By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Longtime Brooklyn Heights resident Geraldine Gross, a journalist and fiction writer who was known for her involvement in Jewish affairs, died last month at the age of 86.
Gross came from a poor immigrant family. Her background was in communications, and she worked in the communications departments of Chemical Bank and J.P. Morgan.
Her first book, the novel The Door Between, was published under her maiden name, Geraldine Kitay, in 1959. Her second, The Persecution of Tante Chava and Other Stories, was published in 2001.
When she and her husband, George Gross, got married and moved to Brooklyn Heights in the mid-1970s, they, like many traditionally minded Jewish Heights residents at the time, joined the Kane Street Synagogue even though it was in Cobble Hill.
In an essay she contributed to the synagogue’s anniversary journal in 2001, she remembered that when she joined the synagogue, it only had a part-time rabbi. The neighborhood, she recalled, was somewhat rundown at the time.
She also remembered the changes in the congregation over the years, such as the admission of women as members of the minyan (prayer group) and the decision to let women wear tallaisim (prayer shawls, traditionally reserved for men). Her husband, as a board member, voted for both of these changes.
She soon became the publicist for the synagogue. When the Kane Street Synagogue hired its first female rabbi, Debra Cantor, in 1988 — a move that was still fairly unusual at the time — Gross alerted the city’s newspapers, and the religion editor for The New York Times interviewed Cantor.
From there, she started writing freelance articles and occasional columns for the New York Jewish Week, at first about members of the synagogue but later about Brooklyn in general.
“She wrote mainly about Downtown, Cobble Hill, the Heights,” recalls Adam Dickter, assistant managing editor of the New York Jewish Week, who said she was active in the 1990s and early 2000s. “She had the energy of someone half her age. I was sorry to hear that she passed away.”
Rabbi Samuel Weintraub of the Kane Street Synagogue told the Eagle, “She was an important part of our community. She had a great openness toward people of all backgrounds. She had a passionate and deep-seated sense of social justice, and I think that through her writings she tried to act out her convictions, which were to make people both informed and connected.”
Friends of hers are planning a memorial service and gathering at the Kane Street Synagogue, tentatively scheduled for Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m.