Murdered Yemenite Jew buried in Israel

The body of a Yemenite Jewish leader who was stabbed to death in an anti-Semitic attack was brought to Israel for burial.

Aaron Joseph Zindani, 46, was stabbed in the neck and stomach in a market in the capital of Sana’a in May.

His Muslim assailant accused Zindani of casting a spell on and ruining him, according to reports.

Zindani’s wife and five children accompanied the body to Israel, according to reports. The complicated operation was undertaken by the Jewish Agency with the assistance of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Some 200 to 300 Jews still live in Yemen, down from a high of 60,000. Most live in Sana’a in government housing after they were evacuated from other areas over fear for their safety.

A Yemenite Jew was killed in Yemen in December 2008 by a Muslim man who ordered Jews to convert or be killed. The killer was sentenced to death.

Demjanjuk reportedly buried secretly in United States

Convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk reportedly was buried in secret in an undisclosed location in the United States.

The news that Demjanjuk was buried on March 31, two weeks after he died in a German nursing home, was disclosed Tuesday by Rostyslav Novozhenets, deputy head of the Ukrainian Republican Party, in an interview with the Ukrainian News website. Demjanjuk was a Ukraine native.

Novozhenets said he learned of the burial from Demjanjuk’s son, John Jr., in an email. Demjanjuk’s son asked Novozhenets not to disclose the location of his father’s grave.

“Jewish organizations are already interested in it,” Novozhenets told the website. “They cannot calm down because, in fact, they failed to convict John Demjanjuk. Obviously they want now to desecrate the grave.”

The funeral reportedly was attended by family, Demjanjuk’s German attorney Ulrich Busch, and attorneys from the U.S. who defended Demjanjuk during his extradition and denaturalization trials.

A German funeral home reportedly said days after Demjanjuk’s death that his body would be returned to his home community of Seven Hills, a Cleveland suburb. The U.S. Consulate in Munich confirmed that Demjanjuk’s body was being returned to his family, according to reports.

The Associated Press reported that Jewish leaders are concerned that a Demjanjuk gravesite in the United States could become a shrine to neo-Nazis.

Demjanjuk died at the age of 91 in an old-age home in southern Germany, where he was free while he appealed his conviction last year by a Munich court for his role in the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

Born and raised in Ukraine, Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States following World War II. In 1986 he was sent to Israel to face trial on charges of being the notorious Treblinka guard “Ivan the Terrible.” An Israeli court sentenced Demjanjuk to death, but the Israeli Supreme Court ordered him released due to reasonable doubt while noting that substantial evidence emerged during the trial identifying him as a guard at Sobibor.

Demjanjuk returned to suburban Cleveland in 1993 and resisted multiple attempts to strip him of his citizenship and deport him again. But he lost that battle in 2009, and U.S. authorities deported him to Germany. Last May he was convicted for his crimes in Sobibor, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Demjanjuk to be buried in the United States

Convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk will be buried near his home in suburban Cleveland.

A German funeral home reportedly said the body of Demjanjuk, who died on March 17, will travel to Cleveland next week. The U.S. Consulate in Munich confirmed that Demjanjuk’s body was being returned to his family, according to reports.

The Associated Press reported this week that Jewish leaders are concerned that a Demjanjuk gravesite in the United States could become a shrine to neo-Nazis.

Demjanjuk, 91, died in an old-age home in southern Germany, where he was free while he appealed his conviction last year by a Munich court for his role in the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

Born and raised in Ukraine, Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States following World War II. In 1986 he was sent to Israel to face trial on charges of being the notorious Treblinka guard “Ivan the Terrible.” An Israeli court sentenced Demjanjuk to death, but the Israeli Supreme Court ordered him released due to reasonable doubt while noting that substantial evidence emerged during the trial identifying him as a guard at Sobibor.

Demjanjuk returned to suburban Cleveland in 1993 and resisted multiple attempts to strip him of his citizenship and deport him again. But he lost that battle in 2009, and U.S. authorities deported him to Germany. Last May he was convicted for his crimes in Sobibor, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Israeli pilot Assaf Ramon buried next to astronaut father

Israeli pilot Assaf Ramon was buried next to his father, astronaut Ilan Ramon, a day after he was killed in a training accident.

Ramon, 20, who was made an Air Force captain posthumously, died Sunday in a crash in the Hebron Hills while flying an F-16 aircraft as part of advanced training. He had completed the basic training course for pilots with honors in June, receiving his wings from President Shimon Peres. He had escaped death in a training flight in March.

