Date of Birth: May 9, 1920

Date of Death: January 3, 2011

Place of Birth: South Bend, Indiana

Dorothy M. Silk

Lansing's Role Model


For many years the “face” of Lansing Jews, Dorothy M. Silk was born in 1920 in South Bend, IN, the daughter of Charles Roth and Lena Mentzel Roth. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in economics in 1941.  After working during World War II in Washington, D.C. for the War Production Board, Dorothy returned to South Bend, where she married Leonard Silk.  She immediately began volunteer work with Hadassah.  Dorothy said she was influenced by her mother’s strong commitment to Jewish values.

Dorothy and Leonard moved to Lansing, Michigan in 1955, where she immediately became active.  She was Coordinator of Volunteers for the Lansing School District for 15 years and organized the Greater Lansing Interfaith Committee, an organization which she chaired.  In 1964 Dorothy worked with other women to purchase gifts for patients at the Kalamazoo State Hospital.  As a member of the Mental Health Board she worked toinitiate “Operation SpiritLift.”                                                                  

In Lansing, Dorothy set high standards for leadership and involvement.  She was President of Ingham County Mental Health Society and the Friends of Kresge Art Museum. She remained committed to the work of Hadassah and was active in the Shaarey Zedek Sisterhood in Lansing.  At a conference on the campus of Michigan State University, Dorothy worked with others to promote understanding among Protestants, Jews and Catholics. 

“Our attitudes toward others are as important as our deeds,” she said.  “What we need is a change in attitudes.”

She founded “Interfaith Day” in 1967 and served on the board of the Greater Lansing Welfare Federation as the Chair of the Women’s Division and the Campaign Co-Chair.  Dorothy developed organizations and served as President in most of the organizations with which she was involved.  In 1996, she was honored by the Lansing Jewish Federation as a “Driving Force Behind Federation Endeavors.”

Dorothy never stopped volunteering in her Jewish community in Lansing and the community at large.  In her late 80’s she continued to represent her city at the Michigan Jewish Conference, an organization which brought together Jewish advocates from all of Michigan. She was honored for her work with the Mackinac Island Community Foundation and was a Director of the Thoman Foundation which was created to help meet the needs of residents in the Lansing Tri-County area.

Dorothy often said that her commitment to volunteering was the same as a commitment to a full-time job.

Dorothy Silk was a role model for generosity, seeking social justice and leadership in Lansing and other areas of Michigan. 

Dorothy and Leonard had two sons, Spencer (Beverly) and James (Jean) and four grandchildren.

Edited by Jeannie Weiner, using information supplied by Dorothy Silk's son, Spencer Silk, and her obituary.

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