanksgiving and for holidays,” said Larry, adding that he also saw her all the time in their home for Shabbat lunches and family dinners.

Hoffmann’s parents, Harri and Herta, started a shoe polish business, experimenting at first in their kitchen and then moving it outside the home. “They made a white shoe polish that didn’t flake off,” Larry said.

Harri and Herta bought a factory in the Third Ward and built a successful business. Lorraine Hoffmann spent 40 years in Chicago, where she worked as a researcher and then assistant vice president with Merrill Lynch. With the death of her father, she came home to Milwaukee to run the Harri Hoffmann Co., manufacturing shoe polish and leather care products.

Larry thinks it was her way of honoring her mother and father.

“She was proud to be an American and to live in a city like Milwaukee,” said Larry’s son Jordan, a 21-year-old student at University of Wisconsin – Madison. “I think it had a lot do with the American dream.”

Born in Milwaukee, Lorraine attended Riverside High School and then Milwaukee Downer College. Then she graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She also obtained a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York.

Her funeral service was July 12 at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, with Greenwood Cemetery. Memorial contributions to Lake Park Synagogue, the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study or the charity of your choice is appreciated.