Adele Bluthenthal Heiman
Adele Bluthenthal Heiman played a leadership role in the Jewish community in Arkansas and nationally. She was active in Congregation B’nai Israel, the largest Reform congregation in Arkansas, serving as a temple board member and twice as sisterhood president. She also served as president of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and served on the city board for the United Service Organizations during WWII. She held simultaneous positions on the boards of the National Council of Jewish Women and the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods. In 1932 she became the founding vice president of the Arkansas Jewish Assembly and in 1935 became its first woman president. Under her leadership, the umbrella organization, which unified Jewish congregations throughout the state, helped resettle European Jews fleeing Nazism.
Adele (Bluthenthal) Heiman’s exuberance for life and dedication to Judaism permeated all that she was or did as a communal leader. Her lifelong concern for others and her indefatigable spirit, evident in her participation in many community organizations, was inherited from her forebears.
Early Life and Family
She was born on August 22, 1900, the eldest child of Adolph and Rachel (Rae Solmson) Bluthenthal. Her siblings were Henriette, Madeline, and David. Adolph Bluthenthal, born in 1865 in Germany, had come to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as a teenager. Family members had settled there before the Civil War. Adolph established a leading men’s clothing store and was active in civic and religious life. In December 1895, he married Rae Solmson, daughter of prominent Pine Bluff settler Solomon Solmson. Rae’s mother was German-born Henrietta Berlin, whose family settled in Baltimore, Maryland, when she was fourteen.
In 1921, Adele graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Goucher College, a women’s school in Baltimore. On September 29 of that year, she married Jesse Heiman of Little Rock. Jesse was the son of Max Heiman, who helped develop the Gus Blass Company into the state’s largest department store. Jesse, a graduate of Columbia University, was with the Blass company from 1906 to 1945, serving as vice president and treasurer. Adele and Jesse Heiman had three children: Rose (b. 1923), Max Adolph (b. 1925), and Robert Jesse (b. 1930).
Involvement in Judaism
Judaism was important to the Heiman family. They were members of Congregation B’nai Israel, the state’s largest Reform Jewish congregation, and faithfully attended services. Heiman served on the temple board and twice as sisterhood president. She was president of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Federation of Temple Sisterhoods. She served simultaneously as a member of the national board of the National Council of Jewish Women and the national board of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and was a board member of the Little Rock Boys Club Auxiliary. As well, she served on the city board for the United Service Organizations during World War II.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the Arkansas Jewish Assembly was an umbrella organization that brought together the Jewish congregations and served the needs of the Jews throughout the state. Heiman was elected its first vice president in 1932 and served as its first woman president in 1935. In 1938, she headed the assembly’s work in cooperating with national efforts to resettle German Jewish immigrants in America.
Three years after Jesse Heiman died on December 27, 1952, Adele Heiman married Ernest E. Ellman, a retired department store executive. The latter died on January 17, 1974.
Heiman was an intelligent woman, determined to become well educated and pursue a life of service to her community and her religion. While expending limitless energy in her efforts for others, she also exuded an aura of graciousness and warmth that made her all the more appreciated by those she helped or who knew her. She gave exemplary credit to her Jewish heritage.
Adele Blumenthal Heiman died on April 3, 1979.
Arkansas Democrat, April 4, 1979, 8d.
Arkansas Gazette, November 7, 1917, 1.
Firestone, Bill. “The Pine Bluff Connection,” Bluthenthal Family Tree.
Heiman, Robert. Interview with author, Blytheville, Arkansas, November 25, 1982.
LeMaster, Carolyn Gray. A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s–1990s (1994).
Loeb, Rose Heiman. Telephone interview with author, September 3, 1996.