Felice Lauterstein Driesen (1919-2009)

Felice Lauterstein Driesen was born in Portland, Oregon on February 17, 1919 to a family that had been in Portland for several generations already. Her grandfather, Rabbi Henry Nathan Heller was born in Pressburg, Austria-Hungary from a family with a long rabbinical history. A trained musician, he attended the Conservatory of Music in Copenhagen under the direction of Niels W. Gardener, and later attended the University of Berlin. He occupied the pulpit as an “Oberkantor,” a position regarded more prestigious than the Rabbi. In the early 1900’s he and his wife, Regina Fink Heller, and their children and moved to Philadelphia. He was a Rabbi in various congregations, from Richmond, Virginia to Oakland, California. He came to Portland to raise money for a new building for his synagogue in Oakland after the San Francisco earthquake, but Portland’s Neveh Zedek Talmud Torah asked him to stay on and he accepted. 

Felice’s mother Paula Heller, a concert pianist, was born in Copenhagen in 1888. When she was 18, she met her husband Jacob Lauterstein who worked in the Bradford Clothes Shop on Fourth and Washington. Jacob had come to Portland in the late 1800’s with Gene Nudelman and Reverend Weschster, from a colony homesteading in North Dakota. They fell in love through their common interest in Palestine and Zionism. Paula was the first Vice President of the Beth Israel Sisterhood under Mrs. Roscoe Nelson Sr. and Becky Nelson; she was a charter member of Hadassah and it’s first representative on the National Board. She also represented Hadassah at the World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Later she went to Palestine where she met Ben Gurion and Golda Meir. Her father was involved in B’nai B’rith Board as treasurer, the Jewish Community Center Board and dedicated to the Temple Beth Israel.

Felice had three siblings: Celine Lauterstein Lowenson, Herbert Lauterstein, and Natalie Lauterstein Miller. Felice loved growing up in Portland, and especially loved her relationship with Beth Israel and Rabbi Berkowitz. She went to Irvington Elementary, Grant and Lincoln high schools and graduated from Reed College. She married Ralph Driesen in 1943. They had two children, Debbie Caldwell and a son.

She followed in the footsteps of a long line of civic-minded women by volunteering in both the Jewish and the general communities until her death in 2009.

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