Feldman, Elaine (1916–2006), public figure and founder of a secondary school for the Jewish community, was born on 31 March 1916 at 19 Kenilworth Park, Harold's Cross, Dublin, the second child of Maurice Freeman and his wife Ada (née Price). Maurice Freeman had come to Ireland from Russia and set up various businesses in Kevin Street, while Ada taught (as a volunteer) in the school established in Adelaide Road synagogue to train younger Jewish children in the tenets of their religion. Elaine was sent to Wesley College; in the 1930s, Jewish children generally attended protestant secondary schools, as catholic schools were less accommodating of the requirements of observant Jews. At the age of fourteen, Elaine complained to the principal that day girls were unsupervised at lunchtime; Dr Irwin responded by appointing her to be the first day-girl prefect. Though awarded a Trinity College bursary on the basis of her performance in her leaving certificate, Freeman went to work in the civil service when she left school in 1934.
On her twenty-fifth birthday (31 March 1941), Freeman married Jacob 'Jack' Feldman, a commercial traveller and later a shop owner, and because of the ban on married women working in the public service, was obliged to leave her job. The Feldmans had two sons and a daughter, and when the time came for the children to attend secondary school, both parents were unhappy at the limited options available, at a time when there was pressure on space in protestant secondary schools; they were also afraid that secular education would rob their children of their heritage as orthodox observant Jews. Elaine Feldman was one of five people who attended a meeting in Rabbi Jakobvits's house in 1952, and was the main mover in the establishment of the first Jewish secondary school in Ireland, what became Stratford College in Rathgar, south Dublin. The school opened in Terenure Road East in September 1952, with a small first form transferring from the Jewish national school in Bloomfield Avenue. Feldman recognised how difficult it was for parents to entrust a child's education to a tiny, untried establishment, but she and the other founders believed passionately in its central importance to the Jewish community. As honorary secretary to the board of governors for seventeen years, she effectively managed all aspects of running the school and tirelessly lobbied politicians and civil servants for support.
The original premises were not adequate as numbers increased, and in 1954 Feldman negotiated the purchase of 1 Zion Road, a handsome Victorian property; she agreed to pay £4,250 before she had any financial arrangement in place. Panic-stricken, she went to the manager of the Northern Bank, who reassured her that she had done the right thing, and loaned an additional amount to equip the school on the sureties provided by Jack Feldman and four other Jewish businessmen. Stratford College flourished and did much to preserve religious observance, as well as enhancing communal and social life for several generations of Dublin Jews, and also provided an all-round education for increasing numbers of children of other faiths. From her wide circle of friends and relatives in the Jewish community, Elaine Feldman sought support for a large number of scholarships for needy Jewish children, which covered not only tuition but incidentals, uniforms and books, ensuring that only the parents and the rabbi knew which children were so maintained. Her contribution to the college was immense, and it established an award in her honour given to pupils for literary merit.
Feldman became well known in Dublin as an accomplished lecturer on Judaism. For fifteen years, from about 1970, audiences totalling more than 10,000 people crowded in to Adelaide Road synagogue to hear her weekly talks introducing Jewish doctrines and beliefs to Christians interested in dialogue between religions, or just curious. Even Jewish community leaders and rabbis from Britain attended on occasion. She was nominated by the chief rabbi to be a member of the Irish Council of Christians and Jews. Her talks to Dublin schoolchildren were particularly important in improving inter-faith understanding.
Feldman volunteered for many years in the headquarters of the Irish Girl Guides, and was controller of the guide shop, developing it into an efficient and much larger business. She was a district commissioner, and even after officially retiring, was still active in guiding, one of the oldest women involved anywhere in the world.
Despite lifelong chronic illness, Feldman was a keen golfer, and was life lady president of the Jewish golf club at Edmondstown, in the Dublin mountains. She and her husband (d. 1985) were well known in Dublin business life, and after she died in her home in Neville Avenue, Rathgar, on 19 October 2006, she was mourned as the matriarch of Dublin Jewry.