Sandy Finberg Tabachnick grew up in Ashland, a small town in northeastern Ohio that was also home to Ashland College, a college founded by the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The Finbergs were one of 10 Jewish families in this small town of 15,000 and Sandy and her older sister, Rochelle were two of just three Jewish students attending Ashland schools.
Tabachnik’s parents were not particularly religious and did not attend services regularly, but stressed the importance of living Jewishly. The family belonged to B’nai Jacob, a conservative synagogue in Mansfield, Ohio, 13 miles from their home, where Tabachnik and her sister enjoyed attending Sunday School every week.
One cold Sunday morning held a particularly fond memory for her. “My father skidded on an icy patch in our driveway and landed in a ditch,” she recalls with a chuckle. The young sisters insisted their father quickly call a tow truck so they wouldn’t miss school and spending time with their Jewish friends. Both girls attended Camp Galil, a kosher Orthodox camp founded as part of the Zionist Youth Movement, just over the Pennsylvania border. When applying for college, a sizable Jewish population was a prerequisite, and marrying someone Jewish was expected.
Less fond memories of anti-Semitism and avoidance by others were also part of the fabric of growing up in this non-Jewish environment. The little girl next-door was not allowed to play with the young Sandy and, in high school, she was the object of proselytizing efforts by a missionary student attending Ashland College.
Tabachnick and her former husband moved to Omaha, Nebraska, a “welcoming and warm Jewish community” where he was executive director of the JCC of Omaha for two years. From there, he accepted the position of executive director of the JCC of Akron, and they raised a family. Tachachnick is proud of the accomplishments of her three children. Phyllis, her eldest, who works in wealth management in Chicago, visited Israel with a teen group during her high school years, remains committed to Jewish causes, and is supportive of and involved in Jewish organizations. Her son, Scott, is principal of an elementary school in southern Vermont, and Diane, her youngest, is a Physician Assistant who heads a psychiatry unit in southern Vermont.
Her youngest child had just graduated from college in 1987 and Tabachnick accepted a position in Tidewater, selling commercial advertising for Cox Communications. “It was a good job and I was delighted by the opportunity to meet a group of educated, generous, liberal, and intelligent new friends in the Virginia Beach area,” she recalls.
Drawing from her love of theater and theatrical experiences in high school and college, Tabachnick auditioned for and was awarded professional roles in several Discovery Channel re-enactments. She also played the grandmother in The Children’s Hour performed at the Little Theater of Norfolk and received a rave review in The Virginian-Pilot from Montague Gammon III.
Tabachnick was nine years old in 1948 when Israel was proclaimed a nation. She recalls fundraising efforts taking place at her synagogue and, as a young adult, she loved to teach Israeli music and dancing, which she had learned during her summers at Camp Galil, at other camps and Sunday school.
Tabachnick had never traveled, but had always wanted to visit Israel. In 1991, she and another woman from Tidewater joined a national Federation trip to Israel. She felt completely safe with this Jewish group and, as her eldest daughter before her, realized a deeper connection and strengthened support for “Eretz Yisrael” and the work done on its behalf by Jewish Federations. She was an active member of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Community Relations Council and served on the board of directors of Jewish Family Service. Her steadfast advice remains “to find something of interest that you can support and do so. The rewards are great.”
Sandy Tabachnick is a LIFE & LEGACY® donor who has made multiple endowed gifts, supporting the future of the Jewish community.
— Ronnie Jacobs Cohen