Eulogy for Margie Pressman


She was indomitable.  She was opinionated.  She was a major  leader on the local and national Jewish scene decades before women played such roles on a regular basis.  She was a defender of all that was dear to her: the State of Israel; the particular set-up or aesthetics of an event; the Sheba Medical Center; her close circle of friends, including the Unusual Suspects; and at the top of that list, her husband, Rabbi Jack, and her shul, this shul, Temple Beth Am—in interchangeable order.  I have never met a woman so proud of the man she loved and what they had built together as Margie was.  In so many ways, for so many causes and organizations, for so many years and decades, and in a manner that somehow suggested it could go on indefinitely, Margie Pressman was larger than life. 

This week is Shabbat Hachodesh, the Shabbat in which we read the passage from the book of Shemot in which God sanctifies time for the Jewish people, and grants us a calendar.  They are on the way out of Egypt, the middle of the 10th plague, bags packed, blood dripping off the lintels, and God gives a little sermon.  Hachodesh hazeh lachem.     הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃  This month will be for you, forever, the first of the months.  It will be first for you, in all the months of the year.  The verse is lyrical, somewhat repetitive, and has been mined by the great commentators for layers of meeting.  I want to share three such commentaries, each of which as a window into Margie's story, her greatness and her uniqueness.  The first comes from Rashi, who makes the claim back in the first verse of the Torah, that the Torah really could have started here, in our verse, in the 12th chapter of Exodus.  Why? That is where the Jewish people began their unique, religious relationship with God.  Jewish time and Jewish peoplehood really begin here.  So why does the Torah make us go all the way back through pre-history and start with Breishit, Genesis?  Rashi's answer is that to know the present-tense God of the Jewish people you need first to be introduced to the original God, of the universe.  I understand Rashi to be nudging us, as Margie did constantly, to know the past, to tell it, and never to assume that important time begins now just because you didn’t live then.  To understand TBA in 2016, Margie would say, and did say, a lot, and appropriately, you need to go back in time.  Not just to the 80s, when Rabbi Jack retired and Beth Am was renowned for its Israel activism, including its top perch among synagogues in annual Israel bonds purchase. Not just to the 70s, when Margie and her team ran a truly legendary event here, Israel Expo West, which essentially turned this building into a teeming, 4-dimensional, utterly professionally curated festival and celebration of all things Israel.  To understand Beth Am in LA in the 21st century, you had to go back to Beth Am, in Philly, in the early 20th century.  When a dashing young man caught the attention of a beautiful young woman, whose playful coquettishness belied the fierce lion's roar of purpose, energy and vision that would emerge.  Margie and Jack found love in Philly, brought a plan and relentless energy to Los Angeles.  And even brought a name, rebirthing Olympic Jewish Center and Temple as Beth Am, a tribute to where they met and first experienced vibrant Jewish life.  Try to remember what Jewish LA was like before Pressmans arrived, before Margie took on the town.  It was nowhere near the sophisticated array of institutional Jewish life that it would  be.  How did it get there?  Remember also that Philly is one of the oldest and most established of American Jewish communities.  Margie came west with infrastructure in her genes, and brought many aspects of the highly organized, highly structured, highly professional and highly successful Jewish community.  She came with a sense of what Jewish community is, and could be.  She planted it here. Watered and nourished it.  With her spirit, her will, her determination and her profound optimism.  You  look around, and even if it is not obvious, you see the descendants of Pressman-ism, and Margie-ism, everywhere.  We who are newer to town, who inherited a working system, can delude ourselves into thinking it began with us, or just before us.  Hachodesh hazeh lachem.  No, Rashi, reminds us.  To understand now, you have to become a master of then.  Margie's life and impact will always be venerated here and in the future, as we continue to be students of there, in the past.

The second layer of meaning comes from an apparent redundancy in the phrase hachodesh hazeh lachem.  This month will be lachem, for you, as the first of months.  What does lachem mean? For you?  Whom else would God have been talking to if not the Israelites?  A classic Midrash says that God's message is this.  I give this month, this moon, this calendar, this sense of Jewish time to you for you to do with it what you can, what you wish. Without your efforts, it is nothing. Just a light in the sky.  But in your hands, it can become everything.  This read of the relationship between God's gifts to us and what we produce from it exemplified and informed the life of Margie Pressman.  Is it possible to squeeze more out of existence, out of the finite breaths we are bequeathed in life, than did Margie?  Who spends her 90s not in quiet comfort but in continuing to raise funds for important causes, give opinions about the sound system or menu at a gala, suggesting ideas for a lecture series at the shul?  Margie does.  Who, at 94, is visited at the hospital as her heart and body are breaking down, and yet finds the voice to ask about how the Israel Bonds appeal is going at Beth Am?  Margie does.  Who, just barely clinging to life, has an audience with her granddaughter Aviva and fiance Brian, who are just home from a Honeymoon Israel trip and after hearing some stories about hikes and good food asks the most serious question of all, Did you make it to Sheba Medical Center?  Did you see the Pressman name on the wall?”  Margie did. This full-voiced, never-waning energy was a testament to her pride and vitality, and her claiming this life that God gave her with every fiber of her being.  Lachem.  As if God gave to this soul, upon birth, the charge of Lach. Ani noten lakh. I give it, to you.  It is not in my hands anymore. What it will be will be up to you.  And it was.  This was the engine behind Margie's inimitable productivity and leadership. In the age at which we arrived we can perhaps take for granted the avenues and pathways open to women for significant communal leadership in the Jewish community.  But those trails were blazed by halutzim, by pioneers.  And one of them was Margie.  She was a smart, dedicated, Jewishly committed woman. In her book about Jewish women and rebbetzins, Dr. Shuli Rubin Schwartz makes the point than in previous eras of American Jewish life, such Jewish women married what they couldn’t yet be, and then used that perch alongside the rabbi, the professional leader, to carry out their vision for Jewish life.  Margie did that par excellence.  Had Margie's soul been born into our generation, would she have necessarily chosen the rabbinate over the rebetzinnate?  It is hard to know.  But her impact on this Jewish community and the Jewish community rivals any rabbis’ that I know, including  that of her  husband, our  dear Rabbi Jack z”l.  Lachem. This life is yours, for the taking.  Everyone in this room, everyone who knew and now mourns  Margie, would do well to claim life, claim existence, claim reality, claim time, claim opportunities with a portion of the vigorousness and intensity with which Margie did.

The final frame comes from a close read of the words “hazeh,” perhaps one of the simplest words in the Bible.  It means “this.”  Hachodesh hazeh lachem.  This month should be for you.  Back we go to Rashi, who reads into this rudimentary word an elaborate stage direction involving God and Moshe.  God didn’t just give the law about the new month.  But God pointed with a Godly finger to the moon, exactly as it appeared that night and said, hazeh. Just like this.  See that moon there?  This is what it will look like when you consecrate it.  I love this midrash, however fanciful it is.  God left nothing to chance. If you are going to delegate, then give good instructions.  I didn’t know Margie in her prime.  But I imagine her, as Tevye ruminated about a wealthy Golde, supervising a complicated event, barking orders with both certainty as well as heart, giving her opinion without qualifiers, pointing here, pointing there.  See this table set-up?  See this seating arrangement?  That is exactly as I want and expect for it to be. Hazeh.  A word of specificity, and an avenue towards uncompromising excellence.  It was not always easy to be in Margie's firing line. But you had a sense you were part of something extraordinary.

Margie leaves this world, and enters the next, as we ponder the beginning of Jewish peoplehood, as we remember that the past is crucial to the present and thus the future as well, as we hear the Torah encouraging us to clutch life and time with urgency, as we imagine a God pointing out divine expectations, prodding us to fulfill them with precision. With a sense of dignity.  With a recognition that we are involved in something holy.  We are listening, Margie.  And we rededicate our lives and our work to the principles you modeled and by which you lived.

I have been speaking about Margie the leader, the visionary, the lioness of Judah.  I am aware as well that we mourn and remember today another Margie, the mom.  The matriarch.  The grandmother.  My heart goes out to you all.  Danny, we are colleagues and friends. I know that your work has taught you to attend to the cycle of life with a certain amount of sobriety and equanimity.  Life has an arc. It ends.  You have stood at pulpits like this hundreds of time and brought comfort and healing to thousands with your words and wisdom. And I also know that it is hard to lose a mom, whatever her age, whatever one's profession, irrespective of how many artful eulogies you have prepared and delivered.  You and Judy–you have been through a crucible in the last 6 months.  We, at TBA, have said goodbye to visionaries. You have said goodbye to parents. We have a tear in our communal fabric. You have a wound in your hearts.  You have my profound condolences as your avelut for your father, just six months old, is now extended by another year.  And to your extended families, to Joel z”l, to Helen, to Aliza and Craig, to Benjie and Melissa, to Rebecca, to Elijah, to Aviva and Brian.  To the next generation, to Batsheva, Avital and Nathan, and the new arrivals Liam and Charles, who spent their first days of life in the NICU on the same floors as their great-grandmother, Margie.  To all of you, I want you to know that I stand here not only as a rabbi who currently occupies the bimah made famous by Rabbi Jack, and by Margie, but also as a grandson still mourning my grandparents.  As the father of kids who just lost a great-grandmother last week, for whom the pain is real and more piercing than it often looks on the outside. You are, and will remain, in my hearts. And you have my word that your mother's and father's, your grandmother's and your grandfather's legacies are intact here, and will be perpetuated for generations.

In certain moments, it seemed as if Margie would defy death. Just beat it down, send it away, with the confidence and hutzpah with which she lived.  Many times in the last 5 years I visited Margie at Cedars in moments that looked like the end.  Only to field a phone call from her two days later, as she recovered at her home on Lasky Dr., pointing out an error in the KHA or asking me to keep the AC down for the next event.  She held on so long and so tightly.  Which makes the last days and moments of her life so striking. In the end, in the very end, she went quietly, and quickly.  Danny, who has been down from NorCal for a few weeks, was by her side nearly every minute.   He noticed her breaths were getting slower.  He stepped out of the room for a minute.  And then he heard Natalya crying.  Dear Natalya, who has served this family with such exemplary attention and affection.  That was it.  This life, clasped and harnessed with such determination and force.  And then, full release.  Into God's embrace.  Into quietude. Into eternity.  Where there is no struggle.  And where, we pray, there is celestial reunion with the universe, and with Jack.

We all surrender to time, eventually.  But some of us, if we are lucky.  And determined.  And plucky.  And endowed with a certain drive and verve.  Some of can transcend time. Some, like Margie, are truly larger than life.  Even in death.

Tehi nishmata tzerura bitzror hachaim. May the soul of Margie Pressman, Malkah baat Yisrael v'Rachel, be bound up in the bonds of life.  Yehi zikhra barukh. May her memory be a blessing.

Rabbi Jacob Pressman: New Year wishes


Last Sunday morning, every seat was filled in Temple Beth Am’s main sanctuary for the funeral of Rabbi Jacob Pressman. Rabbi Pressman, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Am for 35 years, community leader and civil rights activist, died peacefully at his home on Oct. 1. Rabbi Pressman was instrumental in founding and/or building not only Beth Am, but also the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University), Camp Ramah, Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Los Angeles Hebrew High, Israel Bonds in Los Angeles, Sinai Akiba Academy and Pressman Academy. “There is no Los Angeles Jewish community as we know it without Jack Pressman,” Beth Am Rabbi Adam Kligfeld said. Mourners also heard from Pressman’s daughter, Judith, his wife, Marjorie, Rabbi Harry Silverstein and Pressman’s son, Rabbi Daniel Pressman.

Rabbi Daniel Pressman said that when his prolific and voluble father asked him who will be delivering his eulogy, the son replied, “I will, Dad.” The senior Pressman paused, then asked, “Do you want me to write it?”