His father, Israel’s first astronaut, was killed aboard the U.S. space shuttle Columbia in 2003 when it broke apart upon its return to earth.

The funeral at Kibbutz Nahalal was closed to the media at the request of Ramon’s mother, Rona.

“The State of Israel is lowering its flag, as a whole nation mourns the death of our fallen son,” Peres said in his eulogy. “All of our hearts are broken today because the personal child of the Ramon family was a child of all of us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who postponed a meeting with U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell in order to attend the funeral, said earlier Monday that Ramon’s death was on the level of “a biblical tragedy.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak in an interview with Israel Radio said the news of Ramon’s death was “like a punch in the stomach.”

The Air Force continued to search for wreckage from the crash. Reports citing military sources said it is likely the investigation into the crash will take some time.

Though a mechanical failure is one possibility, reports say the Air Force is looking into loss of consciousness or human error as likely causes.

Assaf Ramon, the oldest of four children, was 15 when his father died. He had said he would like to become a pilot like his father and perhaps even an astronaut.

Ilan Ramon was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and participated in the 1981 strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

City’s Plight Brings Flood of Memories

In New Orleans, the Jews are the only ones buried in the ground. Others, if their mourners have any means at all, are laid with the expectation of eternal rest in stone crypts to protect them from rising waters. My mother used to say, “Someday, we Jews’ll all be floatin’ down the river.”

Just as in California, where we know that one day “the big one” will come, in New Orleans, we knew that someday the water would overtake us. But the denial overtakes the wisdom, and we stay and build lives. I think of Pompeii. New Orleans was so beautiful.

Last week, I accompanied my daughter, Jen, to New York University for her freshman year. I returned home from New York on Monday, Aug. 29, with the expectation that I would be tending an empty nest. However, on the flight home, the CNN images on my private television screen, showed me that the nest that needs tending is the city itself, the one that nurtured me and held my memories — the place that gave me such delight throughout my youth and so much heartbreak as a young adult, when my mother and sister died in 1971.

I hope to be able to join the Red Cross relief effort, starting in Houston and from there, perhaps, deployed to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where we vacationed when I was a girl. I will then connect with the recovery efforts of the New Orleans Jewish Federation, which has moved to Houston and Baton Rouge, along with much of my New Orleans Jewish community.

I would like to be a Jewish face in the rescue efforts with the larger community — a student rabbi working in a non-Jewish setting. And then I want the solace of comforting my own.

My hope is to try to provide consolation to the people who surrounded me as I said Kaddish for my father during the flood of 1995. That was said to be the greatest flood in 500 years, and people who came to comfort me came through mud and water, but that experience doesn’t come close to the water and heartbreak that now must be drained from the streets of New Orleans.

My family came to New Orleans at the turn of the last century, and they took part in building many of the Jewish institutions. At one time, we belonged to two Orthodox synagogues, one Reform and one Conservative. I grew up in the classically Reform Touro Synagogue, one of the oldest congregations in the United States.

My grandfather sold furniture from the back of his horse cart, and around 1925, he and five other peddlers pooled their meager resources and opened a store, Universal Furniture House.

As one of seven children, my father inherited one-seventh of his family’s one-sixth share in Universal. He became its manager and built it into one of the largest furniture businesses in the South. Though he only owned a small part of it, as head of it he was able to play a prominent role in the New Orleans business and philanthropic community, particularly the New Orleans Jewish Federation and the Louisiana Red Cross.

My father loved New Orleans almost as much as he loved me. I am so glad he is not alive to see this. Or my Aunt Rosalie, who was the executive secretary to the mayors of New Orleans over a period of 20 years, which means that she had more influence than just about anyone in the city.

As a child, it seemed natural to me to go in and out of the mayor’s office whenever I wanted. We were seated in the mayor’s box at City Hall for all of the Mardi Gras parades, while Aunt Rosalie embarrassed us as she pranced around in her Mardi Gras costumes that were more fabulous each year. My Aunt Ida had an antique jewelry shop on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

Every Shabbat, when I sing “Shalom Aleichem,” I hear their voices, see their faces and smell the chicken being prepared by their cook, who was the sister-in-law of Louis Armstrong.

Until Thursday, Sept. 1, when they were rescued, driven to Baton Rouge and flown to New York, my elderly cousins, 95-year-old Rosalie Cohen (three brothers married three sisters, and they all named their children Rosalie, Ida, Mose and Lazard), and Mildred Brown, 87, were stuck in Mildred’s condo in the Garden District, a part of New Orleans where the water did not get too terribly high — only a few feet. They had a caregiver with them. I actually got through to them on the phone three times.

Rosalie Cohen was one of the grand dames of the Jewish world — think Miss Melanie of “Gone with the Wind” meets “Driving Miss Daisy.” A celebrated beauty and intellect. Warm and charming, with a lyrical voice and, of course, perfect manners.

She was the first woman vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations, a Hebraic scholar who stayed at the Beit HaNasi (the president’s house) when she visited Israel.

She and Teddy Kollek were the last survivors of one of the major Zionist gatherings, a witness to the Arab riots of 1929 at the Wall and, I believe, one of the last Jews at the Wall before it became inaccessible to Jews for so many years. I have a picture of her with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Rosalie does not understand why she is not in her beautiful home in a lower part of the city, with her ancient and rambling oak tree, which is registered as a “protected tree.” Her younger sister, Mimmie, says she has to explain what is going on to Rosalie 20 times a day.

On Wednesday, I spoke to Rosalie who greeted me in her melodic upbeat voice, “Oh darling, how nice of you to call. We’re just riding it out and waiting for things to get back to normal.” The caregiver told me that they were waiting, hoping to be rescued by the National Guard.

When I told Rosalie that I might be coming in with the Red Cross, she said, “Well, do give us a call when you are in town.” I imagine that when the rescuers came, she put on white gloves and stockings.

How they were able to drive out of New Orleans without the car being hijacked and what they must have seen from that car is beyond me. The survivors whose harrowing stories I know are the ones with means and, therefore, the lucky ones.

When I last spoke to them before their rescue, there was only about a foot of water in their street, but they were probably the only ones remaining in their building. Of course, there was no electricity or air conditioning. The caregiver said they had adequate food and water, although Mimmie said otherwise. When I asked why she didn’t leave, she said she was “too old to travel.”

Today, Sunday, Sept. 4, I spoke to a dear family friend, age 90. She is in Houston with her grandson, having come with only the clothes she was wearing.

She said, “We were given a directive by the mayor to get out in one hour. I left everything, but we, at least, have our lives.

“I’ve just cried constantly since this happened. Such a feeling of loss. Not for the material things … but all the people….

“I wonder who I’ll ever see again. I tell myself, ‘Stop crying, at least you are alive.’ The people in the Holocaust didn’t even have their lives.”

When I told her of Rosalie and Mildred’s whereabouts, she said, “I saw Rosalie at a meeting about a week ago. She was as elegant and beautiful as ever. I told her that she had been my inspiration, all those years ago, for getting involved in Jewish community life and how grateful I was to have her as a role model. Now I will probably never see her again.”

She began to cry.

Was it Ellie Weisel who said, “There are things that are real that could not possibly be true?”

When I speak, I give this picture as a definition of healing:

In 1971, after my mother and sister died, I left New Orleans. When people asked, “How can you leave?” I said, “I have to go. Every tree, every street corner has a memory. It is unbearable.”

Years later, when I returned to New Orleans and people asked how it felt to be home, I would say, “Every tree, every street corner has a memory. It is exquisite.”

Now every tree and every street corner needs healing.

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Amy Eilberg, forwarded, these words:

“Perhaps we cannot expect to know why the world is broken; it may be enough to be blessed with the capacity to see the brokenness and to respond with love.”

Please all of you, do what you can.

Love to all of you. For those of you who pray — send prayers to my beautiful city. For those of you who know New Orleans, you know what a treasure we have lost. n

Anne Brener is an L.A.-based psychotherapist. She is the author of “Mourning & Mitzvah: Walking the Mourner’s Path” (Jewish Lights, 1993 and 2001), a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a faculty member of the Academy for Jewish Religion.


Our Soft Underbelly

I am writing you with a broken heart and tearful eyes. Not attempting to propagandize, not wanting to mislead.

Just wanting you to know, because this piece of news was excluded from many news agencies, at the request of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The pictures were simply too horrific to publish, and though Israel could use it as an effective public-opinion campaign, we chose not to — in respect of the 11 bereaved families.

I couldn’t write down what happened in Gaza, though I tried. Anything I will write will make you take sides. The media makes us take sides all the time. It is not for me to present a biased, one-sided truth, which you will be forced to accept. It is not for me to feed you with slogans. Please find the story yourselves, or give me a few days before I can reflect on what happened.

However, one truth does exist. Eleven dead soldiers in Gaza, literally torn into pieces, buried today on Mount Herzl. Eleven kids who are all between the ages of 19-23; 11 kids who could have been my best friends. My heart is breaking as I am writing these words. I served in the army for two years, and I am writing you as a soldier. These guys could have been my best friends, and they died in a way in which they did not deserve.

My country is torn into pieces. These kids are our soft underbelly. They are everyone’s children, because it is we who sent them to the front, and we who asked them to protect us. They are the best guys we have! And they would give anything it takes to make my niece, my parents and myself sleep quietly at night.

These guys did what they were told to do, and were torn into pieces in two explosions. They could have been my best friends, or my brothers. But now they are just pieces of body wrapped with the flag of Israel.

It is a turning point in this war, so they said on the news. It must be a turning point in this damned war. Because we cannot go on like this, we simply cannot — and neither can they.

Shira Kaplan is a 20-year-old Israeli from Herzliya who attended Seeds of Peace in 1997, 1998 and 1999. She served for two years in the Israel Defense Forces in the intelligence division. She plans on beginning her university studies next year, with a likely concentration in Middle Eastern studies and international relations.

Kidnapped Dreams

Ben Wertzberger dreamed of moving to Las Vegas to start a new life. Tired, sick and impoverished, the 24-year-old Israeli packed his DJ equipment on Dec. 2, 2002, and together with his childhood friend, Adar Neeman, prepared to head to the Las Vegas to break into the club scene.

But Wertzberger and Neeman never made it to Las Vegas.

After a six-month investigation, on Sept. 21 the FBI discovered the two boys’ bodies buried in a shallow grave in Barstow, a desert town 150 miles north east of Los Angeles, on the way to Las Vegas.

Last week, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Shane Huang, 34, and Benjamin Frandsen, 29, for kidnapping that resulted in death. The two men will be arraigned on Oct. 6, and, if convicted, face a possible death sentence.

What happened between Los Angeles and Las Vegas? Why did it take so long for authorities to get involved and to solve the case? How did two nice boys from Rishon Lezion end up involved with alleged drug dealers?

The tale of Wertzberger — because it is primarily his adventures in which Neeman, 25, unwittingly got caught up — serves as a cautionary one to the many young Jews from Israel who dream big dreams, do a lot to further them and meet an unfortunate end.

The Beginning: Summer 2001

In the summer of 2001, Wertzberger was working his way up as a DJ in Israel. He did quite well supporting himself by spinning at weddings, but he dreamed of “the real thing” — to work big clubs in America.

“He was 23 when he took all his equipment and left,” his mother Yohana Wertzberger told me last year when she was in Los Angeles to search for her missing son. A convert from Transylvania living in Israel with her family, Yohana didn’t have the strength to stop her son. “I wasn’t thrilled, but he insisted,” she said.

Wertzberger came to Los Angeles in August, and met Dan Aeberhard, an aspiring movie director and Internet designer.

The two moved to Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, and Aeberhard, who was very impressed by the young Israeli’s talents, tried to help him. Aeberhard got Wertzberger work as a musician on the movie he was working on, and introduced him to people in the music industry.

“I soon realized that Ben was a very complex character,” Eaberhard told me last year after his friend went missing. “On the one hand, he was very intelligent, but at the same time, he was very secretive. Something always happened to him that shouldn’t have happened. He had a lot of charm and a big heart, but he could also be manipulative,” the director said.

Alin Cruise also met Wertzberger, and was immediately taken. “We became very close friends; he helped me open my restaurant, and since then I never charged him money for the food that he ate at my restaurant,” she said. “He’s a charming person, a guy with a head on his shoulders. And he gets to your heart the minute he meets you. I was like his sister, and my husband and I adopted him.”

But, Aeberhard noted, “His problem was that he was arrogant — he thought he was smarter than others, and that got in his way of moving up in the music business.”

Wertzberger eventually met Jamil Kharboutli, owner of Angel Booking, a booking agency for domestic and international electronic music artists. Kharboutli tried to get Wertzberger several gigs in the field, but met with limited success. Meanwhile, he introduced the young Israeli to several of his shadier friends, among them Shane Huang, from Canoga Park and Venice, and Benjamin Frandsen, from Los Feliz.

