Jessica T. Feldman, a force for the improvement of the lives of Evanstonians for 60 years, passed away at home at the Mather on Wednesday, at the age of 88. She was diagnosed with cancer in late December.
An accidental turn off of Ridge Avenue in 1959 brought her to an affordable block behind St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.
Shortly after moving in, with toddlers at her skirt, she applied her formidable energy and office skills to local election politics, working for Victor Gotbaum as he ran for the City Council.
When in 1964 Lyndon Johnson became the first Democrat to carry Evanston since Reconstruction, she was proud to be part of the “ethnics (read: Jews) in south Evanston” blamed by the leader of the local Republican party.
She marched for fair housing in a demonstration led by Martin Luther King, Jr., strongly defended the embattled Superintendent of District 65 who brought about district-wide desegregation, and worked as an election judge for decades.
Overall, she pushed for the recognition that everyone in the city, especially children, had the right to dignity and a fair chance — that they, in short, mattered.
She led the local PTA, first at Dewey School, then at Nichols, and then as the leader of all of the PTA presidents.
She also worked for years for, and eventually led, ESCCA, the Evanston School Children’s Clothing Association, providing shoes and clothing to school children throughout the city.
Later, after a stint at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard, she served on the City of Chicago’s negotiating team dealing with the long-term contract with Commonwealth Edison.
From there, she took a job with Henry Henderson’s newly-created City Deptartment of Environment. A point of pride for the second Mayor Daley, the department was the first of its kind for an American city. She rose to the position of deputy to the head before retiring to her beloved volunteer jobs in Evanston. She ended her work for North Shore Village just a few months ago.
Born and raised in Goshen, Indiana, she attended Indiana University, majoring in journalism and pledged Sigma Delta Tau. She was the younger of two children to Louis & Liuba Tenofsky; her sister, Jean May passed away in 2015.
She is survived by four children from her marriage to Daniel Feldman: Stephanie (and Andy Orrock) of Dallas, Texas; Susan (and Alan Fitzthum), of Olympia, Washington; Yitzchok (and Ellen) of Palo Alto, California; and Valerie (and Jay Wisham) of Sacramento, California. She has 14 grandchildren, of whom four are married, and ten great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory can go to Congregation Emek Beracha in Palo Alto, California; the Evanston Community Foundation; or ESCCA.
Interment was held at 3 p.m. Thursday at Hebrew Orthodox Cemetery in Mishawaka, Indiana.