To conclude the eulogy, Daniel Pressman indeed read aloud a New Year’s blessing his father wrote, which the Journal reprints below.


In the new year, may you discover that your home is built on solid rock able to withstand hurricanes, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, wildfires, escalating insurance rates and repossession. 

May it be free of mold, mildew and mice, and safe from termites, rug mites, mosquito bites and family fights.

If you have trouble hearing, may you give in and get a hearing aid. If you have trouble seeing, may you get respectable spectacles. If you cannot drive, may you cultivate friends who do. If you cannot chew, may you acquire designer dentures. If you cannot smell, may you take frequent showers.

May your cardiologist hear no murmur, your dentist see no cavity, your dermatologist see no melanoma, your ophthalmologist see no cataract, and your proctologist tell you, “It looks beautiful.”

May your computer never freeze, your automobile never overheat, your garbage disposal never clog, your refrigerator never melt down, your pipes never spring a leak, your air conditioner never quit even on the hottest day of the year, and your neighbor’s gardener’s roaring leaf-blower break down.

May you be able to decipher your electric, telephone, department store and credit card bills, your income tax forms, Medicare medicine plans and the extra-fine print at the bottom of everything stating they didn’t mean what is written at the top of the contract.

May you solve the mystery of getting from here to there despite coagulated traffic, and may you do so without having to declare bankruptcy at the gasoline pump.

May your children take a liking to you, and your grandchildren call you even when they don’t want money, and your great-grandchildren teach you how to use your computer.

May our brethren of the State of Israel be safe from her hostile neighbors and her enemies in the United Nations, so that she may survive and thrive and be a light unto all nations.

May all 7 billion people everywhere in the world learn to love the people everywhere else in the world so that we can survive the 21st century without blowing up the world.

And should you ever feel alone and unloved, may you know that you are never alone, for God is with you, in you, and loves you, and so do I.

May the Messiah come this year, and if he does not, may you live as if she has, and may you be blessed with the happiest, healthiest, sweetest and most peaceful year of your life.

Shanah Tovah u’m’tukah

Remembering Leonard Nimoy – eulogy


The following is an edited version of the eulogy for actor-director-artist Leonard Nimoy given by Rabbi John L. Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood at the family’s private funeral on March 1. Rosove was not only Nimoy’s longtime friend and rabbi, but also is a cousin to Nimoy’s wife, Susan Bay Nimoy. Leonard Nimoy died on Friday, Feb. 27, at his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.

Leonard shared with me after he and Susan married 26 years ago that he had never met a woman like her, never had he loved anyone so dearly and passionately, that she’d saved his life and lifted him from darkness and unhappiness in ways he never thought possible. His love, appreciation, respect, and gratitude for her transformed him and enabled him to begin his life anew. 

At the moment Leonard’s soul left him on Friday morning, his family had gathered around him in a ring of love. Leonard smiled, and then he was gone. It was gentle passing, as easy as a “hair being lifted from a cup of milk,” as the Talmud describes the moment of death.

What did Leonard see? We can’t know, but Susan imagines that he beheld his beloved cocker spaniel Molly, an angelic presence in life and now in death. 

My wife Barbara and I shared much with Susan and Leonard over the years, in L.A. and in so many spectacular places around the world – so many joys and not a few challenges, and through it all we grew to love Leonard as a dear member of our family and were honored that he felt towards us as members of his own family.  

At his 80th birthday celebration three years ago, I publicly thanked him for all he’d meant to my family and me, for being the love of Susan’s life, and for bringing her so much happiness.

Kind-hearted, gentle, patient, refined, and keenly intelligent was he.

As I listened to NPR’s story of his passing on Friday, I was struck by how uniquely recognizable to the world was his voice, not only because of its innate resonance and gentle tone, but because it emanated who he was as a man and as a mensch.

He was unflappably honest and warm-hearted. He embodied integrity and decency. He was humble and a gentleman. His keen sensitivity and intuition connected him with the world and offered him keen insight into the human condition. Whatever he said and did was compelling, inspiring and provocative. He strove always for excellence.

Leonard’s Hebrew name was Yehudah Lev, meaning “a Jew with a heart.” His interests and concerns were founded upon his faith and belief in the inherent dignity of every human being, and he treated everyone regardless of station, friend or stranger, with kindness and respect. His world view was enriched by his Jewish spirit and experience.

Leonard was nurtured in the Yiddish-speaking culture of his childhood on the West End of Boston, yet he transcended the particular categories with which he was raised. He cared about the Jews of the former Soviet Union, about Jews everywhere, and he was concerned for all people as well.

Because he grew up as a minority in his neighborhood, even sensing at times that he was an outcast living on the margins (which is what his Spock character was all about), Leonard ventured out from the conservative home and culture of his youth — courageously and at a very young age — into the world where he sought greater truth and understanding. He was curious about everything and was a lifelong learner. 

Leonard appreciated his success, never taking his fame and good fortune for granted. He was generous with family, friends and so many good causes — often contributing without being asked, quietly and under the radar, to individuals and causes selflessly, without need of acknowledgment or credit. In his later years, he learned that by fixing his name to some gifts, he could inspire others to give, as well.

Over the years, from the time he performed in the Yiddish theater as a young actor, Leonard was particularly drawn to Jewish roles in film, television, stage, and radio. Most enduringly he brought the gesture of the Biblical High Priest to the world’s attention as an iconic symbol of blessing. He was amused that his “Star Trek” fans unsuspectingly blessed each other as they held up their hands and said, “Live long and prosper!”

Most recently, Leonard, the art photographer, created magnificent mystical images of feminine Godliness in his “Shechinah” photographs, one of which he gave to me as a gift graces my synagogue study and adds a spiritual dimension for me of everything I do in my life as a rabbi.

One year Leonard asked me what I thought of his accepting an invitation from Germany to speak before thousands of “Star Trek” fans. He told me that he’d been asked before, but always turned the invitation down due to his own discomfort about setting in a country that had murdered six-million Jews.

I told him that I thought it was time that he went, and that he could take the opportunity to inform a new generation of Germans about who he was as a Jew and about the Jewish dimension of Spock’s personality and outlook. He liked the idea, and so on that basis accepted the invitation.

When he returned, he told me that he had shared with the audience his own Jewish story and that Spock’s hand gesture was that of the Jewish High Priest blessing the Jewish community, an image he remembered from his early childhood attending shul with his grandfather in West Boston on Shabbes morning and peeking out from under his grandfather’s tallis at the Kohanim-priests as they raised their hands in blessing over the congregation.

He told me that when he finished his talk, he received a sustained standing ovation, an experience that was among the most moving in his public life.

There’s another incident worth recalling.

The Soviet Film Institute had invited Leonard in the mid 1980s to come to Moscow to speak about “Star Trek IV,” which he had directed. Leonard agreed to come on the condition that he be granted free passage to Zaslov, Ukraine, to visit Nimoy relatives he’d never met. The Soviet officials refused, so Leonard declined. Then they had a change of heart and caved, and he and Susan visited the Ukrainian Nimoys, thus reuniting two branches of his family tree divided 80 years earlier. Who else but Leonard Nimoy could stare down the former Soviet Union and win!?

Over time, Leonard became one of the most positive Jewish role models in the world. He cared about all the right things, about promoting the Jewish arts, about peace and reconciliation between people and nations, and about greater justice in our own society.

He and I talked frequently about our love for Israel and its need for peace. He understood that a democratic Jewish state could survive only alongside a peaceful Palestinian state. He was disgusted by terrorism and war, disheartened by Israeli and Palestinian inability and recalcitrance to find compromise and a way forward towards a two-state solution and peace, and he was infuriated by continuing Israeli West Bank settlement construction and by both Islamic and Jewish fundamentalist extremism.

Though keenly aware of, knowledgeable about and savvy when it came to national and world politics and history, Leonard was at his core a humanitarian and an artist, and that was the lens through which he viewed the world.

Among his favorite quotations was that spoken by the 19th century actor Edwin Booth who claimed to have heard the solemn whisper of the god of all arts:

“I shall give you hunger and pain and sleepless nights, also beauty and satisfaction known to few, and glimpses of the heavenly life. None of these shall you have continually, and of their coming and going you shall not be foretold.”

Leonard did indeed glimpse the heavenly life in his artistic pursuits and in his love for his family and friends.

I’ve never known anyone like Leonard – he was utterly unique. I loved him and will cherish his memory always.

Zicharon tzaddik livracha – May the memory of this righteous man be a blessing.

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis: Why Ferguson matters to Jews, and what makes a rabbi’s life well-lived


From a poem by Rabbi Schulweis:

For Those Beloved Who Survive Me

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Mourn me not with tears, ashes or sackcloth.
Nor dwell in darkness, sadness or remorse.
Remember that I love you, and wish for you a life of song.
My immortality, if there be such for me, is not in tears, blame or
self-recrimination.
But in the joy you give to others, in raising the fallen
and loosening the fetters of the bound.
In your loyalty to God's special children — the widow, the orphan,
the poor, the stranger in your gates, the weak — I take pride.

The fringes of the tallit placed on my body are torn, for the dead
cannot praise You, O Lord.
The dead have no mitzvot.
But your tallit is whole and you are alive and alive you are called to
mitzvot.
You can choose, you can act, you can transform the world.

My immortality is bound up with God's eternity, with God's
justice, truth and righteousness.
And that eternity is strengthened by your loyalty and your love.
Honor me with laughter and with goodness.
With these, the better part of me lives on beyond the grave.

Over the last many decades—and particularly the last 10 years, I have had the privilege of spending a considerable amount of time with Rabbi Schulweis.  It has undoubtedly changed the course of my life.

Like everyone in this room, I always loved, admired, and appreciated Rabbi Schulweis.  His intellect, his oratory, his bold conscience, his prophetic way of insisting that we dig deeper in our own souls and consciences—that we stop the argument about whether God exists and start finding the godliness and the goodliness in ourselves and those with whom we share our homes, our communities, and our planet.  There were always so many reasons to admire Rabbi Schulweis.   You know how it is—sometimes you admire someone from afar and when you get more familiar what you see is less admirable.  

Quite the opposite happened to me with Rabbi Schulweis.  The closer we got the more I admired him.    

Rabbi Schulweis was not just our rabbi and teacher and not just a social philosopher and idea generator; and, he was not just the man who called on our community to start an organization to fight genocide; For Jewish World Watch he has been so much more. He has been was an active leader in realizing the organization’s vision, day-in day-out for the past decade. He attended every monthly board meeting, until very recently when he became too weak to do so. For years, he traveled all over southern California with me, speaking to groups of all sizes, ages and faiths.  His humility was so evident in all of this community work. Several years ago we took a long drive to address what was supposed to be a sizeable audience. When we arrived, the crowd was embarrassingly small. I was horrified.  Rabbi Schulweis did not skip a beat.

He was fully engaged with the audience. He was so uplifted on our long drive back home–—never giving a second thought to the disappointing showing.      

He especially enjoyed our outings to meet with JWW’s partners in other faith communities. He loved speaking with the priests, headmasters and students in Catholic and Christian schools; he forged our relationship with the Armenian community, making sure that JWW would become the first Jewish organization to support long overdue legislation (which sadly, still has not been enacted), recognizing the Armenian genocide.  

He marched with us in front of the Chinese Embassy to protest the government’s horrific human rights violations. A few years ago, he was ready to go to Washington DC to be arrested with George Clooney as a means of drawing attention to the genocide in Darfur—we had to stop him from that one, as we knew it would not be good for his health.  In the ultimate display of support and commitment, at one of our rallies he actually put a JWW t-shirt on—so he’d be a visible member of the JWW contingent.  Of course, he wore the t-shirt over shirt and tie!

 

Over the past decade, I saw Rabbi Schulweis’ characteristic humility, warmth and charm fully evident in his one-on-one meetings with the many young teens who sought to interview him.  He treated each of these sit-downs with the same seriousness that he’d give to an LA Times reporter.  

