Elaine Silver: Playing to her Own Tune
Whether for work, fun or good deed, Elaine Silver has spent her life playing music. And while she enjoyed a long and fulfilling marriage, reared five children, and is blessed with14 grandchildren and six great grandchildren, it is her piano that has been her closest and enduring companion. Elaine’s love for music is the consistent tune that runs throughout her life.
Her aptitude for balancing multiple acts began early during her childhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “I started playing piano at age five, and when I learned to read at age seven, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to me to do both at the same time,” says Elaine. To this day, she likes to read a good book while practicing piano. Her enthusiasm for music and daily practice drove her to win state music competitions in high school, and then to commence classes at the Juilliard School of Music in the early 1940s.
Her skills led her to accompany such greats as Laurence Tibbett and Giovanni Martinelli with the Metropolitan Opera. Wanting more of an intellectual challenge, Elaine worked for five years for one of New York City’s leading psychiatrists.
At age 28, Elaine met a forty-year-old bachelor—not to mention a renowned and well-loved rabbi—and the two married in 1953. Shortly after, Rabbi Samuel M. Silver adopted Elaine’s son Lee and he was persuaded by Elaine to have four more. And so, together, they set about the important work of rearing five sons and leading a congregation. Two years after they married, the Silvers embarked on an 18-year stint with their congregation in Connecticut. “Contrary to a lot of rabbis’ wives, says Elaine, “I loved being part of the congregation, helping my husband, and working right along with him. We did concerts and programs together, he would speak, and I would play the piano.” On her own time, Elaine also formed a trio with two other rabbis’ wives, and the three of them known as the “Silver Trio” – a pianist, a singer and a dancer—traveled around New England entertaining in different communities.
In 1976, the Silvers moved to the west coast of Florida, where they served a small congregation for three years until relocating to Delray Beach, where they were instrumental in establishing Temple Sinai of Palm Beach County. For another 18 years, Sam served as rabbi and Elaine as organist and choir director, until they moved to Boca Raton in 1998. In 2011, just one month shy of being 96 years old, Sam passed away. “Up to that moment, he was still preaching every Friday night, and people came from all over to hear him because he was very dynamic,” says Elaine. The Silvers shared 55 rich and colorful years together.
Their five sons, ever attentive to their mother, even with their own extensive families and interesting careers, are a testament to their parents’ love. Two of them became therapists, one is a standup comedian, and of the two who live in Boca Raton near Elaine, one is a CPA and financial advisor, and the other is a lawyer and rabbi. When Sam was still alive and preaching, the three of them (Sam, Elaine and Barry) would do programs together and they called themselves the “father, son and musical spirit.” The Silvers’ oldest son passed away thirteen years ago, but his daughter and her children live only two towns away from Elaine.
These days, in great health, Elaine stays as active as ever. Musically, she still does professional concert work and jazz work, as well as other paid programs, and she continues with her volunteer work which began over fifty years ago. In addition to having worked as choral director at three different retirement communities, directing over 100 people in each one, Elaine regularly plays the piano to entertain residents at nursing homes. “It’s fascinating” she says. “With Alzheimer’s patients, they often can’t remember their relatives or people’s names, but they remember every word of every song. They always remember music.”
When she’s not pounding away at the keyboard, Elaine busies herself playing duplicate bridge (she is a Silver Life Master) swimming her morning laps, and visiting with her children and grandchildren. In fact, she is so fond of staying active that she is anticipating her upcoming move to Sinai Residence of Boca Raton. “People and activities are what it’s all about” she says. “I’m looking forward to the people I can play games with—particularly backgammon and chess—and to being able to participate in evening activities without having to drive at night. “When I stop learning is when I am old, “ she says. At 91, Elaine shows no sign of growing old and reJEWvenates the members of Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor.
Click on this link to read more about Elaine Silver.“Jewish Journal” article