Woman killed was a leader in Jewish community here
By Cara Solomon
Seattle Times staff reporter

JEWISH FEDERATION OF GREATER SEATTLE

Pamela Waechter, 58, was killed in Friday's shooting at the Jewish Federation.

FAMILY PHOTO
Pamela Waechter, 58, was killed in Friday's shooting at the Jewish Federation.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

An armed, private security guard was called to duty outside Temple B'nai Torah
in Bellevue immediately following the shootings in Seattle Friday. Pamela Waechter, 58,
who was killed in the shooting, served as president of the temple.

Pamela Waechter, 58, who was killed in Friday's shooting at the Jewish Federation, grew
up in Minneapolis as a Lutheran, the daughter of a businessman. She converted
to Judaism after marrying Bill Waechter, who was Jewish, and the couple moved to
Seattle in 1979.

After raising their two children, Waechter graduated from the University of Washington,
with a degree in nutrition.

She became much more active in the Jewish community than her husband, rising from
secretary to become president of Temple B'nai Torah from 1988-90. Bill Waechter today
recalled loud, shouting meetings of the temple's board that took place in their home, while
he was in the other room, watching television.

"I'd hear her give her opinion, and everybody would shut up and listen,"
recalled Waechter, who remained friends with her after their divorce. "It
was amazing how she would command the attention of all these old guys."

Before joining the staff at the federation, where most recently she was director of the
annual fundraising campaign, Waechter worked for four years at Jewish Family Service.
There, she managed a food bank and served as an emergency services caseworker and
volunteer coordinator, according to the federation Web site.

In her eight years at the federation, according to the Web site, Waechter's jobs included
outreach coordinator, director of special events, and various fundraising posts.

In both her paid and volunteer work, she was known as a mediator, always bringing a
calm, balanced approach to problems.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Pam stepped in to protect other people," said
Marshall Brumer, a past president of Temple B'nai Torah. "That's the kind of person
she was."

At the Bellevue synagogue this morning, Rabbi James Mirel called Waechter "the
most positive, optimistic person you ever met. From the pulpit, he told the congregation,
Pam would have said, 'You have to go on.'

Chuck Hall, 56, of Minneapolis, explained that no was the one word his sister
wouldn't say. He described her as a friend to people of all ages, from 20 to 80.

She also was one of his closest friends. They talked about dating after divorce. They talked
about what would happen to their children, when they died. Just last week, Hall brought up
the conflict in the Middle East, asking the question: When is it ever going to end?

His sister had no answer. She only sighed.

Waechter believed in the basic goodness of people. So if the scene on Friday had unfolded
elsewhere, her brother said, she would have called him right away to say: Can you imagine
somebody would do that?

She would not have mentioned first the fact that the shooter was Muslim, Hall said. She
was not that kind of woman.

Given family history, he said, Waechter was relieved to make it this far in life.
Their mother died at age 56, of breast cancer. Waechter always saw that age as a
milestone she needed to make it past.

Waechter's funeral will be 1 p.m. Monday at Temple B'nai Torah, 15727 NE Fourth St.,
Bellevue, according to the synagogue. The service will be open to the public.

Staff reporter Janet I. Tu contributed to this report.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com.

Copyright ֲ© 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Shooting victim wanted people to get along.
By Cara Solomon
Seattle Times staff reporter
JEWISH FEDERATION

Pamela Waechter

All around Seattle on Saturday, people were grieving for Pamela Waechter, a woman they
said was a mediator, a major contributor to the Jewish community, a force for bringing so
many cultures together.

But to Chuck Hall, miles away in Minneapolis, she was something different. She was his
sister. The girl he played baseball with in the streets all those years ago. The one who tried
to get everyone to be fair.

She always wanted people to get along, said Hall. That was her big thing.

Ms. Waechter was working at the Jewish Federation downtown Friday afternoon when a
man walked into the building with a gun, announced that he was Muslim, said he was
angry at Israel and shot six women, one after another. Ms. Waechter, annual-campaign
director for the federation, died there. She was 58.

Ms. Waechter believed in the basic goodness of people. So if the scene on Friday had
unfolded elsewhere, her brother said, she would have called him right away to say:
Can you imagine somebody would do that?

She would not have mentioned first the fact that the shooter was Muslim, Hall said. She
was not that kind of woman.

Several people said words could not do justice to the kind of woman Ms. Waechter was.