During our Board meetings, if someone forgot a name or the disposition of a certain debate from a prior discussion—he was right there, following every word, filling in the blanks that no one else in the room remembered, even in recent months, when his health proved challenging and his energy was down. Right to the end, he would still, whenever possible, attend our meetings.  When he couldn’t make it, he always wanted a summary the next day—what was discussed? What was decided? Who attended?

And, we had a familiar ritual with each trip to Africa. He insisted on seeing us before we departed. He wanted to know our full itinerary and be reassured that we would be safe. And he would bless us.

He’d read every one of our blog entries, following every aspect of the trip. When we returned, he’d want a full debrief. How were our projects progressing? Who did we meet? He’d want stories about the people we encountered, the individuals, the children, the new connections. That is what mattered most to him. He hung on to every word, at times saddened by the reality of the situation and at times beaming with pride about our successes. It seems that through his desire for details and stories he was able to vicariously experience these difficult journeys.

My immortality, if there be such for me, is not in tears, blame of self recrimination, but in the joy you give to others, in raising the fallen and loosening the fetters of the bound.”

Of all of the visits and conversations I have had with Rabbi Schulweis, it is our very last conversation less than two weeks ago that was perhaps the most profound. It will stay with me forever. Already in quite a weakened state, Rabbi Schulweis was notably agitated about the events that lead to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, and the chokehold that killed Eric Garner in New York.  He said that these police practices are intolerable and racially biased. He asked why he was not hearing a louder voice of protest from the American Jewish community.  

Rabbi Schulweis was a man who simply could not tolerate injustice…even as his heart was fading — even as he knew his end was near…he would not give up his pursuit of and for justice.  And his expectation of us was clear as well— to continue this sacred work: 

“The fringes of the tallit placed on my body are torn, for the dead
cannot praise You, O Lord.
The dead have no mitzvot.
But your tallit is whole and you are alive and alive you are called to
mitzvot.
You can choose, you can act, you can transform the world.”

A while later that afternoon, Stan Zicklin, Malkah, Rabbi and I were visiting, and Rabbi Schulweis posed a question. He asked, “How do you know if you have lived a good life? A worthwhile life?”.  After 40 years of being his student, I did a very Schulweisian thing.  I turned it back on him. I asked him, “How would YOU evaluate whether you’ve lived a good life—?”   Without hesitation he said “A rabbi who has brought people together – people who were divergent in their views and practices, people who ordinarily would not have connected, people who were estranged, or even simply irrelevant to one another….I would say, that such a rabbi has lived a good life.”  

What a remarkable moment to experience…a man, near death, evaluating the essence of his life’s purpose as a rabbi.

About 10 months ago when Rabbi Schulweis was ill, almost every board member of JWW sent me notes to deliver to him. I want to share with you the words of one such Jewish World Watch board member…words which demonstrate, so beautifully, that Rabbi Schulweis accomplished his dream.

Dear Rabbi Schulweis:   I don't think that I have ever told you what you and  JWW have meant in my life. By allowing me to be part of your extraordinary vision, you have altered my view, not only of the world, but of my place in it. By starting this organization, you have challenged me and many others to leave our comfort zones and recognize that we can in fact DO something in places that seem so far away and remote. I see the world and our interconnectivity differently because of you.

But most of all, I have been so touched by your inclusiveness. I love that JWW embraces anyone who needs us and that while steeped in Jewish tradition, we welcome and embrace all faiths. It is a powerful message that the world so desperately needs. Diana

Yes, Rabbi Schulweis was an intellectual giant; a profound philosopher; an eloquent and prolific writer; an original thinker and a masterful speaker.  Those attributes made Rabbi Schulweis a great rabbi.  But Rabbi Schulweis was more than just a great Rabbi. He was also one of the Greatest Human Beings that any of us will ever know…and that was the quality that made him so magnetic.  

At this year’s Walk to End Genocide, it took a very long time to bring Rabbi and Malkah in a golf cart from the parking lot at Pan Pacific Park down to the area of the Walk.  People of all ages thronged around the golf cart wanting him to stop for a photo—hundreds of people, from young kids to politicos and religious leaders, were taking selfies with Rabbi Schulweis and posting them on their Facebook pages. In an era full of superficial fame, Rabbi Schulweis provides the true model of celebrity.  Indeed, not only in Los Angeles, but across the US and far beyond, Rabbi Schulweis is a superhero of a movement—a movement he started in the last decade of his life!  How remarkable.    

Between the ages of 80 and 90 when most people would be slowing down, or stopping altogether, Rabbi Schulweis conceived of and helped to grow a new global human rights organization and he found room in his heart to make a whole new group of friends—…friends whose lives became intertwined with his.  Listen to this from one of our JWW board members—also from last March:

Dear Rabbi Schulweis.

Thank you.  Thank you for standing up.  Thank you for speaking on behalf of those who cannot speak.  For being a witness.  For calling on others to do so, when your eyes, and arms, could reach only so far.  Thank you for opening your mouth and for opening my eyes.  Thank you for helping teach me to recognize a different facet of myself than I knew before, for teaching me to better understand how much one person can do and, in reaching that realization, understanding that capacity can also mean responsibility.  Thank you for having such a strong gravitational force, and for allowing me to be pulled into your orbit. Please know that if it is you now having difficulty speaking, there is a chorus of voices here ready, willing and able to continue to sing your songs and continue to speak for those on behalf of whom you have been speaking. .. Peter

On one of our trips to Congo, a group of survivors asked us to pray with them for their safety and then asked us why we came to Congo.  

I told them about how Rabbi Schulweis for 50 years had asked “where were the people of conscience when our 6 million were murdered?” I told them about Rabbi Schulweis’ sense of despair at the end of the Rwandan genocide when we knew that 1 million people had been murdered in 100 days and about the shame he felt for not having mobilized and spoken out.  I told them about the vow Rabbi Schulweis made that he would never again be silent in the face of genocide and how that led him to propose Jewish World Watch when the tragedy emerging in Darfur became clear to the world. And then I told them that in our synagogues we also pray, but that Rabbi Schulweis has taught us to pray not only with our hearts, but also to pray with our feet.  One of the people in the room stood up and shook her head in approval and said “This Rabbi is a very wise man; I want to meet this wise man and learn from him.”  

We have met this wise man, and we have learned from him, and none of us will ever be the same.  

“My immortality, if there be such for me,… is in your loyalty to God's special children

— the widow, the orphan,

the poor, the stranger in your gates, the weak – [in this] I take pride.”

It has been the greatest privilege to stand in the bright light of Rabbi Harold Schulweis and to be part of a team to help amplify that light for the good of the world.  It has been the greatest privilege to learn from him, to partner in the repair of the world with him, and, above all, to share a deep friendship with him. I will hold in the highest esteem his exceptional relationship with his perfect match, Malkah and the grace with which Malkah and her children shared their patriarch with me, with you, and with the world.  

How perfectly apt that he left us during Chanukah—during the darkest time of the year, Chanukah’s flames create light—that is exactly what Rabbi Schulweis has done  in so many profound ways for all of the years of his life.

My immortality is bound up with God's eternity, with God's
justice, truth and righteousness.
And that eternity is strengthened by your loyalty and your love.”

A friend wrote: It is said that in the end, people are judged not only by what they did but also for what they caused. Rabbi Schulweis caused so much peace, caused the lives of so many to be so much better, in some cases, caused them to be at all. He caused the world to better understand the sacred power of conscience. 

“Mourn me not with tears, ashes or sackcloth…” Says Rabbi Schulweis,

Honor me with laughter and with goodness.
With these, the better part of me lives on beyond the grave”

Steven Sotloff memorial at Young Israel of Beverly Hills


None of us can imagine what life was like for Steven Sotloff, all  alone in the den of terror, held captive by ‘inhuman’ beings isolated from his family and friends. How we wonder, did he maintain his sanity during those terribly lonely days and nights? Who can imagine his anguish and suffering — the words he wanted to convey to his parents and loved ones before he was so savagely beheaded?

As Jews, our faith teaches us that every human being has a purpose and a mission in life, that irrespective of station we each have a task to fulfill. The great Talmudist Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, once observed that the ordinary tour guide whose name we do not even know, who encountered a lost Joseph looking for his brothers and told him where exactly he would find them, is in fact the real ‘Shadchin’, the enabler who set in motion and made possible the great events of the Exodus. Because clearly without him, Joseph would never have met his brothers, would not have been bartered to Egypt and would never have become its prime minister.

When his murderers posted the horrific beheading of Steven Sotloff, just a few weeks after beheading James Foley, they did not know that that would be another 9-11 moment in 21st Century history that awakened the conscience of the world to the threat posed by ISIS, the most fanatical branch of the growing Islamic fundamentalist movement.

Sometimes at crucial moments, ordinary people become the vehicle for transmitting important messages with great consequences for the future of mankind. That this is so, we know from one of the strangest incidents ever recorded in the Torah, the story of Eldad and Medad, who prophesized outside the tent in direct violation of Moses instructions that legitimate prophesy can only be transmitted in the tent where the divine spirit was present. Eldad and Medad, who were nowhere near the tent said that, “Moses our leader will soon die and Joshua will lead us into the land.” An argument then ensued whether the prophecy could be accurate. But Moses intervened on their behalf and said, ‘if only everyone could be a prophet.’ But why was that considered prophecy at all when everyone knew that Joshua, Moses’ disciple, would be the likely successor? The answer is that Joshua was selected not only because he was Moses’ disciple, but because Israel was entering the promised land and there were tyrants and despots there, the forerunners of ISIS, Al-Qaida and Hamas, and only a leader with a military background would be capable of confronting themsuccessfully. As the Torah tells us previously, “And Joshua weakened Amalek by the sword.”

My friends, when you confront ultimate evil, people who commit massacres and destroy religious shrines, crash planes into buildings, fire rockets from hospitals, who use children as human shields, then you are confronting people whose G-d loves death, and who hate us primarily because our G-d commands that we choose life.

You can’t talk to people like that. The only time ISIS, Al-Qaida and Hamas will listen is if you are prepared to surrender. On this day, September 11th, more than any other, we need to be resolute and remind ourselves not only about what happened on that day, but about the terrible price the world paid for failing to confront evil in the 30s. Had we heeded the lone voice of Winston Churchill in 1937 and in 1938, and confronted Hitler, than 50 million human beings would have been spared.

That’s why the Torah expresses memory in two ways. One is positive – Zachor — to remember, when you are dealing with an adversary that it is possible to resolve your differences peacefully, but when you are confronting fanatics who live in the 12th century and seek your total submission, then the only word for memory is Lo Tishkach — do not forget to act decisively and destroy them, because the real purpose of these terrorists and rogue nations is to end western civilization and lead our world to Armageddon.

That is what I take away from Steven Sotloff’s beheading. As his killer stood over him with a knife, Steven looked up at all of us and wrote his final and most important story as a reporter, not with his pen, but with his eyes, imploring us, for your sake, not mine, act now and act decisively and save mankind from these terrorists.

Rabbi Marvin Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, its Museum of Tolerance and of Moriah, the Center's film division.

A eulogy for our son, Max Steinberg


The parents of Max Steinberg, the IDF soldier from Woodland Hills, CA killed in action during the Gaza conflict, delivered this eulogy at a public memorial service for their son on August 12, 2014 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA.

Stuart Steinberg:

Evie, Paige, Jake and I want to thank Haim Saban for graciously sponsoring this memorial for our son and brother Max. Like so many kids of Max’s generation, Max grew up with Power Rangers. We still have all the Power Ranger toys and DVDs he, Jake, and Paige played with and viewed for tireless hours. Evie is convinced our grandchildren will love them. To me, it is a reminder of how we helped pay for this amazing venue. Max was the most non-materialistic person you ever met. But even he would have to admit how cool this is. Thank you Mr. Saban for helping us celebrate the life of our beloved Max.

