Instrumental in the founding of the organized Jewish community in Flint
Date of Birth: April 10, 1885
Date of Death: December 28, 1954
Place of Birth: Krasnodar, Russia
Ann Shapiro Lebster and her husband, Louis Samuel Lebster, are believed to be the first Jewish couple to settle in Flint (in 1903). They fed and housed newcomers and itinerants, sharing Shabbat and holidays with those who would otherwise have been alone. They housed the first Torah, which Louis brought to Flint in 1910, and held minyanim in their home.
Although Ann had just a few years of schooling, she wrote and spoke exceptionally well and read books and newspapers frequently. Her love of reading and learning led her to form the Flint Jewish Women’s Literary Society in the 1920s. Society members presented papers on educational topics and published annual booklets, now held in the Flint Jewish Archives.
It is believed Ann and her sister, Sadie, were both spurred to religious involvement by rabbis and learned religious men during their upbringing. Sadie was as active in the Jewish community in Cleveland as Ann was in Flint. In 1917, Ann attended the Federated Zionist Societies of the Middle West conference in Chicago. In 1922, she founded the Hadassah Chapter in Flint, acting as president for five years. She was also Hadassah Central States Regional President.
Ann, Louis, and Louis’ brother, Max, founded Flint’s first synagogue Congregation Beth Israel (Conservative) in 1922 on McFarlan Street on the city’s industrial north side. Ann was president of its sisterhood and, in 1927, helped to found the reform Temple Beth El.
Ann was also active in the Flint-area American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, the United Nations, and was a charter member of the Flint League of Women Voters. When she died in 1954, the Hadassah Chapter in Flint was renamed the Ann Lebster Chapter Hadassah in her honor.
“[Mom] loved to read, go to services, hear a good speech, and hated bad coffee,” wrote daughter Rosabeth Lebster Schupack in her biography of her mother, Ann Lebster. “She was liberated, even by today’s terms, and was wise enough to put her energies into the causes that were most important in her day. She loved Judaism and Jewish people to their very bones.”