By Deb Silverthorn
Hanna Lambert taught her family, and her extended family of thousands of Akiba Yavneh Academy (AYA) students and their parents, the lesson of Abraham’s tent: hachnasat orcheem, welcoming strangers. Lambert, who passed away May 12, 2023, never knew a stranger and, at Tiferet Israel Congregation, where she prayed, served and cherished relationships, it was standing room only for all to bid shalom.
At the service paying tribute to Lambert, with faces of all the generations of her lifetime gathered in Hanna’s memory on Mother’s Day, Rabbi Howard Wolk spoke on behalf of Tiferet Israel’s Rabbi Meir Sabo, who was traveling in Israel with AYA’s senior class. Wolk also noted how fitting it was for the woman who mothered, grandmothered, taught and cared for so many, impacting generations.
“Eishes chayil — it’s totally appropriate we read these words as they describe Hanna, who was devoted to her family and her community, always tending to the needs of others,” he said. “Really, it could have been written for her. Chana, it comes from the root of sweetness, and that is who she was.”
Born on Nov. 21, 1935, the Dallas-born Hanna — Chana Rivka Bat Sara v’Aaron — Goldman was the daughter of Sara and Harry Goldman and sister of Joe (Beverly) Goldman. She was raised at Congregation Agudas Achim and at Mr. Levine’s Zionist Hebrew School, Herzl Chaikel Talmud Torah and United Hebrew Schools in South Dallas.
A graduate of Forest Avenue High School, Lambert began college studies at the University of Texas and earned a bachelor’s degree at Southern Methodist University and a master’s degree at Texas Woman’s University. She was active in Hillel and Young Judaea and as a member of the Kadima Club; she and other members of Kadima created a choral group that traveled around the state raising money to support Israel.
The young Goldman girl met Raymond Lambert as a child. She was the next-door neighbor and best friend, truly sister, of Sue Kollinger, who was his cousin, but it wasn’t until he was a student at Texas A&M University, and she a senior in high school, that they began dating.
“I think Raymond always loved her; he just waited for her to grow up,” said Kollinger of the couple, who married on June 9, 1957. Each remained the other’s most treasured partner for 58 years until he passed away in 2015.
Lambert is survived by her brother Joe; her children Craig (Dr. Bart Sloan) Lambert, Debbie (Garry) Smith; grandchildren Zachary Lambert, Sara Lambert, Nicholas (Emily) Smith, Erin (Michael) Gladstein and Carolyn Smith; and great-grandchildren Hanna and Gemma Smith.
Hanna first taught in DISD schools before she and her husband were sent to Mannheim, West Germany, where he served in the U.S. Army.
Her father was a founder of Akiba Academy; Lambert was on the school’s education committee and a PTA past-president. AYA’s Outstanding Teacher Award is named for Lambert, the school’s first preschool director who is credited with its first national accreditation, starting its Reading Recovery program and much more. After 28 years as preschool director, she became AYA’s admissions director in 2006.
For years Lambert and her husband raised their children at Congregation Shearith Israel, returning in later years to Tiferet Israel Congregation, where Lambert’s husband would design the ark and small chapel and where she would serve on the congregation’s education committee and board.
Tiferet honored the Lamberts, alongside Connie and Dr. Hyman “Hy” Tolmas, with their “Pillars of Influence” award in 2013. She served on the boards of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Children’s Regional Service and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; she was president of Jewish Family Service and the Starlight Chapter and then regional board member of B’nai B’rith Women; and honors were bestowed on her for her efforts to support Jewish National Fund.
Lambert was an avid reader, she enjoyed traveling, she would partake in any mitzvah opportunity connected to whatever organization and she would attend a study of Torah or Jewish “anything” at any table (or on Zoom).
In a June 2013 oral history for the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, Lambert told interviewer Scott Farber, “I’ve lived a very blessed life. My children, my family, all of it. The home that Raymond designed to please me. It was designed so we could have Friday night Shabbat dinners with guests and family, Seders with 36 people; it’s a home my father — then his mother — lived in with us. Our home is always open.”
Open is how Lambert lived. Open home, open heart, open arms.
“We as Jews have a responsibility to carry on what Judaism has blessed the world with and I want them to feel the responsibility to make this a better place,” Lambert told Farber. “To raise children who are honest, fair and compassionate, to really think of their lives with insight and vision and how they can be good people.”
“Hanna would greet children and parents alike, on the doorstep at Churchill Way and then at the Schultz Rosenberg Campus. She’d walk miles on Shabbat for a simcha of one of ‘her’ kids.’ Everything she did was in a manner you couldn’t learn in graduate school. It was from her neshama (soul),” said Wolk. “She infused ethics and manners and continued to learn herself until just now. Hanna was our mensch of a lifetime.”
Lambert’s grandchildren got her message, sharing the best parts of Bubbie, Bubbe, Bubby — depending on who is writing (Lambert spelled it Bubbe). Their memories are of Shabbat’s smells, tastes, sounds, sleepovers and kisses on their foreheads; in later years, of pre-Shabbat calls to each of them; of her lessons of how to love, playing at the park or games of rummy and time at shul. They called her their “constant” and their “cornerstone,” encouraging all to do a mitzvah a week in her honor; and they promised to live up to what she stood for.
Jordana Bernstein, who succeeded Lambert at AYA but who’d also known her for most of her life, said, “Hanna has been the matriarch of our community and she leaves her legacy on the world. Her signature sway [when dancing at preschool] Shabbat gatherings, her caring so much about everyone. She was always the fearless cheerleader.”
Son Craig spoke about never forgetting the hundreds of thousands of hours his mother gave, embedded in the organizations she loved. “My mother was overflowing with love. It beamed from her face, rosy and intense. It spread from her smile, intimate and warm like a soft blanket around your soul. Hashem drove her.”
Lambert’s daughter Debbie said, “Mom was the strongest, healthiest person we’ve ever known. She hadn’t been in the hospital except to give birth. She always gave blessings and she was always so blessed.”
Tears flowed in every aisle of those who by blood called her theirs and those whom she gathered from all corners of the community. The heart and dedication she’d shared for years returned to her over her lifetime.
Lambert passed away with a siddur in one hand and her granddaughter Carolyn’s hand in the other.
Donations in Hanna Lambert’s memory are requested to Akiba Yavneh Academy, Jewish Family Service, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Tiferet Israel Congregation.