Actress/activist Marlee Matlin will headline Hadassah’s Annual Meeting.
Actress/activist Marlee Matlin will headline Hadassah’s Annual Meeting. (Brett Freedman)

Like Hadassah, Marlee Matlin wants to heal the world one person at a time.

As Hadassah Greater Detroit makes accommodations for the Judi Schram Annual Meeting — for those attending in person or virtually — there will be a lot of inspiration.

Much of it will come from the guest speaker, film and TV actress Marlee Matlin, known for developing an award-winning career and maintaining strong relationships as a wife and mother — all while moving beyond the deaf community and leading others to advance along with her. 

Matlin’s topic, to be expressed Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Adat Shalom Synagogue, will be “Living Generously: Healing the World One Person at a Time.” The message relates to the healing work done through Hadassah medical facilities in Israel and programs that empower women and support at-risk youth.

“Our guest, Marlee Matlin, who is a life member of Hadassah, represents the women of our organization so well,” said Fran Heicklen, Hadassah Greater Detroit president. “She works to raise awareness for causes dear to her — the deaf community, LGBTQ rights, diversity, humanitarian needs, domestic violence and addiction. 

“As Hadassah women, we support the same issues, also striving to heal the world one person at a time.”

Before and after Matlin takes the podium, there will be a series of shopping opportunities and the availability of boxed lunches.

In the evening, at Congregation Beth Ahm, there will be a tribute dinner honoring Elaine and Stephen Sturman for their dynamic activities in the Michigan Jewish community. She has been a 30-year member of Hadassah and served as chapter and region president, earning the Hadassah National Leadership Award. Together they are active in many organizations, including the Ecumenical Institute for Jewish-Christian Studies, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Ensemble Theatre.

Hadassah honorees Elaine and Stephen Sturman
Hadassah honorees Elaine and Stephen Sturman. Paul Stoloff Photography

In 2018, Matlin told Oregon Jewish Life how she grew up in a Reform family and had her bat mitzvah at Congregation Bene Shalom in Skokie, Ill., a synagogue for both hearing and deaf members. 

“I had the benefit of a rabbi who could sign,” she said. “I learned how to speak Hebrew phonetically, and I signed and spoke.”

She is in the midst of promoting her latest film, CODA (child of a deaf adult), which won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Matlin portrays the mother in a family of four. It was released in August and is now on Apple TV+.

The plot involves parents and a son dependent on the daughter because only she is able to hear. They all must deal with her interest in leaving home to pursue a singing career. 

A strong advocate for the deaf community, Matlin was instrumental in pushing for ensemble cast members who represented the talents to be found in that community. She recently discussed her activities on CBS Sunday Morning, where she appeared with award-winning actor Henry Winkler and his wife, Stacey, valued mentors who even had her as a houseguest for two years.

The Winklers became aware of Matlin after he noticed her talents at an arts festival. Years later, they helped her recover following her hospitalization for substance abuse.

“Sobriety is the hardest thing,” she recently told CBS Sunday Morning, explaining how recovery remains one day at a time while she is so grateful for the guidance of the Winklers. She revealed life experiences in her book I’ll Scream Later.

Matlin, 56, who won the Academy Award at 21 for Children of a Lesser God, also has been in many TV shows, including The West Wing, Seinfeld and Dancing With the Stars.

Before and after the Matlin presentation, visitors can shop at nearly 20 boutique stations offering unique purchases that include clothing, jewelry and crystal.

Matlin told the Oregon Jewish publication: “I am happy to have the opportunity to speak in front of other members of the Jewish community and talk about my story and how I basically wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my Jewish upbringing.”  


Hadassah Annual Meeting programs offered Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills: boutiques 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m., boxed lunches from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and the speaker at 1 p.m. $75 in person, $30 boxed lunch and $54 virtual ticket. Raffle tickets are available without attendance starting at five for $25. The Sturman dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield. $136.

Proof of vaccination and masks are required for in-person activities.

Reservations: Questions: (248) 683-5030,

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.