Last Sunday Cantor Nathan Lam organized and led Max’s memorial service for our family and friends at Stephen S. Wise. Thank you again Cantor Lam, Stephen S. Wise Temple, and Jay Sanderson president of the Jewish Federation for their friendship and support.

Tonight, we want to thank Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts, Cantor Nathan Lam of Stephen S. Wise Temple for again volunteering to share his beautiful voice with us, Cantor Marcus Feldman of Sinai Temple, Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva, Jared Stein and the Nashuva Band, Cantor Netanel Baram of Young Israel, Rabbi Marc Blazer, David Suissa of the Jewish Journal, and our dear friend David Siegel, Consul General of Israel. Mr. Siegel and his local team have invested tireless hours offering support and helping us navigate through unfamiliar terrain. We also want to express our deepest appreciation to Israel’s Knesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman. Rabbi Lipman flew in from Israel by our request to be here tonight to pay tribute to Max and to help bring the love and admiration the Israeli people have demonstrated for Max here. We also want to thank the many other people and organizations that reached out to offer support and lend a helping hand, including but not limited to the FIDF, Lone Soldiers, Dr. Larry Platt of the Lone Parents, Israeli Scouts, and the Jewish Community Foundation.

We are grateful to our immediate family that were able to attend tonight and those afar, our many treasured friends, the Jewish community, and our new family, the people of Israel. We have gained strength from all your love during this very trying time. 

Evie  Steinberg:

We learned as soon as we arrived in Israel that many people wanted to know about Max and why he made this amazing choice to leave a home that was comfortable and safe, to join an army over 10,000 miles away. We told his story as we believed it to be. But it was not until after we experienced Israel that we truly had an understanding, a personal appreciation of the beauty of the land and the people, the people Max was willing to fight for, to die for.

We told the people of Israel something about Max that many of you here knew because you were a significant part of his life. You knew of his humor, his love, his compassion, his smile, and you knew of his pain.

We are not the most religious family by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, there is no doubt in our minds that our son, our brother, our grandson, our nephew, our cousin, our friend was put on this earth for a mission, a purpose. There is also no doubt in our hearts that in his so very short life, Max fulfilled it.

Max, our first born, was welcomed into this word on November 27, 1989. My mother-in-law, Donna, had just succumbed to cancer six weeks prior. We chose Donald as Max’s middle name to honor her and to help him always remember the grandmother that so much wanted to hold him, to love him. Max’s birth resulted in helping heal our family of the pain stemming from our loss.

Max was surprisingly strong for his size. I remember Max lifting his head and looking over at me the day he was born. He was already demonstrating his strength and determination. Max grew up to be a very good athlete. His size never stopped him from competing at the highest level. In soccer, he was known as Mighty Max, and in baseball he was always feared once he got on base.

He was quick and fast resulting in stolen bases and scoring almost at will. And what he lacked in size, he more than made up in heart, grit and determination. He loved playing football and always made his mark on the defensive side of the ball.

Stuart :

Max was a devoted Patriot’s fan. When Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft learned of Max’s passing, Mr. Kraft sent us a letter stating he had seen a picture of Max wearing a Patriots cap. He wrote “he represents the consummate patriot and I am forever grateful for the sacrifices he made to keep our beloved Israel safe”. Yesterday we gave permission to Steve Leibowitz, President of American Football in Israel, for the National team traveling to the world championship next month to wear the letters M A X on their jerseys in memory of Max. Max would be so happy to know that the Patriot’s and Israeli’s National team of American Football have reached out to honor and commemorate his life.

While our family was sitting Shiva in Israel, commanders and fellow soldiers that trained with Max shared stories illustrating how he was a great soldier. This is not to say Max was a saint. Max didn’t join the IDF to change himself, he joined the IDF to serve.

Max was always respectful but he also knew how to pursue his own agenda. His commander told us that Max had difficulty getting back to base on time when he had free weekends. Max had to travel 4 to 5 hours to and from the Kibbutz on connecting busses. The commander told us at one point that he assigned a vehicle on a regular basis to pick Max up somewhere in his route back to the base. Max would greet his commander, light up a cigarette, with a straight face, a little grin, and while he was being reprimanded for being late he would tell his commander that he didn’t understand Hebrew. The commander told us that they were all aware Max knew more than he led on to. He said they were willing to let much of it slide because he more than made up for it in dedication, work ethic, and leadership. They expressed how they knew that they could always depend on him to have their back. They said Max was the hardest working soldier in their unit. Max was street smart, he always knew how to work the system.

Evie Steinberg:

To the joy of our family, Max shared a B’Nai Mitvah with his brother Jake on August 5, 2005. Like his birth, once again Max’s life was linked to a death in the family. This time it was his beloved Grandpa Sandy, who passed away in May, just a few months before this memorable event. Once again, true to his calling, family and friends were reunited in celebration of Max’s life while the healing from our loss was underway.

Max graduated from El Camino High School with exceptionally good grades. But it was during his senior year that Max began to lose his compass. After graduation, Max attended some college courses at a local junior college but he was struggling with his self-identity, self-esteem, and for the first time began distancing himself from family.

Fortunately at this time, Jake and Paige were making arrangements to go to Israel through the Birthright program. They reached out to Max and he agreed to join them. To our delight, our three children, now young adults, departed on a journey in June 2012 for what turned out to be a life changing experience for all of them, but particularly Max.

It was through Birthright that Max formed a bond, a true friendship with Mattan, one of the soldiers in our kids tour group. Mattan spoke at Max’s funeral with such passion and love for him. He had embraced Max like a brother and we embraced Mattan, we welcomed him into our family.

We have the utmost admiration and praise for Birthright. David Fisher, President of Birthright is here tonight, and we want you to know that we will continue to support you and the Birthright program unconditionally. Thank you for all that you do, every day. 

Stuart Steinberg:

During the Birthright trip, one of the experiences that impressed Max in a profound way was his tour of Mount Herzl. It was there that he learned of the fallen Lone Soldier from Pennsylvania, Staff Sargent Michael Levin, and the Lieutenant Commander Roi Klein that gave his life lying over a grenade to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Days after Max was laid to rest, we returned to Mt. Herzl to retrace Max’s footsteps. We visited the gravesites of these two heroes, listened to their stories as told to us by the same tour guide that enlightened Max two years prior. We felt a certain calm and pride knowing that Max was buried amongst these special souls.

Before returning to the United States in July, Max had already made up his mind that he planned to quickly return to Israel. He shared with us how he connected with the country in a way he could not have imagined. He told us how he loved her beauty but mostly he loved the people. Max was 22, and he believed that he may one day choose to make Israel his permanent home. He also believed that he had a responsibility to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces while he was still of the acceptable age for enlistment. Max told us that he could not in good conscious consider becoming a citizen of Israel without first serving.

Once Max set his sight on a course, his competitive juices started to flow. Within weeks of his return, he had made contact with the IDF and put the wheels in motion. Max began initiating the enlistment process and spent as much valuable time as he could with family and friends before returning to Israel in September 2012. Max understood that every young Israeli man and woman mandatorily served in the IDF and he strongly felt that it was his duty to serve as well.

Evie Steinberg:

Max’s good friend from Woodland Hills, Fred Pesin, introduced Max to his uncle and cousins living in Be’er Sheva. Their home became Max’s home for a few months awaiting the commencement of training. We are extremely grateful to Fred for the introduction to his wonderful family in Israel and for his family accepting and welcoming Max into their home. They provided Max with food and shelter, but mostly they embraced him as part of their extended family.

Michael, Fred’s cousin, became a very close friend of Max. Max spent quality family time at Michael’s home with his dad and sister but he slept at Michael’s grandmother’s home about one block away. Michael’s dad spoke Russian and Hebrew but not a word of English. His grandmother only spoke Russian. We visited both homes when we travelled to Be’er Sheva. His grandmother showed us his room and for a brief time we were able get a sense of his home away from home. Even though they never spoke, Max loved her and she loved him.

Max started training in December of 2012. Although he did not speak Hebrew, Max was committed to joining the Golani unit 13. Max was earning recognition for his combat and leadership skills. In early 2013, Max was called in for an interview for Golani. Max was told that he would not be accepted in the Golani unit because he did not speak Hebrew well enough to advance. When asked where else would he be willing to serve, Max told them there was no place else. When they persisted, asking him to offer an alternative, Max said ask me another question, if it is not Golani, it is jail or home. Max was sent home with the understanding that he could re-apply upon his return in one month. To our benefit, we got to spend some time with him. To Max’s credit, he returned to base to resume training.

In addition to improving his Hebrew, which Max told us was “Army Hebrew” one of the requirements for him to be accepted to the Golani unit 13 was to climb over a wall with full gear and substantial weight on his back. Even the tallest guys could not reach the top of the wall without jumping to grab the top and pull themselves up and over. But Max was only 5’3” so for him to climb over the wall he had to run hit the wall with his feet first, and extend his arms as far as possible to reach the top. Max’s commander told us that he would try over and over again during regular training exercises and fail repeatedly. He spoke of how Max would plead with him to return to the wall where he could resume attempting to make the climb. Max would go on Saturdays on his own because the commanders could not tell him what he could or could not do on Shabbat. Max eventually climbed that wall, the final hurdle to being accepted into Golani. More important to Max, he got accepted into Golani unit 13, his goal from day one. 

Stuart Steinberg:

During training Max was elevated to sharp shooter due to his proficiency. One of the many military personnel that came to comfort us and offer their respects was Lieutenant Colonel Mikey Hartman. He was the founder and former commander of the Marksmanship and Sharpshooting school of the IDF. He told us that only a select few of all the soldiers advance to this training. He also said that Max earned the highest scores and honors in his class. He told us he was the first non- Russian soldier in 14 years to achieve this recognition. We didn’t want to break the Colonel’s heart and tell him that Max’s grandparents were descendants of Russia.

Max earned a trip home in April of 2014. We took advantage of his homecoming and enjoyed a wonderful family winter vacation in Mammoth. We immediately recognized the growth and maturity Max was gaining from his experience while serving. Our lasting memory will be there with Max. All of us at peace, happy to be together, a family. Max then returned to fulfil his final months of service on the Syrian border when the war broke out in Gaza. His unit was repositioned outside Gaza awaiting instruction for ground troops to move in.

Separation from Los Angeles and the army regimentation were very helpful for Max. It enabled him to mature and grow as a person, providing him with new skills and personal time to regain his appreciation for family. He called us nearly every day while serving.

On Saturday July 19th at 4 AM PST, we got a call from Max saying that they actually were in formation heading into Gaza when his armored personnel carrier (APC) he was riding in had collided into another APC. There were injuries and he along with other soldiers in his unit were administered medical treatment. He told us that some of the soldiers had broken bones. He said that he was sore but that he was going in, he needed to return to action to be with his friends.

During that final conversation Evie told Max that her biggest fear was that he may be captured. Max told her that would not happen. He said that he had a pact with his soldiers and they agreed that they would sooner shoot themselves versus give Hamas the opportunity to take them captive. Max told Evie that he was not afraid for himself but rather for her. As Max did at the end of every conversation, he told us he loved us and we told him that we loved him too. This time we selfishly asked Max not to be a hero for we knew he would put the safety of his fellow soldiers ahead of his own. And, of course, we wished him a safe return.

Evie Steinberg:

On Sunday at approximately 7:30 AM, July 20th, three wonderful, respectful, and kind representatives of the Israeli Consul of Los Angeles arrived at our home. They shared the horrific news that Max was killed during his mission into Gaza. They embraced us and provided us with as much comfort as was humanly possible under the circumstances. We initially said that we wanted to bring our son back home to Los Angeles. But after further thought, we came to realize that was our selfishness. Max needed to remain there, no longer the Lone Soldier, forever at his home, Israel. We concluded that the Israeli people would honor him for his service, his sacrifice, and provide him with the lasting respect he deserves.