Memorial service
Pamela Waechter's funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at Temple B'nai Torah, 15727 N.
E. Fourth St., Bellevue. The service will be open to the public.
They do not come any better, said David Serkin-Poole, cantor at Temple B'nai Torah in
Bellevue, where Ms. Waechter was a member.

Born in Minneapolis, Ms. Waechter was raised Lutheran, the daughter of a businessman.
She met Bill Waechter on a blind date. He saw that she was beautiful. He did not
expect her to be intelligent as well.

Bill Waechter did not ask his wife to convert to Judaism. She did anyway, a few years into
their marriage. They moved to Seattle in 1979. After raising their two children, Ms.
Waechter graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in nutrition.

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She never did use it. Instead, she got involved with Jewish community life, volunteering
with the temple, serving on national boards and organizations. She became a poised public
speaker, at one point talking in front of 6,000 people.

It was not always so easy, Ms. Waechter told her husband. Back in the sixth-grade talent
show, she stood on stage with her accordion, so frozen with stage fright that the vice
principal had to usher her off the stage.

She started at Temple B'nai Torah in the post of secretary, later serving as president from
1988 to 1990. It all came as something of a surprise to her husband, who described himself
as a temple-twice-a-year kind of Jew.

In the Jewish community, he said, Ms. Waechter came into her own. He recalled loud,
raucous meetings of the temple's board that took place in their home, while he was in the
other room, watching television.

I'd hear her give her opinion, and everybody would shut up and listen, said Bill Waechter,
who remained friends with his wife after their 2001 divorce. It was amazing, how
she would command the attention of all these old guys.

As president of B'nai Torah, Ms. Waechter led the congregation through challenging times,
temple officials said. The membership was growing so fast the building could not
support it. Ms. Waechter suggested a move, from Mercer Island to Bellevue, where the
temple now stands.

She also made her mark nationally, colleagues said, serving on the board of the Union for
Reform Judaism. As chairwoman of the outreach commission, Ms. Waechter encouraged
synagogues to better support people who convert to Judaism, and those who marry
Jews but choose not to convert.

Esther Herst, executive director of the temple, watched her work with admiration. As the
wife of a man who chose to convert, Herst knew firsthand how tight-knit the Jewish
community can be.

To step into that can be daunting, she said.

It was not just that Ms. Waechter tolerated people from all walks of life, her friends said. It
was that she welcomed them with such warmth.

Serkin-Poole will never forget what she did when he came out to the community as a gay
man. At the time, in the 1980s, synagogues were struggling with how, or if, to bring gay
congregants into their fold.

To Ms. Waechter, the choice was clear.

She stood up firmly and strongly, when there were no role models, said Serkin-Poole. She
just said, Here's the right thing to do.

We love our cantor, she told the congregation. And we're going to stand together.

The congregation has grown even more over the years, from a few hundred families to 850
now. Many will gather Monday for Ms. Waechter's funeral.

Rabbi James Mirel said he has already received calls of sympathy from Muslim and
Christian leaders. Two Muslim women stopped by Saturday after the morning service. It
was encouraging, he said, to see support from so many corners of the community.

"We have to work harder for understanding, and not allow hatred to be our legacy,
" Mirel said.

Inspired by her volunteer work, Ms. Waechter turned helping the Jewish community into
her career. She started at Jewish Family Service, where she ran the food bank and
served as a caseworker. For the past eight years, she worked at the Jewish Federation, in a
range of roles from outreach coordinator to fundraiser.

Ms. Waechter stood out, colleagues said, for the friendly way she worked.

Sometimes people in the nonprofit world tend to be territorial and concerned about their
own organization, said Rick Harkavy, executive director of the Pacific Northwest office of
the American Jewish Congress, an organization focused on community relations. Pam was
not that way at all.

Her brother said there was one word Ms. Waechter wouldn't say. That word was no.She
had friends of all ages.

He was among the closest. People thought it was unusual, Hall said, that a brother and
sister could be that close. Just a few years ago, they took a trip to Las Vegas together, spent
the whole time at the bar, playing video poker and quarter slots.

There was nothing the two did not share. They talked about dating after divorce. They
talked about what would happen to their children when they died. Just last week, Hall
brought up the conflict in the Middle East, asking the question: When is it ever going to
end?

His sister had no answer. She only sighed.

In addition to her brother, Ms. Waechter is survived by a daughter, Nicole, of Seattle, and a
son, Mark, of Phoenix.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com

Copyright ֲ© 2006 The Seattle Times Company
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