Beloved local Jewish educator Emil (Uzi) Jacoby died on Feb. 15 in Los Angeles. He was 94.
Jacoby was born on Nov. 30, 1923, in Cop, Czechoslovakia. After his bar mitzvah, he went to study in yeshiva, first in Cop and then in Ungvar, which at the time was part of Hungary.
At 16, Jacoby left yeshiva and went to the Gymnasia in Ungvar. He graduated in 1943 and moved to Budapest, Hungary. There, he was trained to become a leader of the then-illegal Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement. It was then he adopted a Hebrew nom de guerre — Menachem Uziel. From that day forward, he was known as Uzi.
During World War II, Uzi helped lead the efforts in Bucharest, Romania, and Budapest to rescue European Jews and bring them to Israel. After the war, Uzi was elected as Bnei Akiva’s director of operations in Hungary and served as the camp director at Lake Balaton’s summer camp. It was there that he met the greatest love of his life, Erika, a Holocaust survivor.
On Nov. 29, 1947, Uzi received his doctorate and also became engaged to Erika, almost a year after they met. It was also the day that the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab.
Shortly afterward, Uzi (now called Dr. Emil Jacoby) moved to Paris to work with Yosef Burg in the European office of the Mizrahi political movement. He visited Israel and in August 1949 traveled to New York City, where he reunited with Erika.
Settling in New York, Uzi taught at the Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Brooklyn while simultaneously completing two degrees at the Jewish Theological Seminary, as well as a master’s degree in mathematics at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
Uzi and Erika moved to Los Angeles in July 1953. From 1953 to 1956, Uzi was the director of education at Valley Jewish Community Center/Adat Ari El. From there, he went on to become the associate director, executive director and then accreditation consultant at the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles (now called Builders of Jewish Education). He remained in that position until he retired in 2008.
Uzi also spent 10 summers as the education director for Camp Ramah and was an adjunct professor at the University of Judaism.
Uzi is survived by his wife, Erika, three children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.