That evening Max’s friends spearheaded a vigil at Lazy Jay Park in West Hills. It was attended by hundreds of friends and neighbors. There were many men that served in the Golani unit 13 that came that night to show their support. It was heartwarming and gave us the strength to catch the plane the next day to Israel.

As you all know from watching the news, reading the newspapers, and the social media, Max was honored by being buried in the presence of over 30,000 mourners at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the only exclusive military cemetery in the State of Israel. Max is resting in peace with Theodore Herzl, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Golda Meir, and tens of thousands of heroic soldiers that defended the formation and ongoing existence of the State of Israel.

Stuart Steinberg:

We learned of the battle story that took Max’s life, receiving preliminary accounts by the IDF and from soldiers off the battlefield. The day before we returned from Israel, Max’s last commander, Ohad, requested we visit with him at the hospital where he was recuperating from gunfire wounds. Ohad told us that their Golani brigade entered Gaza with their mission to flush out tunnels. While in route, the armored personal carrier (APC) he, Max, and seven other soldiers were riding in was ambushed. Prior to the ambush, the commander and one other soldier responsible for communications exited the vehicle to converse with another commander.

It was at that time that Hamas had ambushed them. The APC that Max and 6 other soldiers were in was struck by a missile. All seven soldiers perished in the explosion. The commander was subsequently struck by bullets while the communications soldier was thankfully unharmed. The commander was helicoptered out to safety.

Max and his fellow soldiers did not die in vain. The IDF subsequently discovered the tunnel that the Hamas terrorists had exited to ambush the brigade. The tunnel was destroyed and it was determined that by doing so, hundreds of Israeli lives would be saved.

The IDF had collected all of Max’s personal belongings and brought them to our hotel. When we were going through them we came across a letter I wrote to Max just prior to his boarding the plane on his first return trip to Israel. 

Evie Steinberg:

Our family was humbled by the personal visits and phone calls from numerous dignitaries from the United States and Israel. Before leaving Los Angeles, we received a phone call from Congressman Brad Sherman who said “our son paid the ultimate price for defending democracy, the State of Israel and the United States of America.”

In Israel, we got an unexpected visit from Secretary of State, John Kerry. Despite erroneous rumors, he could not have been more respectful and supportive to our family. He spoke about the honor of serving and he offered friendly advice to Jake understanding that he is now preparing for law school.

President Peres met with us to offer his condolences and offered words of wisdom regarding the history of Israel and the current ongoing challenges facing the likes of the Hamas. We met with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Ambassador Michael Oren, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Rabbi Dov Lipman, Israel Knesset Member, and gracious Sarah Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s wife.

We were having lunch at the King David Hotel when word got out that we were there. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Justice Minister happened to also be there conducting meetings of her own. She quickly rearranged her busy schedule to make time to greet us and offer her condolences. We were escorted by Mayor Barkat and his wife, Beverly Barkat, to the Western Wall where we were greeted by Chief Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

We also toured Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. At the end of the tour, as the tour guides eyes filled with tears along with ours, she told us the story she just shared with us was her story. She was the daughter of parents that escaped from Poland. She said that it was because of soldiers like Max that Israel survives. And she, like so many other Israeli’s we met, thanked us for raising a hero.

Stuart Steinberg:

We don’t know Max the hero. We only know Max, the beautiful baby, the [little boy dressed as a] bumble bee or devil that went trick-or-treating, the student, the Bar Mitzva, the actor, the athlete, the brother, the friend. We only know the Max we were proud to call our son, the love of our life, the young boy that travelled to Israel to become a brave soldier and became a man.

On our last day in Israel, our family received a call from Prime Minister Netanyahu. His voice was deeper than we remembered but his thoughtful comments further validated our decision to have Max buried in Israel.

Evie Steinberg:

As amazing and inspiring as it was to receive condolences from so many influential, powerful people, nothing can duplicate the love showered on our family by the people of Israel. During Shiva, we were embraced by thousands of citizens that drove great lengths and waited in long lines to deliver their condolences, soldiers, policemen, firemen, school teachers, Rabbis, children, Birthrighters, and the list goes on.

As we shared with the people of Israel, we have no regrets that Max made the personal choice to enlist in the IDF. Max was well aware of the risks when he joined as well as when he went into Gaza. Max was a Golani, a trained expert sharpshooter, and he was determined to fulfill his service. Max along the way found his inner peace. He had quickly and methodically developed into a highly skilled soldier and he was happy.

Stuart Steinberg:

Today is my birthday and I am honored and humbled to share this day with Max. He has inspired me in ways that I could never have imagined. He has left us here on earth but never our hearts. Our family is committed to honoring Max’s life and finding ways to perpetuate his legacy.

As Jews, we are at awe of what Max achieved from the moment he said, I am returning to Israel. As parents, we are filled with joy and pride for the man that our son became and the life that he lived. While he touched so many people in his short life, Max raised the bar as a man and a Lone Soldier for the Golani unit 13 of the IDF.

Evie Steinberg:

We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the fallen and for the speedy recovery of all the injured soldiers. We pray for peace. To our beloved son, may your memory burn everlasting in our hearts, your family’s and your friends’ here today, and your new family, the people of Israel. God bless us all and the State of Israel.

Israeli Chief Rabbinical Council OKs eulogies by women


Israel’s Chief Rabbinical Council ruled that woman can deliver eulogies at funerals, but that it is up to the community rabbi to decide on a case-by-case basis.

The ruling was issued last week in response to a request by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, head of a Knesset committee on women’s activity in the public domain, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, head of the council along with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, did not participate in the decision and has not expressed a clear opinion on the issue, according to Haaretz.

In January, Israel’s Religious Services Ministry told burial societies in the country that women may deliver eulogies. The ministry sent a directive to this effect to the more than 600 burial societies throughout the country.

Israel’s Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that women should be allowed to deliver eulogies and that the burial societies, or chevra kadisha, should not impose gender segregation in the cemetery. The ruling was in response to an incident in Petach Tikvah in which a woman was stopped from eulogizing her father. The court’s ruling was not backed up by the Religious Services Ministry until this year.

Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, Arthur Spiegelman


Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, Outspoken Social Justice Proponent, 83

In the midst of a Hawaii vacation and his transition to the White House, President-elect Barack Obama recently took time to honor a man dear to me and many, many others across the nation:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf,” Obama wrote in a statement, “a dear friend to Michelle and me.”

Rabbi Wolf was rabbi emeritus of Chicago’s Reform congregation KAM Isaiah Israel, located across the street from the Obama residence. He was one of the greatest religious voices for social justice in the 20th and 21st centuries — and spiritual guide to a generation — died Dec. 23 at the age of 83.

Like many, my first encounter with Rabbi Wolf came before I ever met him.

A giant in his field, a leader on issues of peace and cross-cultural respect, Rabbi Wolf’s thoughts invariably triggered vehement response. He marched in Selma, protested the Vietnam War, called on Jews to work for Israeli-Palestinian peace, endorsed Obama for president and refused to file down his rough edges. A loving, funny and brilliant man, he was also cantankerous and irascible, more willing to pound his fist than to soft-pedal anything.

And so I first learned of Rabbi Wolf through the anger of others, in an article so shrill it served only to pique my curiosity — a curiosity I was lucky enough to satisfy when I began my undergraduate studies at Yale, where he then served as the Jewish chaplain.

I vividly remember Rabbi Wolf’s sermons, when he would rail against injustice and hypocrisy with a sharp wit and fierce determination to suffer no fools. One year, he castigated the university for harboring anti-Semitism; in another, he condemned Jewish leaders for failing to uphold the prophetic ideals of our faith.

He fought constantly against complacency, whether in the form of lazy thinking or meek acceptance of intolerable living conditions. He was like a recurring wake-up call, never letting us fall into the ease that privilege can engender. Listeners would marvel at his temerity and the power that comes from speaking truth to the mighty.

Rabbi Wolf was, then, a true leader, one who does not check the direction of the wind, nor limit his vision to that of those around him. He modeled for me and for so many others how to live a life full of passion, showing that working for justice not only connects us to those who suffer but also to the Divine — that working for peace is sacred work.

During my first year at Yale, I had countless conversations with the rabbi about politics, Israel, Judaism and life, and ultimately, he literally changed mine.

I began my freshman year vigorously protesting whenever PLO representatives came to campus; I ended it with the understanding that Israel must negotiate with the PLO and that peace meant an independent state of Palestine next to Israel.

I have lived the rest of my life guided by Rabbi Wolf’s teachings, dedicated to social justice here in the United States and the establishment of a just peace in the Middle East.

Many wealthy donors chose not to support Yale’s Jewish community as long as Rabbi Wolf was on campus; when he moved on to his work as a pulpit rabbi in and around Chicago, the money flowed. And yet, I can’t help but feel that what this great spiritual leader bequeathed to those who fell under his guidance was much more precious than the material wealth that came in once he had left.

This past year, after becoming the national president of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, I had the honor of closely working with Rabbi Wolf once again. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that Rabbi Wolf was one of the leaders of our national Rabbinic Cabinet.

We jointly published an essay calling on our nation’s Jewish leaders to raise their voices in support of the State of Israel as it joined its Arab neighbors at the Annapolis peace conference and spoke often about the opportunities for peace under an Obama administration.

In his statement, Obama summed up a life well-lived: “Rabbi Wolf’s name is synonymous with service, social action and the possibility of change. He will be remembered as a loving husband and father, an engaging teacher, a kindhearted shepherd for [his synagogue], and a tireless advocate of peace for the United States, Israel and the world.”

In the midst of my sorrow, I am proud to be a small piece of the legacy that Rabbi Wolf has left the world. So many of us whose inner light was lit by the sparks from Rabbi Wolf’s torch will proudly and humbly continue to shine that light to banish darkness from the world.

That I am one of these torch bearers brings me great comfort at this time of great loss.

Steve Masters is president of the Chicago-based Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace.



Arthur Spiegelman, Journalist, 68

Arthur SpiegelmanArthur Spiegelman, journalist and longtime correspondent for Reuters, died at home in Los Angeles on Dec. 20. He was 68. Born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., Spiegelman began working at Reuters in 1966 as London correspondent, later transferring to New York in 1973 to serve as chief editor and national correspondent.

In 1997, he moved to Los Angeles and reported primarily on the entertainment industry. In his 42 years with Reuters, Spiegelman covered the U.S. presidential campaigns between 1976 and 1996, John Lennon’s murder, the Gulf War and the O.J. Simpson murder trial. In 2006, Spiegelman was honored as one of Reuters’s journalists of the year.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte; sons, Adam and Michael; and brother, Marvin. Services were held at Hillside.

Arthur Spiegelman is shown in this undated photo in his Los Angeles office. REUTERS/Family of Arthur Spiegelman/Handout

Dr. David Leo Lieber z”l: To know him was a privilege


A big part of my adult life has involved trying to live up to what Dr. David Leo Lieber expected of me. Trying to emulate his wisdom, his learning, his kindness, knowing all the while that it would be impossible.

It is told in the Book of Kings that the prophet Elijah announced to his disciples that his life would soon be at an end. His principal disciple, Elisha, asked his mentor to bequeath to him a double portion of prophecy. According to Jewish law, a first-born son inherits double the portion of the other sons, so Elisha asked his teacher, Elijah, to grant him double the spiritual portion of the other disciples.

In so many ways, I feel that I was given that double portion by David Lieber. I don’t say this as a matter of hubris but rather as a matter of my good fortune. For 30 years, I worked side by side with him. What a remarkable privilege that was. To be in his presence each day, to listen to him, to learn from him, to love him.

