Librarian Marilyn Burstein motivated children to read

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 20, 2008 - 8:20 PM

The Minneapolis native, 77, also was known as a tenacious researcher, and she fought cancer for 34 years.

As librarian for the Talmud Torah School in Minneapolis, Marilyn (Marshie) Burstein worked as hard to encourage schoolchildren as she did to help scholars of Jewish literature in their research.

Burstein, a cancer survivor for 34 years, died of breast cancer July 10 in Edina. The longtime St. Louis Park resident was 77.

For more than 20 years, she served as librarian at the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, a Jewish supplementary school. For the past 10 years, she was the librarian for Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka.

Rabbi Avraham Ettedgui, former executive director of Talmud Torah of Minneapolis, said she "influenced so many."

"She had so much patience with young and old," he said. "She was so compassionate."

She drew children to reading, he said. They would line up to report in writing or verbally about what they had read. She created artful posters and rewarded children for making book reports.

For high school students, she patiently showed them how to conduct research, he said.

"She was a tremendous motivator," said Ettedgui. "She wasn't simply sitting in the library. She was out there with the kids, visiting, promoting."

Burstein was just as serious in her efforts to help scholars and students of Judaism, said Rabbi Barry Cytron, director of the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning, a partnership of St. John's University and the University of St. Thomas.

"She was an expert in Jewish literature," he said. "She had tenacity, curiosity and a love of learning. She was incredible at ferreting out what you needed."

Her daughter Lisa Swaiman of San Diego said she was just as tenacious as a cancer survivor, having had chemotherapy the week before she died.

"She was a fighter," said her daughter, adding that she had walked in every Race for the Cure with her family since its inception.

Burstein graduated from North High School in Minneapolis in 1948, studying Hebrew after school through her senior year.

In the 1950s, she worked at school and public libraries in Minneapolis.

In 1952, she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in library science.

In the 1970s, she launched a bookstore in the old Dayton's-Radisson Arcade in downtown Minneapolis. And she organized several book fairs to raise funds for the former Mount Sinai Hospital in Minneapolis.

In addition to Lisa, she is survived by two other daughters, Barbara Swaiman, of Golden Valley, and Dana Hoberman, of Plymouth; a son, Jerrold Swaiman, of Minnetonka; three brothers, Stanley Burstein, of Eagan, Larry Burstein, of Delray Beach, Fla., and Marvin Burstein, of Minnetonka, and eight grandchildren.

Services have been held.

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