Elissa Froman, an alumna and political activist representing Jewish communities in D.C. and nationally, died Thursday at age 29.
Froman, who graduated with a degree in Judaic and women’s studies, was a congressional lobbyist for the National Council of Jewish Women and an active member of GW Hillel before her 2006 graduation. She specialized in civil liberties, the separation of religion and government and social justice.
She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, when she was 23 years old – the same year she graduated from GW. Froman received the news at GW Hospital after she entered the emergency room for dehydration. Teetering between recovery and relapse, she battled through years of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
She chronicled her experience with stem cell transplants and her search for a bone marrow donor on her blog.
GW Hillel Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth said Froman was one of the first alumni he met when he came to GW in 2010. He said she was warm, smart, caring, adventurous and “passionate about doing good deeds and paying it forward.”
“We had a few amazing encounters on the way,” he said, adding that he distinctly remembered how the alumna’s face would light up whenever someone mentioned the GW Jewish community organization. “She just wanted the best for GW and for Hillel.”
Yoni said Froman regularly attended Friday night services and dinners at Hillel, and visited the Gewirz Center on 23rd and H streets for the group’s annual alumni weekend.
Joanna Feldman, who launched a website to raise money for her friend’s medical bills, posted that Froman entered the hospital in February 2012 for complications related to a stem cell transplant, barring her plans to attend rabbinical school that summer.
The site raised more than $45,000 in five months with almost 750 donations – just a few thousand dollars short of its $54,000 goal. Feldman posted that Vice President Joe Biden had written a letter to Froman in October 2012 while she stayed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Froman is survived by her father Michael nee Salzberg, mother Gloria and a sister, Rebecca.