Irene Goldbaum Balk (1922-1995)
Irene Balk was one of six children born to Peter and Rebecca Goldbaum, who had immigrated to Portland in 1911 through Argentina from a small village near Odessa. Her siblings included Al (Tom and Michael Grant’s father, also a vaudevillian performer), Larry (both brothers changed their last name from Goldbaum to Grant), Betty Stone (Marilyn Chalmer’s mother), Pearl Gressle, and Faye (Sam Menashe’s wife). Peter Goldman was a traditional Jew and filled in as a cantor at Congregation Tifereth Israel in NE Portland. The family helped establish the congregation with the Veltman family, Jacob and Joe Sherman, Harry Levinson, and Peter Goldbaum.
Irene was actively involved in the Portland Jewish community, joining children’s and teen clubs throughout her life. She attended the Brandeis Camp in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. Being chosen as the Portland teen representative to the camp obligated Irene to return to Portland and start a Young Judea group, which she did with some success before leaving to be married. She met her husband, Hy Balk, at Camp White. They were married in St. Louis in 1945.
Irene and Hy returned to Portland after two years and settled in NE Portland. In 1950, they had their first child, Leonard. They became very involved at Tifereth Israel, establishing a children’s choir and a young adult group called the Stars of David in which Sy Danish, Harry and Sylvia Gilbert, Charlotte Green Klonoff, Florence Cohn and her husband, the Feves, the Balks, and the Lowmans were involved. Hy later became president of Tifereth Israel but the couple chose to raise their children at Neveh Shalom.