Gala to Mark Phyllis Abrams’ 30 Years of Service
“You need something more than your work and going to the gym,” her younger sister nudged.
This prompted Phyllis Abrams to go “shul shopping” nearly 30 years ago, including a visit to nearby Congregation B’nai Israel. At the time, CBI services were being held in a warehouse and they started with Rabbi Elie Spitz walking down the aisle singing.
By the end of the service, Phyllis knew she had found a new home. She started attending Shabbat services every week and became involved on the Board of Directors. She even met her husband, Steven Littman, at CBI. He saw Phyllis at services and later contacted her via JDate and they have now been married for 20 years.
Phyllis recalls her early days as a member. “CBI was an anchor for me during some challenging days.” Now she has been an anchor for the synagogue. Attending services weekly, Phyllis has been a friendly face who greets everyone. After serving on the board for several years, including heading up membership and rituals, Phyllis was tapped in 2018 to be the Executive Vice President.
No one could foresee the pandemic and she had given no thought that Rabbi Spitz might be retiring from his 33-year tenure. She communicated closely with the synagogue’s COVID committee to ensure the synagogue re-opened while continuing to prioritize members’ safety and health.
“We didn’t really have a choice about closing; the question was how do we open and stay open?” she had pondered. She collaborated closely with committees to select and hire an interim rabbi and then took steps to ensure that all members participated in the process of interviewing, evaluating, selecting, and welcoming CBI’s new rabbi, Rabbi Adam Greenwald. Phyllis guided smooth solutions with grace and compassion in addition to the ongoing tasks as President.
Phyllis’s Jewish identity is rooted in her upbringing. She, her older sister, Sharon, and younger sister, Barbara, grew up in New Jersey. Their mom was the bookkeeper at their synagogue and the girls frequently accompanied her to work, making the synagogue a home away from home.
While her mother had been raised Orthodox, they belonged to a Conservative synagogue where the three girls each had a Bat Mitzvah. They lit Shabbat candles at home and celebrated Passover with cousins. Her grandparents would spend summers with them at the Jersey Shore and took them to every Kosher restaurant in Atlantic City. Her religion was a guiding part of her life.
Her mother instilled the idea that her sisters and she could be anything they wanted.
Phyllis was a math major at Rutgers and entered a training program at General Electric in Fort Wayne, Indiana, after graduation. A relationship led her to move to southern California, where she found a job as an applications engineer at Bourns, an electronic components manufacturer in Riverside. She transitioned to sales and worked with customers like Apple, Boeing, Microsoft and HP. Her sales tenure continued at PG Drives selling electronic controllers for wheelchairs, scooters and industrial products.
She retired during the pandemic from AVCO as the Sales Manager, where she had managed the sales of industrial valves for use in manufacturing, water treatment and power transmission. Her career took her across the country and to Europe and Asia. She approached her role in sales as offering solutions and loved her relationships with her customers. So, her years of experience as a problem solver prepared her for the tasks she encountered as CBI’s President.
Congregation B’nai Israel will honor and thank Phyllis at the 2023 Gala, CBI’s Singular Sensation, on Sunday, March 12. The themed event is a tribute to her leadership and her passion for Broadway musicals. The festive evening will include appetizers, dinner, signature cocktails, entertainment and a silent and live auction. The event is open to the entire community; reservations are required, and space is limited. Go to cbi18.org for more information and to make a reservation.