David Lieber was part of a generation of rabbis who were raised in Orthodox homes in which observance was taken for granted but rarely explained. In some ways, his was a religiously rebellious generation. They tended to appreciate Judaism more for its wisdom and values than for its ritual requirements.

Having said this, however, I cannot imagine anyone who was more profoundly spiritual than David Lieber. His spirituality did not have any of the external manifestations that are more common today. Rather, it was apparent in his quiet acceptance of God’s plan for him and for the world.

There are so many things I will remember about David Lieber that I could never hope to recount them all. I quote him often, and I smile whenever I use what I consider to be a “Lieberism.”

One of his favorite sayings was, “You can always tell someone to go to hell later.” Any of us who are prone to occasional flashes of anger can benefit from that bit of wisdom. Lieber used to claim that he borrowed this one from Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin of Stephen S. Wise Temple.

Another phrase he used often actually comes from the Talmud: “Sof ha-kavod lavo.” It’s a little difficult to translate into English. It is similar to “All good things come to those who wait.” But it really says that good things come to those who work hard and don’t try to force things before their proper time.

His most insightful saying is pure, original David Lieber. He often observed to me that human beings can “foresee” things but they cannot “fore-feel” them. In other words, we can often use our intellect to figure out what the future will bring, but we really don’t know how we are going to feel about something until it actually happens to us.

Whatever words of wisdom Lieber had for others, he certainly applied them to himself. He accepted whatever life had to offer, and he was one of those rare individuals who followed the rabbinic dictate: “We are required to bless God’s name when bad things happen, just as we so willingly bless His name when we enjoy the good.”

For years, David Lieber struggled with serious illness. It was not easy for him, but he did so without complaint and with true gratitude for the many productive years that were granted to him.

We all admired Dr. Lieber for his achievements, but that’s not why we loved him. We loved him for who he was as a person and the special position he occupied in each of our lives.

Even the most cynical among us yearns to believe that there is real goodness in this world, but often it’s a challenge to accept. We read about such terrible things, and we regularly encounter people who shake our faith in humanity.

But every so often, if we are very fortunate, we find a person who reminds us that human beings are truly formed in the image of God. We find someone of such extraordinary goodness that we say to ourselves, “This must be what God had in mind when He created the world.”

To know David Lieber was to know kindness. To know David Lieber was to know wisdom. To know David Lieber was to experience a quiet, steadfast faith in God and in the divine potential of all human beings.

And so we loved him. We loved him for who he was. And we loved him for seeing the good in us.

Dr. Robert Wexler is president of the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) in Los Angeles.



Dr. David Leo Lieber, rabbi, scholar and president emeritus of the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism) died Dec. 15 at 83 after a lengthy battle with a lung ailment.

“Rabbi David Lieber was a dear friend,” said Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis of Congregation Valley Beth Shalom. “In every one of his conversations, there was a compassionate and caring soul. He leaves a remarkable legacy, not only in the public arena, in his scholarship and leadership, but in the personal relationship that he had with everyone — colleagues, congregants, students and contributors.”

Born in Poland, Lieber came to the United States at the age of 2. In 1944, he graduated magna cum laude from the College of the City of New York and earned a degree in Hebrew literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS).

In 1948, he was ordained at JTS. He earned his doctorate in Hebrew literature from JTS in 1951. In addition, he completed a master’s and all but dissertation from Columbia University. He pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Washington and at UCLA.

At JTS, Lieber studied under Talmudist Saul Lieberman, Jewish Bible scholar H.L. Ginsberg and philosopher Mordecai Kaplan, whose groundbreaking vision led to the creation of the University of Judaism, which was renamed American Jewish University last year after a merger with Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley.

Following retirement in 1993, after 29 years as AJU president, Lieber continued to teach. He also began focusing on a project he had first proposed in 1969, a new commentary on the Torah. The resulting “Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary” sought to provide laity with a contemporary interpretation of the text and a commentary that embraced both tradition and change, ancient teachings and modern scholarship.

As a young man, Lieber was a leader of Shomer Hadati, the religious Zionist movement that is now B’nai Akiva. An early pioneer in the establishment of the Ramah camps, he was also the founding head counselor in the first of the camps in Wisconsin, a director in Maine and the founding director in California. Furthermore, Lieber was the founding director of Mador, the national training camp for Ramah counselors.

A former spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles (1950-1954), Lieber served as a U.S. Air Force chaplain, and as university chaplain for the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at both the University of Washington (1954-1955) and Harvard University (1955-1956).

In 1956, when Lieber was appointed dean of students of the nine-year-old University of Judaism, the college was a Hebrew teachers institute, which also offered adult education classes, art exhibits and drama programs. The institution, today replete with an undergraduate college, graduate programs, seminary, think tanks and a large library on a 25-acre campus in Bel Air, was developed with Lieber’s help.

In recognition of his work, Lieber was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, by the Hebrew Union College in 1982 and the Torch of Learning award by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1984. Between 1996 and 1998, he served as the first West Coast president of the International Rabbinical Assembly.

Over the years, Lieber has authored some 50 articles, which appeared in a variety of journals.

Lieber is survived by his wife, Esther; sons, Michael and Danny; daughters, Susie and Debbie; and 11 grandchildren.

A service was held Dec. 18 at American Jewish University. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the university’s Ostrow Library at American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air, CA 90077.

Ed Guthman leaves legacy of fighting injustice


When Ed Guthman died Aug. 30 at the age of 89, the Los Angeles Jewish community lost one of its most distinguished members.

He had been a Pulitzer Prize- winning reporter. As press secretary to Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy, he braved danger in the South when the federal government forced recalcitrant states to integrate. Before that, he’d faced danger in combat in Italy during World War II.

Ed was an editor at the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was a beloved journalism professor at USC. He helped create and then headed the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

I don’t believe Ed was religious. We never discussed it. Our shared religious background was hardly mentioned when, in 1972, he assigned me to do a story that was of major interest to the Jewish community.

At the time, Republicans were mounting a quiet but intense campaign to persuade Jews to vote for President Richard M. Nixon on the grounds that he was Israel’s best friend. I told Ed I had a connection who might help, Louis Boyar, a cousin who was a major philanthropist, political contributor, supporter of the Jewish community and friend of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel.

Ed assigned me the story. I had lunch with Boyar at the Hillcrest Country Club and reported what I had learned. It wasn’t enough, so Ed sent me east, first to the office of Jake Arvey, the retired Chicago political boss and a prominent Jew, and finally to the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The last stop, plus some other interviews, finally gave me enough information to satisfy Ed, and I wrote the story.

Looking back on the incident, what was striking was how little our being Jewish figured into the pursuit of the story, even though it would be widely discussed in the community. My memory of the story is how he urged me on until I got to the bottom of it.

That’s not unusual. A newsroom is a most secular place. In all my years in newsrooms, I can recall discussing religion with only one person, my friend Tim Rutten, a devout, although cynical, Catholic.

Such secularism, by the way, is one reason for journalism’s spotty coverage of religion. The United States is a highly religious country, but this is not reflected on television news or in mainstream publications.

But whether or not he was religious, Ed was a righteous man — although never self-righteous — who approached his tasks with a commitment to social justice, honesty and concern for society’s underdogs. There was something biblical about him, like those prophets who couldn’t let evil pass by without doing or saying something about it.

When he was honored by the Los Angeles City Council for his public service, he said he was grateful to his father, a German Jewish immigrant, for imbuing in him an obligation to serve.

“He always taught us that we had to give something back to this great country and the freedom we enjoy and experience,” he said.

I became friends with Ed at the Times, where he was national editor from 1965 to 1977.

It was a big job. Ed was in charge of a growing network of bureaus around the country, as well as the Washington bureau. In addition, he was responsible for a national desk, which edited the large number of stories that came in each day.

Ed took the best of this work into the daily news meetings, where the managing editor, after hearing the pitches of each of the editors, decided what would go on Page 1. Ed argued fiercely for his stories and was sometimes too intense for a group who seemed to take pride in being calm, laid back and uninvolved.

It was a tumultuous period, and Ed was in the middle of it. The Watts Riot of 1965 ushered in the era, followed by student rebellions in Berkeley and across the country and then demonstrations against the Vietnam War. In the middle of it were the assassinations, first of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and then Ed’s friend, Robert Kennedy. That occurred here in Los Angeles, the night Kennedy won the 1968 California Democratic primary.

Then there was Watergate. Ed’s leadership in the Times coverage and his association with Kennedy earned him a place high on Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

Ed’s office was one of several for editors at one end of the vast newsroom. He didn’t spend a lot of time in the office. When he was in there, he was on the phone with his correspondents around the country and in the Washington bureau.

But much of the time, he roamed through the newsroom, talking to reporters. He respected reporters and was curious about what they were working on and how they were going about it.

That’s how I became friendly with him. I covered politics, and Ed was intensely interested in what I was doing, from state elections to campaigns for City Council. He began arranging with my boss for me to do national stories for him.

In writing this sort of piece for a newspaper, a journalist looks for illuminating anecdotes that in three neat paragraphs can illustrate and explain the subject of a story.

Ed did not lend himself to anecdotes. He was forthright and plain in his speech. For a man of such accomplishment, he was extremely modest. In a business full of men and woman with huge egos, he didn’t boast of glory days of the past.

So I don’t have any great stories about Ed. What I took away from our friendship was a commitment to social justice and to fighting injustice. Long after he left the paper, I tried to carry on his tradition in my own work and, when I became an editor, in the work of my reporters. Many of them knew Ed and were inspired by him, as were his students at USC.

They are Ed’s legacy to journalism and his country.

Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Bill Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a Metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Congressman Tom Lantos left behind human rights legacy


The flags dipped at half-staff over the Capitol, the warm remembrances flooded e-mail inboxes, the “Have you heard?” phone calls took a solemn tone.

U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) earned all these tributes. He died Monday of esophageal cancer at the age of 80.

The mourning was not just for a man but for the unique voice of the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress.

Losing Lantos Means End of an Era

by Mel Levine

Tom Lantos was one of a kind. He was the only survivor of the Shoah ever to serve in Congress — and he was fiercely proud of that distinction. No one ever doubted where Tom stood on issues. He was forceful, courageous, eloquent, witty, acerbic, and, as a true American patriot, was also totally committed to the security and survival of the state of Israel and to ending bigotry and intolerance wherever it raised its ugly head.

Whether it was human rights in China, or in Tibet, or in any other part of the globe, Tom was an eloquent and passionate spokesman against it. He devoted his life, and his career in Congress, to combating human rights abuses — everywhere — and to protecting and enhancing Israel’s security. And he fought for these causes with a passionate commitment to civil rights and civil liberties. Tom liked to remind people that he fought fascism directly — as a part of the anti-Nazi underground in Hungary. His personal values were forged in that fight — and he never forgot them.

He embraced these causes with gusto and with great skill. He was an eloquent debater and an effective strategist.

We first became friends during the time in which Tom was fighting for his legislation to make Raoul Wallenberg an honorary American citizen. He made Wallenberg known to the U.S. Congress and to all of America. He ensured that Wallenberg’s courageous intervention, using his Swedish diplomatic post to rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust, including Tom, would be forever remembered by Americans of all faiths. And Tom’s support for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington was indispensable to the strong support the museum obtained from Congress.

In these efforts, Tom won the support and praise of Democrats and Republicans alike. As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom regularly sought and obtained bipartisan support for his passionate efforts.

Tom and I worked closely together and forged a close friendship during all of the 10 years in which I served as his colleague on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Together with other dedicated members of that committee — notably Rep. Howard Berman [D-Sherman Oaks], who will now inherit Tom’s mantle as the able leader of that committee — a core group of that committee’s members could always rely on Tom’s wisdom, counsel and active engagement on every matter that was important to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Whether it was an authorization bill, a “Dear Colleague” letter, a resolution of approval or condemnation, an arms sale to a country hostile to Israel or a strategy session late at night which no one ever heard about, Tom’s leadership was always a key component of these efforts to insure that the U.S.-Israel relationship was impregnable.

