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Appreciation: Mimi Lappin, philanthropist and community leader

Journal Staff

Mimi Lappin

APRIL 12, 2018 – For Mimi Lappin, life revolved around family, Judaism, philanthropy, fashion, and art. Lappin, who along with her husband Robert, donated tens of millions to North Shore Jewish organizations over the last several decades, always seemed to be thinking of ways to give back.

Lappin, who served as chairwoman of the Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore, died on March 28. She was 92, and had been married to Robert Lappin for almost 72 years.

“She had a love for Jewish people,” said Robert Lappin, whom she met one summer night in 1943 at the former Preston Beach Inn in Swampscott. The couple married three years later after Robert returned from serving in the Navy during World War II.

“It was love at first sight,” Robert Lappin recalled. “She was such a beautiful, lovely person.”

Mimi Lappin was born in Chelsea, and was the daughter of Louis and Beatrice (Gordon) Zaiger. Her father had come from Russia, and her mother was from Boston. After a short stint in Lynn, the family moved to Swampscott, where Mimi attended Swampscott schools. After graduating from Swampscott High School, she earned a degree from Mount Ida College in Newton.

After she married Robert Lappin, the couple moved in with her parents in Swampscott. Robert took a job at her father’s automobile accessory manufacturing business in Lynn. After two years, the couple moved to Marblehead where their children, Andy, Peter, and Nancy were born. About a decade later, the family returned to Swampscott, where they lived in a house by the ocean.

“She was passionate about giving back to the Jewish community,” said Robert. The couple helped raise funds to help build the new country of Israel in 1948, and has continued their philanthropy until this day through the Lappin Foundation. “She felt that we were doing something worthwhile, and it was important to the community,” her husband said.

The Lappins were early members of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, and also were members of Kernwood Country Club in Salem, founded just over 100 years ago by Jews who were excluded from other golf clubs in the region. Mimi Lappin also served on numerous Israel Bonds committees.

Along with her husband, she founded the Youth to Israel program in 1971 for North Shore Jewish teens. The Lappins decided to fully subsidize the program in 1996, establishing it as the first free youth trip offered in America and a model for the Birthright program, which sends young Jewish adults on 10-day educational trips to Israel.

After the family lost more than $80 million in the Madoff investment scandal in 2008, Mimi was a steady voice of support. “She dealt with it beautifully,” Robert said. “She accepted what happened with equanimity and in the end, it didn’t make a great difference in our lives.”

Lappin will remember his wife as a witty, generous, well-dressed woman who loved family, liked to paint, and cooked artistic dishes such as hamburger patties in the shape of cupcakes.

“My mother’s words and deeds speak for themselves. She touched so many people,” said Peter Lappin.

She is survived by her beloved husband, Robert I. Lappin, her son Andy D. Lappin and his wife Diane of Glencoe, Ill.; her son Peter J. Lappin of Beverly; her daughter Nancy J. Lappin of Marblehead; and her cherished grandchildren: Lauren Sarah Lappin, Danielle Faith Lappin, Alexander Brett Lappin, Jacklyn Sarah Lappin, Matthew Alexander Lappin, and Benjamin Poser. A funeral service was held on March 30 in Salem. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to the Lappin Foundation, PO Box 986, Salem, MA 01970, or the charitable organization of your choice.

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