Rosalind Neuman, geneticist, mathematician, past JCRC president, dies at 80

Rosalind Neuman with her husband, Sanford. 

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Rosalind Neuman, a statistical geneticist and past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council, died Monday, Sept. 17 after a seven-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.  She is being remembered as a brilliant intellect, a Jewish community volunteer leader, a determined athlete and a dedicated wife, mother, grandmother and sister.

Rosalind Joyce Farris was born on July 19, 1938 in Detroit, Mich., the daughter of Jack and Ruth Korlin Farris.   She grew up in the Delmar Loop area of University City, where she became a star student at University City High School, earning the highest grades in mathematics at a time when few female students were attracted to math and science. 

She started college at Michigan University, but later transferred to Washington University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1960 and later a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1980.  At Washington University she re-connected with Sanford Neuman, then a student at the university’s law school.  They shared a loving marriage of 58 years, during which they had four children, Jeff, Bennett, Larry and Shula.

Mrs. Neuman worked as a statistical geneticist in the psychiatry department at Washington University, where she studied genetic diseases.

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A statement issued by a family member said, “Roz’s passion for her family and her work was only matched by her devotion to the Jewish community.  She was a past president of the JCRC of St. Louis, and served on the boards of the American Jewish Committee,  the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Bais Abe Synagogue and the boards of Hillel locally and nationally.”

In addition to her volunteer activities, Mrs. Neuman was passionate about music of all kinds.  She played the guitar and sang.  She was also an accomplished athlete, taking up jogging in her mid-30s and became an avid runner and marathoner. She qualified for the Boston Marathon when she was in her 40s. 

She also loved playing tennis and took serval cycling trips with her husband both domestically and abroad.

Funeral services were held on the eve of Yom Kippur at Berger Memorial Chapel, where Rabbi Ben Greenfield of Bais Abraham officiated.  

In his eulogy to Mrs. Neuman, Rabbi Greenfield said that “once her children were all in school, she knew that then—and  only then—she could turn her attention to her professional life. But only in a way that she could still be with them every day after their school day, eat dinner with them every day and remain a full part of their young lives.”

Rabbi Greenfield added, “Roz was a force, but also a friend and warm optimistic, empathetic spirit.”  He noted that in her post-doctoral work in statistical genetics at the Washington University Medical School, she was publishing the mathematical tools necessary to model the likelihood of genetic diseases, including, and there is tragedy in this, the heritability of Alzheimer’s disease, which ultimately took Roz’s life.”

Mrs. Neuman’s children, grandchildren,  brothers and husband each spoke movingly at the service, expressing their love and admiration for her. 

Alan Nemes, longtime Bais Abe board member and a close friend to Mrs. Neuman, read a letter from former Bais Abe spiritual leader Rabbi Hyim Shafner, who is now a rabbi in Washington, D.C.

Survivors include, her husband of 58 years; their children,  Jeff (Cynthia); Bennett (Rick); Larry (Qing) and Shula, her brothers, Mel Farris and Dan Farris, and three grandchildren.

Memorial contributions preferred to the Jewish Federation of St. Louis or Memory Care Home Solutions.

Burial was at the Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery.