Saerree K. Fiedler, major contributor to Northwestern’s Fiedler Hillel

Saerree K. Fiedler
Saerree Fiedler and her granddaughter, Laura Weisskopf Bleill, visiting Paris in the summer of 1996.

Saerree K. Fiedler, who along with her late husband, Louis, made possible the construction of Northwestern University’s Louis and Saerree Fiedler Hillel Center, passed away on April 14 at the age of 93. In addition to her instrumental work at Northwestern, Fiedler supported other Jewish charities in Chicago as well as in Israel. Fiedler was both a Silver and Golden Circle member of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.

Saerree and Louis—who themselves dated while active at the University of Illinois Hillel during their college years—were always fond of Hillel and its mission of inspiring young Jewish adults to commit to Jewish life on campus and beyond.“Her care and passion for Hillel was infectious,” said Rabbi Michael Balinsky, the former executive director of Northwestern’s Fiedler Hillel. “There were no issues of personal kavod or glory with her. She did it because it made her feel good and she wanted to make a difference.”

Fiedler felt a particular kinship with Northwestern students because her granddaughter, Laura Weisskopf (now Laura Weisskopf Bleill), was the president of Hillel Cultural Life on campus at the time. “My grandmother emanated grace and elegance and she was the definition of a lady in everything she did,” said Bleill, a former Lewis Summer Intern at JUF News. “She was a selfless and caring person. She was a wonderful listener and would always remember things that most people would dismiss or forget.”

In fact, one conversation that Fiedler never forgot was talking with Bleill about Northwestern’s Hillel vision and how they needed a new building. It was the discussion with her granddaughter that inspired Fiedler to help build Hillel’s new home.

In addition to the construction of the Fiedler Hillel Center in the spring of 1999, Fiedler recognized that it wasn’t only the physical structure, but the meaningful programming—and the meals—inside the building that would be vital to Jewish life on campus.

“Saerree endowed an annual program that had to be held in the building and it had to serve food so the students would come,” said Donna Kahan, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation’s Continuum program, through which the Fiedlers gave the funds for both the building of and programming at the Hillel Center. “The program could be on any interesting topic that the students chose. This creative gift speaks to the uniqueness of Saerree. She was loveable—she was just a beautiful person inside and out.”

Saerree Fiedler was wife of the late Louis P. Fiedler; mother of Richard (Rosalie) Fiedler, Barbara (Victor) Weisskopf, Arleene (Seymour) Bearak and Dr. Michael W. Fiedler; grandmother of Fred (Dana), Michelle (Andy), Marc, Marci, Philipp (Jody), Gene (Lori), Laura (Tony), Mark, Michael (Mandi), Moishe (Bryna), Rochel Leah (Meir), Mendel and Gershon (Erica); great grandmother of Ben, Emily, Steven, David, Joshua, Daniel, Lindsay, Nathan, Jeremy, Nessa, Sarah, Esti, Miriam, Rivky, Dina, Joshua, Daniel and Mary Claire; sister of the late Fred Kugler; and cousin, aunt, and friend to many.

Funeral services were held at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe.

The Hillels of Illinois, a partner in serving our community, is supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and Hillel:  The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. 

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Posted: 5/3/2010 12:01:58 PM

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