Marilyn Kramer, with her husband, Bobby, on their 30th anniversary.

HONORABLE MENSCHION: Marilyn Schlein Kramer

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HONORABLE MENSCHION: Marilyn Schlein Kramer

Marilyn Kramer, with her husband, Bobby, on their 30th anniversary.

Marilyn Schlein Kramer grew up in Beverly. Her father was a researcher at Polaroid, and her mother was a librarian in the Beverly School District. Marilyn attended St. John’s Prep, went to Prozdor at Hebrew College, and was a member of the Harvard Class of 1981. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, and is a health care economist at the employee benefits consulting firm, Brown & Brown. She lives in Beverly with her husband Bob, and they have two children, Corey and Ally. Marilyn is very active with her synagogue, Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester, where she has served as president and treasurer.

What was your Jewish upbringing like?

My family observed the holidays, and we were regular attendees at Friday evening services. My brother Robert and I celebrated our B’nai Mitzvahs at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly. I spent seven seasons at Camp Yavneh, the summer program of Hebrew College. I hated afternoon Hebrew school at the synagogue, but I loved Yavneh with its outdoor services, informal Hebrew learning, and the Jewish teens from all over the Boston area. Because of Yavneh, I graduated from Prozdor, Hebrew College’s high school program. During college, I spent a year studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Your parents were involved in both the Beverly and Gloucester temples. Did that influence you and your connection to Judaism?

My parents (z”l) were role models in so many ways, including serving as leaders in the Jewish community. My father, Herb Schlein, was on the boards of both synagogues as well as what is now the Epstein Hillel School. My mother, Janet Schlein, was active in Sisterhood and Hadassah in both Gloucester and Beverly. When I joined the Gloucester board of directors in the mid-1990s, my father and I would carpool to the meetings together. Discussions on the way home were interesting, particularly when we had a difference of opinion on a particular issue.

You went to Harvard as an undergraduate. What was that like?

My class was among the first to be accepted by a joint Harvard-Radcliffe admissions office as opposed to just Radcliffe College. There were many “firsts” for women during my time at Harvard. I was active in extracurricular activities, I served as chair for freshman orientation, attended services at Hillel, and rowed crew for my residential house.

Harvard always had something to offer. When I wanted to study health economics, the Economics Department did not yet offer a class. So, the department connected me with a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who supervised an independent study program instead. When I was interested in taking a chemistry course for no good reason during my senior year, I ended up in a small seminar taught by a Nobel prize winner!

How did you meet your husband?

Bob and I met at an informal Jewish singles event in Brookline. Bob was a professional photographer and musician; I was a businessperson who could not hold a tune. As friends said at our wedding in 1992, we were “seemingly opposites” who create “harmony.” And here we are 32 years later.

How did you decide to become a health economist?

The US health care system is a juicy problem for an economist – increasingly obscene amounts of money being spent, mediocre outcomes for many, disparities across races and huge political and industrial forces. With my background in health economics, I have had a varied and interesting career working in government, running a nonprofit patient advocacy organization, consulting to large national employers, and serving as CEO of a health analytics software company.

Marilyn Kramer, with her children, Corey and Ally, on Hanukkah.
Why did you move back to Beverly?

Bob and I love the ocean and back then we also enjoyed cycling along Route 127. We wanted our children to grow up surrounded by cousins, aunt, uncle and grandparents. Our children – adopted from Moldova as toddlers – really value the deep roots they have in Beverly. Now as young adults, they are living and working in the area.

You’re very involved with your temple, Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester. You’ve served as president, treasurer, and you’re currently the chair of the ritual committee. Why are you so passionate about the temple?

The people. We are a group of innovative and creative people committed to “do Jewish” together and educate our kids. I love the fact our community created a lobster trap Hanukkah menorah. It captures our spirit of commitment to both our Jewish tradition and the fishing community of Gloucester.

I am also inspired by our collective achievements, particularly how we rallied after our building was destroyed in a horrible fire in 2007. We reimagined ourselves, built a modern, accessible space, and emerged stronger than before.

You’re also the cochair of the rabbinic search committee at Ahavat Achim. Can you update us on the search status?

We are in the process of receiving applications and interviewing some wonderful candidates. Our committee developed a profile that captures Ahavat Achim’s sense of closeness and commitment as well as our vision for the future. The candidates are responding to our sense of enthusiasm.

You’re also the incoming president of Beverly Bootstraps. Can you talk about the organization and what it does?

Beverly Bootstraps provides critical resources to households in Beverly and surrounding towns, including food assistance, housing stability, and adult education. Visits to the food pantry, our mobile market, and our automated food lockers are at a historic high. Happily, our generous donors and supporters have come through and allowed us to grow our programs. Θ

One Response

  1. I remember Herb and Janet well. They were wonderful people so apple does Not fall far from the tree. I lived at 91 Lovett St for 12 years! (1978-1990) when we moved to Swampscott (commute to Cohen Hillel Academy for tiresome
    After 3 years!!

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