Lisa Rifkin mourns the death and celebrates the life of Lillian Katzenberg Rifkin, beloved mother, aunt, cousin and friend, who passed away on Jan. 18, 2020, at 95.
An accomplished pianist, music teacher and educational administrator, she cultivated a wide circle of friends impressed with her musical gatherings, artistic sensibility, dignity, and great warmth.
The daughter of Joseph and Bertha Katzenberg, whose families fled the pogroms in Ukraine and Romania, she grew up in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and lived in Riverdale for six decades.
She studied with American concert pianist Olga Samaroff, wife of Leopold Stokowski, and performed in solo recitals and string ensembles, as well as teaching privately. Music was the vital force, which enabled her to meet and bring people together from many different backgrounds.
She was married to artist Sidney Rifkin, and became the muse for his beautiful, intimate, early family paintings. They had two children — Dr. Steven Rifkin, who preceded her in death, and her adoring daughter Lisa Rifkin, an artist and the manager of her father’s artistic legacy.
After divorcing, she became a driving force behind Head Start at Millbrook Community Center in the South Bronx, and she went on to a distinguished career as a school administrator with the New York Board of Education.
She was preceded in death by her talented sister, Estelle Rosen, in whose phenomenal family Lillian took great pleasure.
In addition to her daughter, she leaves behind daughter-in-law Lauri Learner-Rifkin, brother-in-law psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Rosen, as well as nephew and National Constitution Center president Jeffrey Rosen, and niece Dr. Joanna Rosen.
With great beauty, open-mindedness and warmth, she had an extraordinary way of including others and reaching beyond her own. Wooed by many, she came involved for 15 years with her beloved companion, Riverdalian Dr. Louis Vorhaus, who passed away in 2014.
A gentle crusader for music and the arts, self-improvement, women’s rights and social justice, she won the hearts and admiration of her many friends, neighbors and family members who were inspired by her shining spirit.