Beth El bids farewell to Pam Gladstone after 34 years

Bittersweet tears flowed from many eyes on Sunday, April 7 as community members gathered for brunch at Congregational Beth El to celebrate the retirement of Pam Gladstone, Beth El’s executive director for the past 34 years.

Gladstone’s tenure at the synagogue saw four rabbis, three cantors, and 16 board presidents. Many farewell speeches mentioned her steadfast work ethic and common refrain, “Do me a favor.” Her staff, both old and new, praised her role as their boss, highlighting Gladstone’s attention to detail while entrusting them to work independently. Everyone finished their remarks by calling her a friend.

Videos from Beth El’s previous clergy, including Rabbi Jeff Arnowitz, Rabbi Susie Tendler, and Cantor Jacob Tessler, played for the crowd of 165 guests. “Pam was a guide for me during my time in Norfolk. She’s synonymous with Beth El. No one is more beloved nor cared more,” said Rabbi Arnowitz. “Generations of conservative Jews of Norfolk, of Beth El, are so grateful to you.”

Linda Samuels, a member of Beth El’s Sisterhood and a past temple president, read a message from Rabbi Emeritus Archie Ruberg.

“In May of 1990…we needed a strong guiding hand to take charge. Pam was that and much, much more. She loved Beth El, she cared deeply for its people and she was fully committed to Judaism, to its values and traditions.”

Outfitted in a navy top and white pants, Gladstone seemed ready to set sail; her daughter, Anne, in her remarks, even suggested that her mother take that cruise from 15 years ago. While Gladstone admits that her plans are uncertain at this early stage, she will join a canasta game. A mahjongg card has already been purchased on her behalf.

In her final remarks, Gladstone said, “Beth El has been a huge part of my life for such a long time. This brunch in honor of my retirement is SO SPECIAL. So many volunteers worked tirelessly, along with the synagogue’s amazing staff, to bring it all together. Beth El is my extended family. I will always treasure the close relationships I have with so many congregants and their families. I also have heartwarming memories of so many special people who are unfortunately no longer with us. It has been a great privilege to serve as Beth El’s executive director for 34 wonderful years.”

Guests at Pam Gladstone’s retirement brunch.