Death of Adele Bluthenthal Heiman, Communal Leader in Arkansas
The German Jewish community in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was thriving in the late 19th century. Relying on the farming economy, there were 30 Jewish-owned businesses in town, specializing in dry goods, groceries, clothing, and jewelry.
Born in 1865 in Germany, Adolph Bluthenthal came to Pine Bluff as a teenager. With his partner Leo Kastor, he built Kastor and Bluthethal’s men’s clothing store, which grew to be “recognized as one of the most progressive and successful merchants of the city… one of the most exclusive men’s furnishing goods stores in this section of the state.” He married Rae Solmson, daughter of prominent Pine Bluff settler Solomon Solmson. As the century turned, their first daughter Adele was born.
Adele grew to be an avid student, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland in 1921. That same year, she married Jesse Heiman of Little Rock, a graduate of Columbia University. Jesse was the son of another prominent businessman who had founded the Gus Blass Dry Goods Company of Little Rock, which was Arkansas’s largest department store. Jesse worked at his father’s company as vice president and treasurer from 1906 to 1945.
Adele Bluthenthal Heiman plunged into community life, particularly the activities of Congregation B’nai Israel, the state’s largest Reform Jewish congregation. She served on the temple board and twice was its sisterhood president. She eventually became president of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Federation of Temple Sisterhoods.
Heiman was elected the first vice president of the Arkansas Jewish Assembly in 1932 and became its first woman president in 1935. The assembly was an umbrella organization that brought together Jewish congregations and served the needs of Jews throughout the state in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1938, Heiman headed the assembly’s work in cooperating with national efforts to resettle German Jewish immigrants in America.
Heiman was an intelligent woman, determined to 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.
Adele Blumenthal Heiman died on April 3, 1979.
Sources: Centennial History of Arkansas, Volume 3, Herndon, Dallas Taylor, S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1922; “Pine Bluff: Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities,” Institute for Southern Jewish Life.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Death of Adele Bluthenthal Heiman, Communal Leader in Arkansas." (Viewed on December 8, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/apr/03/1979/this-week-in-history-death-of-adele-bluthenthal-heiman-communal-leader-in>.