Updated: Aug 11
Rachel Esther Baum, a trailblazing finance director and pillar of the Miami-Dade County and South Florida Jewish community, passed away on July 27, 2023, after a valiant battle with a long illness. She leaves behind a legacy of unparalleled dedication, remarkable achievements, and a pioneering spirit.
Rachel's life’s journey began shortly after World War II in Wloclawek, Poland. In 1960 she emigrated to the United States at the age of 11, alongside her parents, older brother Harry, and younger sister Mary. The family was only allowed to bring the equivalent of $5 per person, and a few belongings that could fit in a small basket. Their parents, Abram and Eva Musman were survivors of the horrors of the concentration camp Auschwitz, instilling in Rachel a deep appreciation for life, family, and Jewish tradition and history.
Settling in Minneapolis and later moving to Brooklyn, New York, Rachel faced the challenges of adapting to a new country and culture without speaking a word of English. Undeterred, she excelled academically and earned a degree in mathematics from Hunter College.
In a twist of fate, Rachel's life intertwined with that of Alexander Baum, a fellow child of Holocaust survivors, born in a displaced person camp in the Czech Republic. Their shared history and values brought them together in marriage. Together, they raised three wonderful children: David, Richard, and Sandra, who have gone on to achieve great success in their own fields.
In 1976, Rachel began her thirty-year-plus career with Miami-Dade County as an Auditor 1 in the Internal Audit Department. Her diligence, professionalism, and keen sense of duty soon propelled her up the ladder of success, and in 1984, she became the Director of Financial Affairs in the Finance Department.
Breaking the proverbial glass ceiling, Rachel shattered barriers to become the first female and longest-tenured finance director in Miami-Dade County's history. Her journey to the top was marked by promotions and a steadfast commitment to excellence, earning her the utmost respect and admiration from her peers and colleagues.
In 1997, Rachel reached the pinnacle of her career as the Finance Director, a position of immense responsibility. She oversaw the structuring, issuance, and management of the County's debt, totaling in excess of $10.1 billion. With over 340 employees under her purview, Rachel's leadership and expertise were crucial in steering the county's financial affairs.
On December 10, 2008, Rachel was honored by her colleagues and leaders in Miami-Dade County when they declared it Rachel Baum Day. The Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners recognized her indelible mark on the community and her unwavering dedication to public service. Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Chairman Bruno A. Barreiro, along with the members of the Board of County Commissioners, applauded Rachel's exceptional contributions.
Her family reported that she often expressed her firm belief that serving the public was not only one of the most meaningful aspects of her life but also an obligation she regarded as almost sacred.
Rachel was also an active volunteer in the local Jewish community. She served as treasurer of the David Posnack Hebrew Day School, where her three children attended, and was the long-standing treasurer of the family’s synagogue in Sunrise, Florida, Temple Beth Israel (now called Ramat Shalom Beth Israel Synagogue). They were also generous financial supporters of the Jewish community.
Rachel's legacy extends beyond her illustrious career. She was a devoted wife of fifty years to Alexander Baum, a loving mother to Rabbi David (Dr. Alissa) Baum, Richard (Julie) Baum, and Sandra (Aram) Barikian, and a cherished grandmother to her seven grandchildren, Avi, Harrison, Layla, Samuel, Maxwell, Naya, and Galia. Her family was the source of her strength, and she took great pride in their accomplishments and successes.
In her retirement, Rachel enjoyed well-deserved rest surrounded by the love of her family and the admiration of her community. She also served as an informal consultant for Miami-Dade County during this time. Her influence will forever be felt in the hearts and minds of those who had the pleasure of knowing her during her 32-year tenure with Miami-Dade County.
As we bid farewell to Rachel Esther Baum, we celebrate her life, her achievements, her legacy, her pioneering spirit, and her commitment to the people of South Florida. Her memory will forever be a beacon of inspiration, reminding us to strive for excellence, embrace challenges, and leave an indelible mark on the world around us.
Funeral arrangements were held at Menorah Gardens Cemetery in Southwest Ranches, Florida, on Sunday, July 30, 2023. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Congregation Shaarei Kodesh in Rachel’s name, where her son serves as the senior rabbi.