Tom’s partner in life — and in his legislative and political career — was his devoted and extremely effective wife Annette. Annette was always at Tom’s side, in life and in Congress (generally accompanied by their poodle, Gigi, or, subsequently, by their little terrier, Macko [or little bear, in Hungarian]). The pride of Tom’s and Annette’s life, understandably, were their daughters, Annette and Katrina, and their 18 grandchildren. I had the pleasure of serving in the Congress not only with Tom but with Katrina’s husband, Dick Swett, who represented New Hampshire in the House. I am proud to claim the greater Lantos family as friends.

Tom’s passing signals the end of an era. There will, in all likelihood, be no more Holocaust survivors serving in the U.S. Congress. But the indelible impression left by Tom will remind Jewish and non-Jewish Americans alike to “Never Forget” and to continue to fight for the causes that Tom cherished and passionately defended throughout his distinguished career.

Mel Levine is a former member of the House of Representatives and a partner at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

“We lose a voice for human rights, which was in his case unique,” said Elie Wiesel, the novelist whose own writings have become icons of Holocaust remembrance. “He spoke always against oppression, against persecution, against racism.”

Lantos died at the Naval Medical Center in suburban Bethesda, Md., surrounded by his wife, Annette, two daughters and many of his 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“As the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, Tom was a living reminder that we must never turn a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent at the hands of evil men,” President Bush said.

“Having lived through the worst evil known to mankind, Tom Lantos translated the experience into a lifetime commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism, Holocaust education, and a commitment to the State of Israel,” U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a statement.

Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, said Israel “lost one of our greatest friends.”

The remembrances of Lantos, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, were a kaleidoscope of the human rights causes he championed since his election to the House in 1980.

Wiesel remembered Lantos’ contributions to the building of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which Wiesel helped found.

“From the very beginning in Washington he was with us, involved in every step leading to the building of the museum, developing it into a source for archives, learning and teaching,” he said.

Mark Levin, the executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia, focused on Lantos’ role in the 1980s in pressing the Soviet Union to release its Jews. Lantos made several trips to Russia to meet with refuseniks and championed them in Congress.

“He was forthright, compassionate and deeply committed to the cause of freeing Jews from the former Soviet Union,” Levin said.

In 2003 he would found the House’s Human Rights Caucus.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa remembered Lantos’ moral leadership and how he provided a passionate voice for those in need.

“Whether taking the lead on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reminding us of our obligation to halt the genocide in Darfur, warning his colleagues about the perils of a nuclear Iran, or speaking out on behalf of new democracies springing up across Eastern Europe, Tom Lantos’ courageous stands and compassionate actions served as an example of principled leadership for each and every political official in the U.S. and around the world,” he said.

Other encomiums came from The American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which has led the Jewish community in pressing for an end to the genocide in Sudan; the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which praised his steadfast support for Israel and his tough stance on Iran; and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which commemorated his contributions to social welfare at home.

Adding their remembrances were the United Jewish Communities, B’nai B’rith International, the Anti-Defamation League, the World Jewish Congress, the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, Hadassah and Americans for Peace Now.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) remembered Lantos’ service to his Silicon Valley district.

“In serving his constituents and his country, Tom never forgot the Democratic Party’s ideals of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all,” the chairman of the DNC, Howard Dean, said in a statement.

Lantos was not afraid to take on his allies. On the foreign affairs committee, he blasted Silicon Valley giants like Google and Yahoo for colluding with China’s government in censorship. He authored tough Iran sanctions legislation, but broke with pro-Israel orthodoxy by offering to meet with the Islamic Republic’s leaders.

Pro-Israel groups also opposed a nonbinding resolution that recognized the Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians as a genocide, worried that it would cause a rift between Israel and Turkey. Lantos pushed the measure through the committee, unwilling to countenance what he saw as genocide revisionism.

His appeal crossed political aisles: Both the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition issued statements mourning his passing.

Top Republicans on his committee recalled him fondly.

“An unfailingly gracious and courageous man, Tom was recognized by friends and colleagues alike as a leader who left an enviable legacy of service to his country,” said Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee’s ranking member.

The campaigns of the two Democrats left in the presidential field, U.S. Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) also released statements mourning his passing.

Lantos was 16 in 1944 when the Nazis invaded his native Hungary; his Web site tells of his fighting in the anti-Nazi underground.

In 1947 he came to the United States to study. Lantos was a noted economist and consultant prior to his House election in 1980.

Expressions of his love for his adopted country were as constant as his defenses of human rights.

“It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress,” he said in his statement last month announcing his retirement. “I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.”

Lantos, Wiesel said, died too young — even at 80, even after serving nearly three decades in public office. He noted that Lantos only ascended to the committee chairmanship in 2006 after Democrats regained Congress.

“He had influence,” Wiesel said. “He would have had more had he lived.”

Our Uri


Hours before the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah went into effect, Israel Defense Forces tank commander Uri Grossman, the son of acclaimed Israeli novelist David Grossman, was killed by an Hezbollah anti-tank missile. This is an excerpt of the eulogy David Grossman delivered at his son’s funeral:

At 20 minutes to three in the morning, between Saturday and Sunday, our doorbell rang. Over the intercom, they said they were from the army. For three days,
every thought began with a negative: He won’t come. We won’t speak. We won’t laugh. He won’t be that kid with the ironic look in his eyes and the amazing sense of humor. He won’t be that young person with understanding beyond his years. There won’t be that warm smile and healthy appetite. There will no longer be that rare combination of determination and refinement. There won’t be his common sense and wisdom. We won’t sit down together to watch “The Simpsons” and “Seinfeld,” and we won’t listen to Johnny Cash, and we won’t feel the strong embrace. We won’t see you going to talk to your brother, Yonatan, with excited hand movements, and we won’t see you hugging your sister, Ruthie, the love of your life.

Uri, my beloved. For your entire brief life, we have all learned from you. We learned from the strength and determination to go your own way. To go your own way even if there is no way you could succeed. We followed with amazement your struggle to get into the tank commanders’ course. How you never compromised with your commanders, because you knew you would be a great commander. You were not satisfied to give less than you thought you could. And when you succeeded, I thought, “Here’s a man who knows his own abilities in such a sober and simple way. Here’s a man who has no pretensions or arrogance, who isn’t influenced by what others say about him, whose source of strength is internal.”

From childhood, you were like that. A child who live in harmony with himself and those around him. A child who knew his place and knew that he was loved, who recognized his limitations and strengths. And truly, from the moment you forced the army to make you a commander, it was clear what kind of commander and person you were. We hear today from your comrades and your subordinates about the commander and friend. About the person who got up before everyone else in order to organize everything and who went to sleep only after everyone else had. And yesterday, at midnight, I looked at our house, which was quite a mess after the visits of hundreds of people who came to console us and I said to myself: “Nu, now we need Uri, to help us get everything together.”

You were the leftie of your unit, and you were respected for it, because you stood your ground without giving up even one of your military assignments…. You were a son and a friend to me and to Ema. Our soul is tied to yours. You felt good in yourself, and you were a good person to live with. I cannot even say out loud how much you were “Someone to Run With.” Every furlough you would say: “Dad, let’s talk,” and we would go, usually to a restaurant, and talk. You told me so much, Uri, and I felt proud that I was your confidante.

I won’t say anything now about the war you were killed in. We, our family, have already lost in this war. The state of Israel will have its own reckoning….
Uri was such a quintessential Israeli boy; even his name was very Israeli and so very Hebraic. He was the essence of Israeli-ness as I would want it to be. An Israeli-ness that has almost been forgotten, that is something of a curiosity.

And he was a person so full of values. That word has been so eroded and has become ridiculed in recent years. In our crazy, cruel and cynical world, it’s not ‘cool’ to have values, or to be a humanist, or to be truly sensitive to the suffering of the other, even if that other is your enemy on the battlefield.

However, I learned from Uri that it is both possible and necessary to be all that. We have to guard ourselves, by defending ourselves both physically and morally. We have to guard ourselves from might and simplistic thinking, from the corruption that is in cynicism, from the pollution of the heart and the ill-treatment of humans, which are the biggest curse of those living in a disastrous region like ours. Uri simply had the courage to be himself, always and in all situations — to find his exact voice in every thing he said and did. That’s what guarded him from the pollution and corruption and the diminishing of the soul.

In the night between Saturday and Sunday, at 20 to 3 a.m., our doorbell rang. The person said through the intercom that he was from the army, and I went down to open the door, and I thought to myself — that’s it, life’s over. But five hours later, when Michal and I went into Ruthie’s room to wake her and tell her the terrible news, Ruthie, after first crying, said: “But we will live, right? We will live and trek like before, and I want to continue singing in a choir, and we will continue to laugh like always, and I want to learn to play guitar.”

And we hugged her and told her that we will live.

We will derive our strength from Uri; he had enough for many years to come. Vitality, warmth and love radiated from him strongly, and that will shine on us even if the star that made it has been extinguished. Our love, we had a great honor to live with you. Thank you for every moment that you were ours.

— Father and Mother, Yonatan and Ruthie.

Translated from the original Hebrew by professor William Cutter, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Naomi Shemer, Israeli Folk Musician, Dies at 74


It was a sign of folk singer Naomi Shemer’s importance to Israel’s national psyche that her death relegated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the inside pages of the nation’s newspapers.

Saturday’s death of Shemer, at the age of 74 from cancer, spurred Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to open his weekly Cabinet meeting with a eulogy and the Education Ministry to order all schools to spend an hour in the classroom remembering Shemer.

"Using marvelous lyrics and melodies, she succeeded in connecting us to our roots, to our origins, to the beginnings of Zionism," an emotional Sharon said at the Cabinet meeting. "Today, when we part with Naomi Shemer, we bow our heads in sorrow and are grateful for the wonderful gift Naomi gave us."

Perhaps best known for her song "Jerusalem of Gold," or "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav," a paean to Israel’s capital written shortly before Jerusalem’s Old City was captured by the Israelis in the 1967 Six-Day War, Shemer penned and performed countless songs that captured the national mood and drew on her kibbutz upbringing.

Set to guitar, the melody of "Jerusalem of Gold" and the haunting descriptions of Jerusalem’s ancient edifices resonated for Jews worldwide. In the Soviet Union, it inspired hope among Jewish refuseniks.

"It was the most Israeli thing we could think of, and we knew that in Israel the song had become something of a national anthem," recalled Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet political prisoner and now Israel’s minister for Diaspora affairs.

"Al Hadvash Ve’al Haoketz" — "Of the Honey and the Bee Sting" — spoke of the joy and sorrow that invariably intertwine in Israeli lives. In 1973, Shemer composed "Let It Be" — "Lu Yehi" — an Israeli version of the famous Beatles tune, to inspire optimism in an Israel demoralized by the heavy losses of the Yom Kippur War.

Following the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995, Shemer translated American poet Walt Whitman’s "O Captain! My Captain!" into Hebrew, put it to music and dedicated it to Rabin’s memory.

The messages of Shemer’s songs still hold currency in Israel today. Her songs enjoyed a revival in public singalongs after the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000.

Shemer won the prestigious Israel Prize in 1983 just a year after speaking out against the government’s evacuation of Sinai settlements as part of Israel’s peace accord with Egypt. The award was a sign that Shemer’s popularity spanned even fierce political differences.

Shemer was born in 1930 in Kibbutz Kinneret. She began playing piano at age 6, and she was writing songs in her 20s.

She studied at music schools in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but Shemer returned to her kibbutz roots in the army, spending her years of compulsory military service as a musical coordinator for shows put on by the Nahal Corps at new settlements and kibbutzim around the country.