At the time Wertzberger was living hand-to-mouth, doing odd jobs like selling paintings door-to-door, and borrowing money from friends around the city. By May 2002, he moved out of the Porter Ranch apartment, leaving behind a $1,500 debt. He also reneged on his car payments.

By the summer of 2002, after moving from apartment to apartment and piling up debts around the city, Wertzberger moved into Huang’s apartment in Canoga Park, rent-free. In exchange, Wertzberger watched over Huang’s marijuana plants and ecstasy stash that was hidden behind an inner wall in the house.

According to witnesses, Wertzberger used to sell small quantities of the drugs in order to make a living, and apparently, Huang turned a blind eye to the pilferings as long as they were negligible.

But when Wertzberger stopped being careful, and started bringing people home, including his girlfriend Christa, Huang blew up. He didn’t like the fact that the hideout became a social hangout.

Sickness and Recovery: Summer/Fall

Wertzberger’s new job as a marijuana watchdog didn’t suit him. His girlfriend Christa was the first to notice. “He got sick in July,” she told me. “We had no idea what he had come down with — he slept all the time, he didn’t eat and he lost like 20 pounds; I took him to the emergency room.”

At the time, Wertzberger put together a tape called “Paranoia.”

The doctors didn’t know what he had; he was dizzy and would fall down, and was also hysterically paranoid. His visa ran out and he couldn’t extend it, and he had to avoid immigration.

By the end of the summer, Wertzberger left the Canoga Park apartment, and apartment hopped around the city. According to witnesses, Wertzberger took a set of Huang’s keys with him. Huang suspected his Israeli tenant was still stealing from him, so he eventually changed the locks.

Wertzberger told his friends that Huang owed him money and threatened to report him to the authorities, but his friends talked him out of it, telling Wertzberger that Huang was a dangerous man. (Huang has had run-ins with authorities before.)

Meanwhile Wertzberger decided he wanted to move to Las Vegas, where the club scene was thriving even during the week. Wertzberger wrote his high school friend, Adar Neeman, and invited him to join him on the planned move to Vegas. He didn’t tell Neeman what was really going on in his own sinking life.

Neeman, also a DJ who worked on the side as a security guard at Ben-Gurion Airport, found the idea of spinning full time in Vegas appealing. On Nov. 18, 2002, Neeman flew to New York and, a week later, came to the West Coast. He met up in Los Angeles with Wertzberger, who had just returned from a prep trip to Las Vegas. Wertzberger was in a good mood. He was ready for a change.

The Last Days: Nov. 29-Dec 1

About 10 months ago, on Nov. 29, the two Israelis went to Hacienda Underground, a club downtown. During the wee hours, Wertzberger called a number of friends. “He was very optimistic,” said one of his friends. “But then he asked me for a $20 loan so he would have some cash. Only then did I understand how desperate he was.”

When the party ended on the morning of Nov. 30, they crashed at their friend, Doron Kohli. That night, Neeman called his mother and told her he’d call her again on Dec. 2, before she was to leave to Paris. On Dec. 1, she called his cell phone, and a male answered the phone; there was a lot of noise in the background, and the call was disconnected. She assumed he was at a club, but never spoke to him again.

Who Stole the Drugs? Dec. 2

Dec. 2 was the day Wertzberger and Neeman planned to leave to Vegas.

Kharboutli waited for Wertzberger at his own apartment with Huang, because the Israeli was supposed to give Kharboutli money that he owed him.

But when hours passed and Wertzberger didn’t show, Huang started to lose his cool; he had long suspected that Wertzberger was stealing from him, but the previous night a big take went missing from the Canoga Park apartment, and Huang suspected the Israeli.

They left Kharboutli’s apartment and went to Canoga Park with Frandsen, where they found Wertzberger and Neeman. Huang exploded, accusing the two of attempting to clear the place out and hightail it to Las Vegas.

Another man who was invited to the apartment that day told authorities during the investigation that he saw Huang holding a 3-foot sword in the faces of Wertzberger and Neeman, who were handcuffed and kneeling.

Kharboutli opposed the murder — it was too much for him, the witness said.

“If you kill them, you will have to kill me, too,” Kharboutli reportedly said.

