Obituary: Sara Louise Reis / Was devoted to 'synagogue life'

Feb. 27, 1953-July 9, 2014

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As executive director of Temple Emanuel of South Hills, Sara Louise Reis was responsible for the smooth operation of, well, pretty much everything at the synagogue. 

“She was responsible for everything from making sure the floors were clean and all the light bulbs were working, to greeting members of the congregation as they arrived for services, to making sure all the nuts and bolts were tightened and everything was operating smoothly,” said Rabbi Mark Mahler of the Mt. Lebanon synagogue.  

“And if something went wrong,” Rabbi Mahler said by phone from Jerusalem, where he is leading a mission, “she‘‍d field complaints with an open mind and an open heart.”  

It was with a sorrowful heart that Rabbi Mahler had to inform members of his congregation who are on the mission with him that Ms. Reis, 61, died Wednesday in her Squirrel Hill home following long-standing health issues.  

“She really was a dear person. Not only was she a capable colleague but she also was a beloved friend, not only to me but to many in the congregation,” Rabbi Mahler said.  

Ms. Reis was preceded in death by her husband, Rabbi Paul S. Reis, in 1997. As his wife, she served as rebbetzin at Congregation Beth Israel in Flint, Mich., and at various other synagogues.  

Because of that, Rabbi Mahler said, Ms. Reis “understood a congregation has to serve it’s members. She was well versed in Jewish traditions, and that was something she always used as the background for how she served the congregation. Everything emerged from that. She loved synagogue life.“  

Ms. Reis was the former administrator of Congregation Beth Shalom, Squirrel Hill, and volunteered with many humanitarian organizations including: Hadassah, Na’amat and Sisterhood.  

Ms. Reis cherished her weekly mahjong get-togethers with long-time friends, including Dorothy Greenfield of Squirrel Hill.  

”She was a wonderful friend and very giving of her time,“ Ms. Greenfield said. “If you needed something, she was always there for you. A very intelligent and very driven person.” 

Ms. Reis is survived by three sons, Ezra Reis of Kennedy, Ari Reis of Brattleboro, Vt., and Rabbi Efrem Reis of Teaneck, N.J.; her mother, Esther K. Elfenbein of Oneonta, N.Y.; a sister, Lisa “Punk” Elfenbein from Colonie, N.Y.; two brothers, Adam Elfenbein of Washington, D.C., and Seth Elfenbein of Oakland; seven grandchildren; and her longtime companion and family friend, Chester Spatt of Squirrel Hill. 

A graveside service  will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday at King Solomon Cemetery, Clifton, N.J. followed by shiva minyan. Shiva will observed at her home. A memorial service will be held at Temple Emanuel of South Hills, 1250 Bower Hill Road, Mt. Lebanon, at a future date. 

Memorial contributions can be made to Loeys-Dietz Syndrome Foundation, Box 22468, Baltimore, Md. 21203. Donation forms can be found at



Michael A. Fuoco: or 412-263-1968.

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