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PJ Library® Grandparent Becomes Life & Legacy® Donor

By Linda Barat, LIFE & LEGACY® Coordinator, Buffalo
Stephanie Shapiro, granddaughter Paula A. Madrigal, and great-grandson Elliot-Luis Madrigal

From left are Stephanie Shapiro, granddaughter Paula A. Madrigal, and great-grandson Elliot-Luis Madrigal.

When Stephanie Shapiro’s great-grandson was five years old, PJ Library® books came with him on visits to Stephanie and her late husband’s home.

Their great-grandson Elliot-Luis (named after Stephanie’s husband, Elliot Shapiro z’’l) was interested in the books, especially reading them with his great-grandmother, while his great-grandfather acted out the characters’ voices.

This was their Jewish connection. Soon young Elliot-Luis wanted to share Shabbat dinners with them.

Stephanie is a mother of four children and two stepsons, a grandmother of three, and a great-grandmother! She met her husband Elliot in 1977, they married in 1983, and enjoyed 29 years together.

Retired as Night City editor of the Buffalo News newspaper, Stephanie’s career included public relations for different organizations before she was where she really wanted to be — in journalism. At the Buffalo News, she began with general assignments and copy editing, ultimately becoming City Night editor at a time when the newsroom was mostly filled with men, some of whom referred to her as the “dame on a desk.”

The elder Elliot was City Desk editor at the Buffalo News, whose shift spilled into the early part of the night. That is where Stephanie and Elliot first met.

The couple began attending services at Temple Sinai while they were dating, a ritual they continued throughout their marriage. The Reconstructionist synagogue was influenced by the writings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, one of the first rabbis to view Judaism from an American perspective. Temple Sinai was the first synagogue founded as a Reconstructionist congregation and was the first synagogue in suburban Buffalo. Elliot was a long-standing member and past president of Temple Sinai.

Stephanie and Elliot remained congregants at Temple Sinai through its merger with Temple Beth Am, which culminated in the creation of Congregation Shir Shalom in 2012.

Elliot was Jewish by birth, and Stephanie is Jewish by choice. When explaining her inspiration, she says, “I converted to simplify daily living. Going to services with Elliot is how I became interested in Judaism itself. How hard is it to keep kosher?”

Stephanie converted in 1981, as her interest grew and for shalom bayit (“peace in the home”). “It turned into a fascinating experience, guided by Rabbi Joseph Herzog of Temple Sinai,” says Stephanie.

In 2022 Stephanie made a Life & Legacy® gift by making the Buffalo Jewish Federation her beneficiary. She wants to enhance the Jewish threads of family with others — just as her connection with her great-grandson has for her — starting with the PJ Library®. Coincidentally, both Life & Legacy® in Buffalo and PJ Library® are programs maintained by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, whose mission is to create vibrant Jewish life.