After the Fact: Dec. 3

The FBI has not yet released the exact details of the alleged murder, but it might have occurred on the same day the boys were seen held at knifepoint. On Dec. 3, Las Vegas parking enforcement found the boys’ car, a 1992 blue Chevy Cavalier convertible, abandoned in downtown Las Vegas. The keys were in the ignition and in the back seat were all of Wertzberger and Neeman’s belongings. That same night, there were attempts to use Neeman’s credit cards: one, a failed attempt to buy electronic equipment worth some $8,200; and later on, someone bought $467 worth of clothes. The signature on the credit card slip was clearly not Neeman’s. By that point, the boys were probably not alive.

It took about a week for the foreign ministry, the Consulate in Los Angeles and the Las Vegas police to enter the picture.

Neeman’s and Wertzberger’s mothers hired private investigators and came to Los Angeles by mid-January 2003. They gathered information and gave it to the Las Vegas police.

“I didn’t know that he got involved with the wrong people, and when I talked to him on the phone I didn’t sense anything was wrong,” Yohana said. “I know in my heart that Ben’s a good kid and maybe because of money problems he went the wrong way.”

But when two men who fit the boys’ description were spotted in Nevada — apparently healthy — the Vegas police closed the file in February, calling it a “voluntary disappearance.” Some weeks later, it turned out that the two Israelis in Nevada were not Neeman and Wertzberger and the FBI began to investigate.

In February, I spoke to Kharboutli, who presented himself as a friend of Wertzberger. He sounded scared and nervous. After a few weeks, when the investigators were closing in on him and his associates, he closed his business and is nowhere to be found. (There is no warrant out for his arrest, but the investigation is still open.)

But his alleged partners in crime, Huang and Frandsen, weren’t so lucky.

Neither were the Wertzberger and Neeman families. Ten months after their sons disappeared, the case has been solved. And yet, it is a cold comfort.

Translated from the Hebrew by Amy Klein.

Marvin Mirisch

Marvin Mirisch, one of three brothers who formed the Mirisch Co. motion picture production company, died on Nov. 17 of undisclosed causes at UCLA Medical Center. He was 84.

Born in New York City, Mirisch was the third of four Mirisch sons. After attending City College of New York, Mirisch eventually relocated to Los Angeles in 1953, where he joined brothers Walter and Harold at Monogram Pictures. When Monogram turned into United Artists, the first artist-run independent studio, the Mirisch brothers independently packaged such movies as John Huston’s “Moby Dick” and the Billy Wilder favorite, “Love in the Afternoon.”
In 1957, the Mirisch brothers established the Mirisch Co., where Marvin acted as the chief financial officer and Walter functioned as the producer. The Mirisch Co. created 68 motion pictures over 17 years in a deal with United Artists. Mirisch Co.-produced films — which included “The Apartment,” “West Side Story” and “In the Heat of the Night” — were nominated for 79 Academy Awards and won 23.
In 1968, after Harold died, Marvin and Walter moved to Universal Pictures, where they produced “Midway” and “Same Time Next Year.” Marvin also produced 1979’s “Dracula” and in the early 1990s was an executive producer of a “Pink Panther” cartoon series.

Marvin Mirisch was active in Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences politics. He also chaired the motion picture division of United Jewish Welfare Fund, and was on the boards of Temple Israel and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Mirisch is survived by his wife of 60 years, Florene; son, Don; daughters Carol Hartmann and Lynn Rogo; six grandchildren; brother, Walter. He was buried on Nov. 20 at Hillside Memorial Park.

Contributions can be made to UCLA Foundation, 10945 Le Conte Ave., Suite 3132, Los Angeles, CA 90095. — Staff Report

Looking for A Legend

Years ago I’d heard from someone or read somewhere that Wyatt Earp is buried in Colma, near San Francisco, a bit of provocative trivia whose truth I’d never been sure of. One day a while back I decided to check it out. I would have thought that one of the most famous figures in the history of the Old West would have ended up in the landscape of his legend. In the case of Wyatt Earp, this would mean Dodge City, Wichita, or more appropriately, Tombstone.

As a boy, I watched Wyatt Earp gun down, pistol whip and give barefisted beatings to legions of outlaws and romance plenty of clear-eyed frontier beauties in countless movies and TV shows. Saying the name now, even with the hindsight of adult skepticism, stirs up a chill of the old childhood wonder, which is why after all these years I found myself on my way to Colma looking for the final word in the legend of Wyatt Earp.

