The Katz Center Mourns the Passing of Louise Strauss

June 6, 2024
Steven Weitzman, Arthur Kiron

In memory of a generous supporter of the Center, the Library at the Katz Center, and Judaic scholarship.

A color print depicting a young white woman and man seated on an oversized football. They wear Penn colors and the woman holds a large pennant flag.

A favorite postcard of Louise's that she called the "Penngirl postcard"

The Katz Center mourns the passing of Louise Strauss (March 31, 1960–February 27, 2024) who died after a long illness. A member of our board of advisors, Louise’s commitment to the Center, its collections, and to the field of Jewish studies was profound; in this she followed in the footsteps of her parents, Ione Apfelbaum Strauss, the former chair of the board of the Katz Center, and Hilary Strauss, also an avid Penn supporter. One of Louise’s last acts as a Katz Center board member was to endow the Center’s rare book room in memory of her parents.

Above all, we remember Louise for her humble spirit, her sensitivity, her sense of humor, her devotion to public service, and her caring heart.  She loved tennis and transatlantic steamers, whose history she avidly collected. She served as a volunteer archivist at the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center before coming to the Library at the Katz Center to volunteer as a processing archivist. Louise graduated from Penn in 1982 and loved the university, going so far as to customize her license plate to celebrate her graduating class. Her public service commitments extended beyond Penn to multiple advisory boards, among them her service as president of her condo association and trustee of Harcum College.  We are heartbroken as we mourn Louise’s passing.

Louise gave to the Katz Center the gift of her support, the gift of her time, and the gift of her love. She began volunteering in the Library at the Katz Center in 2008.  Over the course of the next decade, she worked with unbreakable perseverance to single-handedly catalog the Lenkin Collection of Photography, consisting of over 5,000 early photographs of the Land of Israel, dating from 1850 to 1937.  She cataloged each image into a specially designed template after careful, first-hand examination of the original photographs and consulting the handwritten notebooks in French of the original collectors, Bertrand and Paola Lazard. She then painstakingly revised her records multiple times for uploading into an online repository where the public may now discover and freely download them.  

The documents that Louise helped to archive represent a significant and enduring contribution to scholarship, but no less meaningful is the devotion, love, and care that she invested on behalf of the library. Her contributions to the history of the Katz Center, to the preservation and access to the cultural heritage that document that history, and to scholarship writ large will never be forgotten.

All this is in addition to Louise’s role as a member of the Katz Center’s Board of Advisors. In that capacity, she remained steadfast in her support throughout transitions in leadership and in the face of many changes and challenges. Louise was an inspiring example of altruism at the highest level envisioned in Jewish tradition, seeking no attention for herself even as she opened the world of study and learning to so many others. 

Given Louise’s effort near the end of her life to memorialize her parents, it seems fitting in this moment to remember them as well, especially her mother Ione who played such a pivotal role in the Center’s formation.

Ione’s service to the University of Pennsylvania is historic. She led as the first female president of Penn Alumni—the first woman ever to head a major private university’s alumni society—and also served as an overseer for the School of Arts and Sciences, as a trustee for the University of Pennsylvania Press, and in many other ways that earned her the university’s Alumni Award of Merit in 1971. At the Katz Center, Ione served as chair of its board of overseers, endowed the Louis Apfelbaum and Hortense Braunstein Apfelbaum Fellowship in memory of her parents, and the Erika A. Strauss Teaching Fellowship in memory of her and Hilary’s late daughter, Louise’s sister. In her role as one of the Center’s longest serving board members, chair, and donor, Ione helped to lay the foundation for the Center’s success as one of the world’s preeminent research centers in Judaic studies. The Center and the university are but two of many organizations strengthened by her and Hilary’s philanthropy, dedication, and leadership.

The generosity of Louise and her parents has also made it possible to honor the memory of Louise’s sister Erika. As noted earlier, the Center has long offered the Erika A. Strauss teaching fellowship. Because of Louise’s and her parents’ generosity, it will now also be offering a postdoctoral fellowship in memory of Erika A. Strauss.

Louise’s self-effacing demeanor masked a profound generosity. Her commitment to the Katz Center has been quietly transformative. Her memory will serve as a lasting inspiration for our mission; her example a constant reminder of the core values of humility, duty, and service that have shaped the Katz Center and its library.


About the Author

Steven Weitzman

Steven Weitzman

Steven Weitzman is the Ella Darivoff Director at the Katz Center and Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages & Literatures at Penn.

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Arthur Kiron

Arthur Kiron

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