Date of Birth: July 22, 1934
Date of Death:
Place of Birth: Detroit, Michigan
Luck, Pluck, and Persistence
Barbara’s radiant life began in a luminous childhood: she considers herself born “lucky” to loving parents Sophie Jean London and Sam Margolis in Detroit, eventually gaining a younger brother, Michael.
Growing up in a tightly knit Jewish community near extended family afforded Barbara many gatherings and holidays and created the foundations for her passion for people. After attending Congregation Shaarey Zedek’s Hebrew school and graduating from Mumford High School with honors, Barbara attended the University of Michigan where she graduated cum laude with a BA in English and a certification in secondary education.
Barbara notes, “I had been a copy editor on the school paper and had thoughts of becoming a journalist, but my father suggested teaching might be a more practical career choice.”
Taking her father’s advice, Barbara chose to teach both middle and high school. “It was practical and enjoyable. I loved my students and still hold fond memories of them.” After teaching in Clarenceville, Michigan for one year, Barbara found her “luck” once again and married her husband, Arnold Sanford Grant, in 1960. As he was pursuing a medical-school education in Iowa, Barbara transferred to a Des Moines school for three years, then returned to Pontiac to teach one more year.
After a teaching career spanning five years and three cities, Barbara once again found her “luck” in her three children, Susan, Steven, and Julie, who were “happy, healthy, and bright” and who “filled our home with laughter and friends and I loved being their mom.”
After seven years of raising her children, Barbara was ready for her next adventure. When a postcard arrived from a friend, inviting her to attend a literature class through National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), she knew she had found it. In that class, “I discovered what I had not known I had been searching for—bright, articulate women, well-read, committed to social action and eager to welcome me. I was hooked!”
For the next twenty years, Barbara dedicated herself to volunteering. NCJW “opened doors to the wider world, immersed me in social causes, gave me a sense of purpose and brought lifelong friends.” Her interest in journalism helped her in the literature class and right into NCJW leadership. She became a board member, recording and corresponding secretary, and publications editor. After serving as vice president and chairing the education assistance program, Barbara was elected president in 1988. “I took pride in putting to use the skills my many NCJW mentors had taught me and in experiencing the fulfillment that comes from making a difference in the lives of others.”
Barbara’s leadership skills and insight made a difference even beyond NCJW. She has served on the board of many other organizations, including Brandeis Women’s Committee, Jewish Family Service, Orchards Children’s Services, Jewish Federation’s Board of Governors, and the Sisterhood of Congregation of Shaarey Zedek, the synagogue which helped to raise her.
After a friend suggested she apply to be the editor of Temple Beth El’s bulletin, Barbara was “lucky” to land the job, filling that post for twenty-four “wonderful, fulfilling” years.
In 2018, seven years after her husband Arnold’s passing, Barbara celebrated her eightieth birthday, surrounded by her three children and five grandchildren. “My children honored me with a party,” she recalls. “Though I requested no gifts, my daughter-in-law gave me a pink button on which are inscribed the words, ‘She persisted.’ I like to think I did indeed persist, still able to do good things, and ‘lucky’ to be here.”
Written by Noah Krasman