Colma is a necropolis a few miles south of San Francisco, the place to which the city’s dead were removed in 1914 and where they have been buried ever since, near the Serramonte Shopping Center in Daly City. Several cemeteries line both sides of El Camino Real, many catering to specific religious or ethnic groups — Japanese, Chinese, Italians, Jews, Greeks, etc.

I went with a friend, and we picked out a cemetery office at random, went in and asked the people behind the counter if they could tell us where Wyatt Earp was buried. After a couple such tries, we were told to try the Hills of Eternity Cemetery. Pulling up the entrance, we read the sign:

Hills of Eternity
Portals of Eternity
Gardens of Eternity
Temple Sherith Israel

I was surprised that it was an exclusively Jewish cemetery.

At the end of the driveway, hundreds, seemingly thousands, of headstones and monuments stretched back along a low slope. We got out of the car, and an old-timer wearing a Hills of Eternity baseball cap sitting in a nearby blue station wagon noticed us. After watching us look indecisively at the countless headstones for a few moments, he called, "You boys looking for Wyatt Earp?"

"Do many people come out here looking for him?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, five or six a week," he said. "There are always people, all kinds of cowboys come out looking for his grave. He’s the most visited man in Colma."

We followed the foreman’s directions, walked up the hill past headstones and monuments of every size and imposing crypts. We found the spot — his name was on one of two flat metal plaques set into cement and seemed almost inconspicuous.

Wyatt Earp, 1848-1929

Josephine Earp, 1861-1944

And sharing the same plot:

Max Weiss, 1870-1947

Wyatt Earp is buried in a Jewish cemetery, surrounded by tombstones adorned with stone doves, Stars of David and menorahs, amid a sprinkling of palm trees. All my life I had never given any thought to his ethnic background, but now found myself wondering if Earp is a Jewish name or if his wife was Jewish. And who was Max Weiss, the man buried beside them? Had Max Weiss been Wyatt Earp’s agent?

Wyatt Earp was not Jewish, but his wife was. "Pioneer Jews" by Harriet and Fred Rochlin offers a portrait of her life, much of which is drawn from a book titled "I Married Wyatt Earp."

The book tells how Josephine Weiss ran away from her parents in San Francisco when she was 15 to the Arizona Territory as a cast member of Pauline Markham Troupe’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s "H.M.S. Pinafore." She was apprehended and returned to San Francisco but in the meantime had acquired a suitor, Johnny Behan, who followed her back to ask her parents for her hand in marriage. Josephine then went with Behan to Tombstone where, after the romance soured, she met Wyatt Earp, then a deputy sheriff, proprietor of the Oriental Saloon, and married to his second wife, Mattie. A love affair ensued.

Wyatt and Josephine spent nearly 50 years together, moving around the West. Despite her claim that they were married, no record of the marriage has been found. At one point they operated a saloon in Nome, Ala., during the Klondike gold rush. Ultimately they settled in Los Angeles, where Wyatt hoped to cash in on his experiences through the movie industry, but it never happened.

"Wyatt’s family were almost all gone and we had no children. My only home was where my parents rest. So I took Wyatt’s ashes to San Francisco," Josephine Earp wrote about her husband’s burial.

Looking at a photograph of the real Wyatt Earp, I wonder to what extent his legend followed him during his lifetime. Of all the actors who have played him (Burt Lancaster, James Garner, Hugh O’Brian, Henry Fonda and Randolph Scott, among others), the first was Walter Huston in "Law and Order," which came out in 1931, two years after Wyatt was brought to Colma. I wonder what those last 30 years must have been like for a man who saw the frontier close, gave up his guns and horses, and became part of a world in which the changes made were total and spectacular: seeing the coming of electric lights, telephones, motion pictures, airplanes, automobiles, radio, machine guns, battleships, comic strips, neon signs and zippers.

Whatever the truth was about Wyatt Earp’s life as a lawman and the gunfight at O.K. Corral, the romance and the legend endure, as they will. As for the real Wyatt Earp, he lies in the earth a short drive from a shopping center in a place far from any drifting tumbleweeds or howling coyotes.

But well over half a century after his death, the visitors keep finding him. The cowboys come to stand among the stones and hold their hats in their hands while saying a few quiet words or thinking a few private thoughts before walking back down the slope to drive off in their pickups or Japanese cars.