A Brief Family History: From Galicia as Orphans to PhD Grandchildren
I was born in 1935 in Wilmington, Delaware, the first child of my
immigrant parents. My parents, Sylvia and Isadore N. Silverman, came to
the US as 11 year old orphans in 1921/22. Although they left many
relatives in Europe, they were sent to the United States to live with an
aunt and uncle because the relatives in Poland were not in a position
to care for them. Their own parents had died during World War I.
in the US was a difficult adjustment, but they worked hard and after
they met and married, life was a happy time again. Their focus was
always on family, education, and volunteer work in the Jewish community.
My Dad was the Gabbai at Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth synagogue for 40
years, after chairing many committees and serving as Vice President. He
was also a Boy Scout Leader and commissioner for more than 65 years and
was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, which is the highest award to a
volunteer in the scout organization.
My Mom was active in Hadassah, Sisterhood, and President of Mizrachi Women. She was always the “home room” mother at school.
was important. Sylvia and Isadore were forced to leave school at the
age of 16, and to continue their studies at night school while working
during the day. They were proud that all four of their daughters
graduated from college, with two going on for Master’s degrees. The next
generation, their grandchildren and spouses, includes five PhDs, one
DBA, two MDs and one JD. How proud they were of the ones they lived to
In 1955, I married Charles K. Keil. He had a wonderful
relationship with my parents; he was the son that they did not have. He
was also the big brother that my little sisters did not have until then.
Charlie is a 2nd generation American, with ancestors also from
Galicia. His grandfather came to the US as a 17 year old, worked as a
peddler in Brooklyn and eventually came to Wilmington where he brought
the rest of his siblings to America, had a successful business, and
contributed his time and resources to the Jewish community.
both Charlie and I learned to help others in volunteer efforts by
following the examples of our parents. Charles K. Keil was a 1st Lt. in
the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force for two years,
then served as Administrative Assistant to Delaware’s Governor Elbert N.
Carvel. Next he served one term as a State Representative.
22 years in a law firm, he was appointed as a Judge in the Family Court
of the State of Delaware. This is a 12 year appointment by the Governor
and requires confirmation by the Senate. His community service included
PTA president, president of the Lincoln Club of Delaware, Board Member
of the Jewish Federation of Delaware and chair of the Jewish Voice.
community service included two years as president of the Wilmington
Chapter of Hadassah, co-chair of the Women’s Division campaign of the
Jewish Federation of Delaware, Chair of the Editorial committee of the
Jewish Voice, Board member of the Jewish Federation of Delaware and of
the JCC, and Red Cross volunteer. I also had the honor of serving on the
staff of Congressman Thomas R. Carper during his first five years in
office until my retirement.
We have two children: Lea Keil Garson
and Mark Keil. They are our pride and joy. Both are Princeton grads.
Lea has a PhD from Princeton; Mark earned his DBA at Harvard. Lea is a
reading specialist and director of learning support in a high school, is
married to Eliot B. Garson, a clinical psychologist; they have two
daughters, Julie and Katie. Julie is a U of Penn grad and a candidate
for her doctoral degree in clinical psychology; Katie has a Masters in
Ed from Penn and is currently teaching English as a second language in
Mark Keil is a full professor at Georgia State
University, where he has earned numerous awards for his teaching ,
research and service responsibilities. He is secretary of Shearith
Israel Congregation in Atlanta, is married to Judith Fridovich-Keil, who
is a professor at Emory. They have two children: David is a freshman at
Princeton; Sara is a high school student.
Sylvia and Isadore had three more daughters, and a total of seven grandchildren.
live on in the legacy of their good deeds. People we meet at the
synagogue and elsewhere still stop to tell us something nice that they
remember about Sylvia and Isadore. They left this world a better place
for their positive impact on so many lives.