Community pillar Harriett Lieberman
While some who contribute greatly to the fabric of the local Jewish community are referred to as a pillar of the community, in the case of Harriett Lieberman, she was literally named one in 2007 when the Jewish Community Center of Pinellas County presented her with its Pillar of Community award in recognition of her commitment to youth activities.
It is fitting that the JCC recognized her, as that was the organization she supported tirelessly for years.
Lieberman, 88, died on Feb. 3. Born in New York, she moved to St. Petersburg in 1950 and quickly got involved in the Jewish community.
She established the area’s first Jewish sponsored Girl Scout troop and in 1956 she sponsored the troop’s first annual Hanukkah Hop, an event acclaimed for its success.
In the early 1960s, when the JCC of Pinellas County was in its infancy, she was named to its board and continued to serve in that capacity for many years including as president three times. After the JCC relocated to the former Kapok Tree restaurant in Madeira Beach, she volunteered to run the JCC’s bingo games.
When the JCC honored her with the Pillar of Community award, the Jewish Press reported that because of her commitment to youth activities – going so far one year as to write and stage an original play for teens to perform – the JCC set up the Camp Kadima Scholarship Fund to give families with financial limitations the opportunity to send their children to the camp at reduced cost.
In 2012 after the JCC had merged with the Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center to become the Suncoast JCC and that organization was failing, Lieberman still fought against its demise and suggested that the south county JCC should split off from Suncoast. That didn’t happen and within months the Suncoast JCC folded.
Lieberman, who with her late husband Fred, owned Southland Distributing Company, a wholesale beer distributor, served the company as bookkeeper, accountant and business partner.
A member of Temple Beth-El, she was active in the Art Festival Beth-El and also was one of the first founders of Menorah Manor.
Survivors include her daughters and son-in-law, Susan LaPlante and Jackie and Barry Kanner; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family suggests memorials to the Harriett Lieberman Camp Scholarship Fund at Chabad of St. Petersburg, or Menorah Manor. (David C. Gross Funeral Homes, St. Petersburg Chapel).