Jean L. Fineman
June 27, 2016
Funeral InformationJune 30 2016 - 2:00 pm
Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Funeral Service will take place in the Josiah and Carrie Cohen Chapel.
FINEMAN, JEAN L.: A prominent Pittsburgh educator, teachers' advocate and community leader for half a century, died peacefully surrounded by family on Monday, June 27, 2016 at her home in Oakland. She had celebrated her 92nd birthday on June 9. Mrs. Fineman was known to generations of students in the Pittsburgh and its eastern suburbs as an engaging and innovative English and reading teacher, administrator and proponent of public education. She developed curricula that combined traditional reading and English language instruction with public speaking, journalism, creative writing, film study, theater and musicals. A teacher in the Churchill Area and Woodland Hills District Schools for 30 years, Mrs. Fineman taught at Forest Hills Junior High from 1965 to 1981 and at Woodland Hills High School from 1981 to 1995. Mrs. Fineman was a longtime member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's leading teachers' organization. She was PSEA representative in her district, heading delegations to Harrisburg to lobby officials for spending on public education and for teachers' rights. She also taught sixth grade in the religious school of Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill. After her teaching career, Mrs. Fineman was active in the United Nations Association of Pittsburgh, developing and funding a scholarship program for college students who participated in Model UN activities in Pittsburgh and nationally. She was a member of the WQED's public advisory board and was active in the sisterhood of Rodef Shalom Temple. Mrs. Fineman traveled widely - destinations included China, Japan, Israel and the major capitals of Europe - but she was intensely proud that she and her husband and their parents before them were lifelong Pittsburghers. As a girl growing up in Oakland, she attended Pirates games at Forbes Field with neighborhood friends. Later she was an ardent Steelers fan. She was a lifelong mentor to students and also a devoted parent as teacher to her own two children, Elisabeth Fineman Schroeter of Frisco, Colo., and Howard Fineman of Washington, DC. As a student at Chatham College and Carnegie Mellon University (where she earned a B.S. and M.S. in economics), Elisabeth, now a data-base software executive, benefitted from her mother's advice and encouragement. Her son Howard, a Washington journalist and TV commentator, learned from a never-ending stream of loving comment. "If I ever used an 'um' or 'ah' or 'you know' on television, I heard about from her in gently nagging form," said Mr. Fineman. "She also reviewed my writing in Newsweek and The Huffington Post. Her message was always: write an outline! And she was of course right about that." Other students praised her influence. "Her kindness and warmth made every student feel that she cared about you," said Alan Perer, a Pittsburgh attorney whom she taught in Sunday school. "She was a lovely, intelligent, elegant person." Mrs. Fineman was a lifelong devotee of the Pittsburgh Symphony and of classical music. She regularly attended concerts and knew many of the musicians in the orchestra. She was patron of the city's art museums and galleries. She was fiercely proud of Pittsburgh' cultural resources, and always said it was the equal of other largely cities in that regard. Jean Lederman Fineman was born in Pittsburgh on June 9, 1924, the daughter of Samuel Lederman and Dora Kutler Lederman of Morningside. She attended the Holmes Elementary School in Oakland. A graduate of Schenley High School, she earned a B. A. degree, cum laude, in English from the University of Pittsburgh in 1947. She met her husband, the late Charles Morton Fineman of New Kensington, a returning World War Two veteran, at Pitt, from which he graduated, also in 1947. The couple met in a quintessentially Pittsburgh way: in a philosophy of education class in the Czech National Room in the Cathedral of Learning on the main Pitt campus. The couple taught at schools in the Yellow Creek School District in Wellsville, Ohio in 1947 and 1948 before returning to live in Pittsburgh. They lived in Squirrel Hill and taught Hebrew School at Tree of Life Synagogue. Their two children were graduates of Taylor Allderdice High School. Her husband, who later became a sales director for the Dexter Shoe Company, died in 1977. After his death she moved from Squirrel Hill to Oakland, where she could see the Cathedral of Learning from her dining room window. Mrs. Fineman earned a master's degree in education from Duquesne University in 1965 and a state certification in reading instruction there in 1966. The teaching tradition was a long one in her family. Her maternal grandfather, Jacob Kutler, established one of the first Jewish religious day schools in the city, in 1907. Her late husband's grandfather, Morris Fineman, was a founder of the Share Torah Synagogue in Squirrel Hill. She is survived her by her daughter, Elisabeth Fineman Schroeter and her son-in-law Paul, of Frisco, Colorado; her son, Howard Fineman and daughter-in-law Amy Nathan of Washington, DC; and by two grandchildren, Meredith Fineman of Washington, DC, and Nicholas Fineman of New York, NY., and nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews. Her late brother, Milton Lederman, died in 1966. Services at Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Avenue (at Morewood) on Thursday June 30, 2016 at 2 PM. NO PRIOR VISITATION. A reception in the Biblical Garden of the Temple will be at 4:30 p.m. Interment Beth Shalom Cemetery. Contributions in Mrs. Fineman's memory may be made to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, 600 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, WQED, 4802 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 or the Biblical Garden Fund at the Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family owned and operated. www.schugar.com