When my sister died in 2010 of brain cancer, I was devastated. She was one of those people who was so engaged in the world, that it was hard to imagine her not being a part of it anymore. She was brave, and brilliant, and funny, and kind. But she was also fierce in confronting social and moral wrongs. Days after her death, I knew I had to do something that would be a fitting and lasting memorial to her. I had been well-acquainted with Playgrounds for Palestine for several years because of the work being done by our chapter in Madison, Wisconsin. I knew that PfP was providing thousands of children a basic right of childhood – the right to have a safe place to play – something that had been taken away from them due to overarching injustices in their region of the world. Cynthia loved children as much as she hated injustice, so it was clear to me that building a playground in her name would be the perfect way to honor her and continue her legacy.
My sister, Cynthia Joy Laitman, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1938. She was a devoted mother, and grandmother. She was also a medical writer and editor, a published author, an educator, and a political and social activist. Cynthia’s personal experience with her first pregnancy led her to write “DES: The Untold Story,” which was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1981. The book remains one of the definitive works on the subject.
She had a long and productive career as a medical writer, working for the University of Wisconsin Department of Surgery, the National Wildlife Health Center, the World Health Organization, and as the managing editor of the Annals of Surgery. She was especially proud to earn her Ph.D. in communications at the age of 63. She also served as a professor of communications at Edgewood College, developing original courses in propaganda and political manipulation.
Cynthia was a committed activist to a host of progressive causes, and she believed that anything was possible. She was a passionate advocate of human and animal rights, and a fearless opponent of corporate greed and the abuse of power in government. In 2007, “Bill Moyer’s Journal” shadowed her for a day as she went about lobbying the Wisconsin legislature as a grassroots activist fighting for consumer protection against huge corporate interests.
Most of all I remember my sister, not for her professional accomplishments, which were many, but for her qualities of character – her warmth and generosity, her exuberance and optimism, and her great big heart. She set a rare example of courage combined with compassion that inspired everyone who knew her.
Cynthia was also a rescuer and protector of those most vulnerable to the cruelties of human society. I like to think of her spirit hovering over the children at the Dair Ammar playground, listening to their laughter and reveling in their joy, and making sure they are safe.