Ida Stack was beloved community educator

Ida Stack, who taught Hebrew and religious school at Congregation Shaare Emeth for 52 years, and who was also known and admired for her teaching and love of Yiddish language and culture, died Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010. She was 88 and a long-time resident of University City.

Among many honors and accolades received by Mrs. Stack over the decades was her being named a Mitzvah Star by J Associates in 1997. Phyllis Kamenetzky, in an article about the honor for the Jewish Light in 1997, wrote, “Ida Stack is a woman who has the unique ability to teach the young. She seeks to grow older with purpose and direction while teaching the elderly how to feel young again.”


Mrs. Stack came to the United States from her native Russia in 1929. She grew up on the East Coast and met her husband, Norman Stack, the late long-time executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, while attending the University of Pittsburgh.

Mrs. Stack had said in an interview with the Jewish Light about her teaching and volunteer career, “We were placed on the earth for a reason and it is through working with others that one receives the greatest reward.”

Mrs. Stack volunteered at the Jewish Center for Aged (now the Cedars at the JCA) for over 40 years, presenting musical programs for the residents. She later started a choral group, “Young at Heart,” with the average age of the members about 80. The program continued for 35 years.

Mrs. Stack also planned Oneg Shabbat activities for the JCA residents, which she described as the most worthwhile program she initiated. Residents can pay tribute to their parents as well as observing the Sabbath, she noted. “Sabbath should be a day of rest and celebration,” she said. “The beauty is that people have something to look forward to, and after services, each resident has a special place in the community sing or serving refreshments.”

Mrs. Stack served for 52 years on the teaching staff of Congregation Shaare Emeth, teaching in the Hebrew school as well as the religious school. Former students recall her vivid descriptions of a visit she had taken to the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, where she told of the hardships faced by Jews who wanted to observe Passover and other Jewish holidays without being subject to police or KGB attention.

Mrs. Stack also served as music and choir director at Congregation Shaare Emeth. She taught Yiddish for the Central Agency for Jewish Education and taught Hebrew at the annual adult institutes. One former student of her Yiddish class, Marvin Plattner recalled, “Her class drew so many interested people it was actually over-subscribed, a real rarity in Jewish education,”

Mrs. Stack also taught Yiddish and Hebrew at Camp Ben Frankel through the Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois.

Mrs. Stack and her late friend, Rose Calodney, started the Yiddish Theatre in St. Louis, which ran for over 20 years. The two friends wrote the plays, and always incorporated music and knowledge so that no one felt excluded.

In addition to her longtime membership and teaching at Congregation Shaare Emeth, Mrs. Stack was a past president and longtime member of the St. Louis Chapter of Hadassah. She was named a Woman of Valor by the Business & Professional Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis in 1999.

One of Mrs. Stack’s sons, Richard Stack of Silver Springs, Md., recalls that his mother’s motto was “to teach is to touch,” that the real essence of teaching if the connection formed between teacher and students.

Funeral services were scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23, at Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road, starting with visitation at 10 a.m., followed by a funeral service at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be at Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery, 9125 Ladue Road.

In addition to her son in Maryland, Mrs. Stack is survived by another son, Jerry Stack, of St. Louis County, and four grandchildren. Her husband died in 1991.

Contributions may be made to the Ida Stack Scholarship Fund, in care of Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63141.