The Tucson chapter of Brandeis National Committee honored Soralé “Sorkey” Fortman as a Woman of Valor in 1997. Now, having celebrated her 80th birthday in April, she shows little sign of slowing down.
Since she retired from teaching 20 years ago, Fortman has held every position available in the BNC Tucson chapter, from president to book fund coordinator, and held several offices in the Western Region.
“We’re not just put on this earth to vegetate. We have to give back to people,” says Fortman, who as a reading specialist particularly liked the emphasis on the Brandeis University libraries when she joined the organization at the behest of her sister, the late Barbara Buchalter. Fortman initiated the Tucson chapter’s Book & Author events around 17 years ago. “They’ve improved upon it over the years. It’s gotten to be quite a big event,” she says. She was also in charge of BNC’s learned research journals for 20 years.
Along with the libraries and student scholarships, BNC today supports research into neurodegenerative diseases, “which is also an important goal … so I found a group that I can believe in,” says Fortman.
Fortman has also volunteered with the Community Food Bank, taught Sunday school at Temple Emanu-El , served on the religious school boards of both Temple and Congregation Anshei Israel, was a founding board member of Tucson Hebrew Academy and was active with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Women’s Philanthropy division. A Tucson resident for more than 60 years, she wrote a society column for the Arizona Post during a year off from college around 1952, when the newspaper was published by Rebecca Rutz.
She currently serves as treasurer of her local chapter and a citywide council of six chapters of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, a professional honorary society of women educators.
While Fortman sees giving back to society as stemming from Jewish values, she adds that she knows “many Gentiles” who do and believe the same.
Volunteering has also given back to her. “It’s made me a fuller person,” she says. “I don’t understand how anybody can just sit and take. You have to give. I’ve met a lot of interesting people and it’s broadened my horizons.”