A friend remembers culture booster John Rauch
“When you looked in those deep blue eyes you saw a man with a burning vision,” reminisced Israeli composer Ofer Ben-Amots. He was referring to John Rauch, the founder of The Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, whose recent death at the age of 75 is a blow to the Los Angeles Jewish cultural scene.
John’s name is not familiar to the general public. He shunned the spotlight, insisting it stay focused on the hundreds of artists he loved, nurtured and supported for more than 16 years.
“He was my rabbi, my biggest fan,” said actor Stephen Macht. “I know he felt the same way about all his artists and friends. He sat or stood in the aisles clapping and laughing and crying during all of our performances.”
When Chaim Potok learned about the work of the Center he wrote a letter to Rauch: “Dear Mr. Rauch, the program of the Center seems to me to be wide and deep and eminently worthwhile with the potential for making a significant contribution to the culture of our world. How may I be of help to you?”
Rauch, a Viennese born banker and attorney founded the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity along with his wife Ruth because he believed that creating opportunities for promising, talented Jewish artists (composers, playwrights, filmmakers, painters, etc.) to work together with Jewish scholars would spark an explosion of Jewish cultural expression. Rauch was legendary for thousands of hand-written notes of encouragement to artists written between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. from his booth in Jan’s Coffee Shop on Beverly Boulevard.
The Center began in 1991 with a pilot program called, The Creative Artists Institute. Jewish artists from Canada, Russia and the United States were given fellowships to fly to Jerusalem to participate in workshops covering everything from “Talmudic playwriting” to lectures on the erotic poetry of the 12th Century Sephardic Rabbis.
Another ambitious Center program is the Jewish Arts Festival (Philadelphia, Santa Fe and the San Diego Festival, now in its 13th year.) These Festivals provide precious performance opportunities for established and emerging Jewish artists whose work is often outside the mainstream of popular culture. For the 1992 Philadelphia Festival, the Rauches sought out and invited a fairly unknown composer to perform his work. Today, the music of Grammy-nominated Osvaldo Golijov is performed to sold-out houses at Disney Concert Hall and Lincoln Center. Golijov writes, “John’s tireless and loving work is what gives Jewish artists of our time the possibility to reach their full potential. We are all blessed by him.”
“His vision was to create tikkun olam” says Yale Strom, award-winning filmmaker (“The Last Klezmer”) whom the Center helped secure funding for his projects through grants and commissions. “John had the vision and tenacity to take me from a street musician to where I am today. I can honestly say that John had a major hand in my success, because he encouraged me and never wavered in his belief of what I could achieve.”
John Rauch is survived by his wife, Ruth; sons, Danny and Mark; and six grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, 6399 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 305, Los Angeles, CA. 90048
Barbara “Bobbi” Asimow died Aug. 22 of cancer at 63.
Bobbi was born in Brooklyn in 1943 and came to Los Angeles as a teenager, attending Fairfax High School. She received an master’s in psychology from San Francisco State and an MBA from the University of Judaism. For the past 22 years, she worked for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles as a professional fundraiser. She directed the Metropolitan Region and, for the last 12 years, the Women’s Campaign. She was a legend in the Women’s Campaign, raising more than $12 million a year for Jewish causes; supervising a devoted staff; and mobilizing an army of dedicated volunteers. She was one of the most respected professionals at the Federation.
In her honor, an endowment will be established, within the Jewish Community Foundation, that will fund the Bobbi Asimow Award for the best Jewish communal worker of the year. This award will recognize the person who best exemplifies Bobbi’s spirit; leadership, teamwork, dedication, love of Judaism, and a deep concern for those in need.
She is survived by her husband, Michael; sons, Ian Lennard, Daniel (LeAnn Bischoff), and Paul (Colette Caggiano); daughters, Hillary (Peter Blum) and Courtney (Craig Broscow) Lennard; sister-in-law, Myra Bennett; brother-in-law, Steven; former husband Colin Lennard; and seven grandchildren.
In her memory, donations can be sent to the Women’s Campaign of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 750, Los Angeles, CA 90048
I fell in love with Bobbi Asimow the first time we met. I had just come to Los Angeles from the East Coast, was brand new to our professional field and a stranger here. Bobbi flashed her famous contagious smile and welcomed me with open arms.
It didn’t matter to Bobbi that she was a senior pro and I was young and inexperienced, or that she was a top fundraiser and I was working with college students. That day, for the first time, I knew that I had made the right career choice, because Bobbi became my mentor. In our short exchange, she modeled the Jewish values that I spent years leaning with astounding beauty, grace and passion.
Over the years that followed I watched Bobbi develop hundreds of community leaders. In her quiet way, she helped shape much of the professional landscape of Jewish Los Angeles.
How many of us went to Bobbi when we needed advice, a shoulder to cry on, or to admit mistakes? How many times did she look deep into our eyes with both love and wisdom and guide us? How often did we then get back on our feet and aspire to be even half as talented a professional as Bobbi?