She went on to write dozens of Israeli favorites as well as numerous children’s songs.

Her last work, composed as she lay dying of cancer during the last two years, was a tribute to Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, who died in 2003 in the breakup of the space shuttle Columbia.

"The death of Naomi Shemer has for some years hovered like a little black cloud, a possibility, in the ‘light blue yonder’ about which she was composing even in her first songs," commentator Doron Rosenblum wrote in Ha’aretz. "And even back then, the occasional hint came up of a possible end, or parting one day from the light blue adventure of our lives in this land."

Shemer was buried Sunday evening at Kibbutz Kinneret, her birthplace, overlooking the lake about which she wrote so many songs. She asked that no eulogies be delivered at her funeral and that mourners instead sing three songs, including her famous "Eucalyptus Grove," or "Churshat Ha’Icalyptus."

After her death, Israeli President Moshe Katsav said, "In her song, Shemer bequeathed us landmarks in the life of the country. Her songs voiced a great love for the state and the people of Israel."

Shemer is survived by her husband, the poet Mordechai Horowitz, two children and four grandchildren.

Eulogies:Mark Schulman


Mark Schulman, philanthropist and entrepreneur, died July 20 at the age of 97.

He was born in Minsk, Russia, and came to the United States in 1914. He prospered in the Los Angeles supermarket industry and in 1945, he began the Clark Market chain, which grew to 15 stores before it was sold to Food Giant. He also joined his brother, Irwin, an early pioneer of Palm Springs, in building the Palm Springs Riviera Hotel. He later served as director of the board of City National Bank from 1975-1991.

Above all, Schulman wanted to give something of himself back to the community that was so good to him. As a result, The Mark and Esther Schulman Foundation is responsible for many humanitarian works throughout Los Angeles. The Jewish Home for the Aging has two Schulman buildings: a medical center and a social hall. In 1999, the foundation endowed a chair to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the discipline of organ transplants and provided funding for an obstetric wing of the hospital.

Because of his dedication to children’s causes, he and his wife have endowed Vista Del Mar Children’s Home with an arts and crafts building, and they also dedicated the lobby of the Zimmer Children’s Museum.

For over 45 years, the family has belonged to Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, where the social hall bears their name and where they helped provide earphones for congregants with hearing problems.

Although Los Angeles was always Schulman’s first priority, he was deeply connected to the State of Israel, the home of his wife’s parents, and built a sports center there to honor them.

In addition to his philanthropic involvements, he was active in City of Hope; a long-time member of the Friars Club, where he headed up their charity foundation for several years; and served as the president of the Sportsmen Club.

He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Esther; daughter, Roberta (Marvin) Holland; son, Richard (Marcia); six grandchildren; two stepgrandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging, 7150 Tampa Ave., Reseda, CA 91335. — Roberta Holland

Eulogies:Rabbi Marvin L. Labinger


Rabbi Marvin L. Labinger executive director of the Pacific Southwest Region of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism from 1990-2000, died July 25, 2002 at the age of 66.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1960 and immediately began a 30-year career as Jewish chaplain in the Air Force, retiring with the rank of colonel. Serving all denominations, he also developed management and leadership programs for Catholic and Protestant chaplains. The first Jewish chaplain to be chosen for any military academy, he served at several air force bases around the country, as well as in England, Spain and Germany.

In additon to the the many leadership, adult education and Judaism programs he taught, he headed the religious program at the Cuban Refugee Center from 1978-1981; taught at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas in the 1980s; and in the 1990s, conducted High Holy Day services at Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver.

Labinger was actively involved with Catholic-Jewish Dialogue and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

He was a recipient of the Dr. Sheitlis Award in medieval Hebrew literature, the B’nai Brith Four Chaplains Award for Interfaith Activities, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal for his work with Cuban refugees.

He is survived by his wife, Joette; daughter, Gila Freeberg; son, Zev; and four grandchildren.

To donate to the Rabbi Marvin L. Labinger Memorial Fund, contact Adat Ari El, (818) 766-9426; or United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, (818) 986-0907. — USCJ

A Secular Life Gone Bad


It’s the ultimate fantasy: You have a seat at your own funeral. Now imagine that while hovering in limbo between your death and burial, you have the power not only to witness the preparations and critique the eulogies, but also to eavesdrop on critical moments in your past for a reality check.

Such is the premise of Merrill Joan Gerber’s latest, "Anna in the Afterlife," which chronicles Anna’s four-day journey between her grueling death at 90 and her burial.

When last we left Anna in "Anna in Chains," she was lying helpless in a nursing home, paralyzed in one arm, feeding tube gurgling, begging for death. Not exactly the stuff of comedy. Yet in "Anna in the Afterlife," after seven agonizing years chained to her bed, Anna finally nears that "famous tunnel she’d heard about on Oprah," and what would have turned maudlin from a lesser writer is at once poignant, riveting, even amusing in Gerber’s capable hands.

"Anna warned [her daughters] constantly: they mustn’t do anything illegal and end up in jail. Neither one was familiar with firearms, neither one had access to heavy barbiturates and no one could figure out how to get her to a bridge railing. Ropes, razors and drinking drain cleaner did not appeal to Anna, nor did a plastic bag over her head."

At last "the great and famous moment" arrives, and Anna relinquishes "the spark every tiny ant and worm wants to keep hold of, the force that makes flies evade the swatter and convulses fish off their baited hooks." In death, she is free to revisit her past, and memorable characters materialize: her mother’s bigamist first husband; her jealous 86-year-old sister, Gert, attempting suicide in a red peignoir; and her half-brother, Sam, who she learns had molested her and her sister. ("I thought it was his thumb," claims an unperturbed Gert.)

Loosed in death from the shackles of physical suffering, she is free to unlock her family’s many secrets and long forgotten mysteries: Did her brother really drown while fishing on erev Yom Kippur? ("Who needed fish that fresh"?) Did Anna really win her husband by parading in front of her sister’s date in a negligee?

For the first time Anna confronts her own racial prejudice, her sexual reluctance, her stinginess. "’Nothing but the best" was not a phrase Anna had thought her children should live by. Now she was feeling the consequences of her philosophy — she’d have third-rate corned beef at her funeral reception, seedless Christian rye bread and prune Danish made with lard, with not a single salty black olive or a plate of pickled herring in sour cream on the table."

Now this feisty woman, whose raison d’être had been indignation, experiences doubt. "Should she have been kinder? And to whom?"

Gerber knows only too well the degradation and suffering of the elderly, kept alive beyond their time in "a holding pen for dying animals." She had watched helplessly as her own mother begged for death.

"But Anna is not my mother at all," says the prize-winning author. "She didn’t have that irony, that speed of retort. She is a combination of what I knew about her life, what I imagined a certain voice in her head would sound like — which is a combination of me and her — and my invention."

A fiction-writing instructor at California Institute of Technology, Gerber is a careful observer of those thousands of details that forge family dynamics and skillfully transforms life’s ordinary and gut-wrenching moments into compelling prose.

We see Anna as a young mother in "The Kingdom of Brooklyn," even more strident from a child’s point of view. Nearly 80 in "Anna in Chains," she shuffles, still independent, through her Fairfax neighborhood, then sinks into ever descending circles of hell: retirement home, nursing home, utter dependence. In the end, Gerber tells us: "Anna accepted her fate."

With Anna gone, Gerber wastes no time with idle retrospection. Look in November for "Botticelli Blue Skies," the saga of her sojourn in Italy, and a book of essays, "Gut Feelings: A Writer’s Truths and Minute Inventions," due in Spring 2003.

Eulogies:Rosalind Glaser Peters


Rosalind Glaser Peters died on Jan. 6, 2002, at the age of 91.

She was our "Aishes Chayil," woman of valor, elegance, strength and dignity. The unparalled, articulate, beloved matriarch of our family.

Born in New York in 1909, she was a true pioneer of the Los Angeles Jewish Community, an expert spokeswoman and fundraiser for innumerable philanthropic causes. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the FDR chapter of Hadassah and was one of the founders of the Benefactors. She is loved and will be dearly missed by everyone who ever met her. She is the Crown Jewel of her family and her extended community.

She is survived by her husband, David Peters; sons, Manuel (Harriet), Jerome, and Herb (Sharon) Glaser; grandchildren Tamar (Doron), Jonathan (Nancy), Samuel (Marcia), Aharon (Dena), Yom Tov (Leah), Joel, Samantha and Aubra; 10 great-grandchildren; brothers, Jack and Charles Barenfeld; and sister-in-law, Marion Barenfeld.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent in the name of Rosalind Glaser Peters to Hadassah Medical Center-Jerusalem or the United Jewish Fund.

Eulogies:Benjamin Alan Eder


Benjamin Alan Eder died on Dec. 11, 2001, lost at sea along with three other men aboard the F/V Nesika, at age 21.

Eder was born in Coos Bay, Ore., on March 22, 1980, and lived in Port Orford, Ore. until 1986, after which he moved with his family to Newport, Ore. He graduated from Newport High School in 1998 as a salutatorian. For his freshman and sophomore years, he studied at Reed College in Portland. He traveled extensively, taking a leave of absence during the 2000-2001 school year to spend six months in South America. Upon his return, he enrolled as a junior at the University of Oregon in Eugene in September 2001, with a double major in biochemistry and international relations. Eder also has visited British Columbia, the Dominican Republic and Israel.

He is survived by his father, Bob; mother, Michele; brother, Dylan; grandparents, Edie Eder of Los Angeles, and Joe and Betty Longo of Worcester, N.Y.; uncles, Alan (Lorna) and Harvey of Los Angeles, and Marc (Linda) Longo of Milford, N.Y.; and many cousins.

To honor his memory, the Ben Eder Memorial Scholarship at Newport High School, 322 NE Eads, Newport, OR 97365 has been established.

Eulogies:Joyce Lipkis


Death is more universal than life; everyone dies, but not everyone lives.

Joyce Lipkis died on Nov. 29, 2001, at the age of 81. Born in Kansas City, Mo., but almost a native resident of Los Angeles, Lipkis lived — and how. At a time when most women were still working their husband’s way through college, she took herself back to school — with the full support and admiration of her husband, Leon. This was no easy task — either psychologically or physically — with three young sons still at home and a devotion to providing them with all the usual motherly comforts.

She graduated with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UCLA, and was bestowed with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1967. She had blazed a trail and was now thrilled to be able to teach students who were recruited in supermarket parking lots by the Women’s Return to Work program. A devoted and admired professor of English literature at Santa Monica City College, she was instrumental in originating the Women in Literature course, as well as creating a new course titled literature of the Absurd.

After retirement in 1993, she remained active and traveled extensively. Her philanthropic generosity reflected her concern for women, her compassion for all people and her dedication to the arts.

Her courage and grace in the face of illness was a reflection of her indomitable spirit. She is survived by her husband of 55 years, Leon; sons, Don (Arlene), Roger (Desiree) and Andy (Kate); and grandchildren, Phoebe, Kira, Alex, Henry, Sienna and Skye. — Kate Lipkis

Eulogies: Rosalind Glaser Peters


Rosalind Glaser Peters died on Jan. 6, 2002, at the age of 92.

She was our "Aishes Chayil," woman of valor, elegance, strength and dignity. The unparalled, articulate, beloved matriarch of our family.

Born in New York in 1909, she was a true pioneer of the Los Angeles Jewish Community, an expert spokeswoman and fundraiser for innumerable philanthropic causes. Among her many accomplishments, she founded the FDR chapter of Hadassah and was one of the founders of the Benefactors. She is loved and will be dearly missed by everyone who ever met her. She is the Crown Jewel of her family and her extended community.

She is survived by her husband, David Peters; sons, Manuel (Harriet), Jerome, and Herb (Sharon) Glaser; grandchildren Tamar (Doron), Jonathan (Nancy), Samuel (Marcia), Aharon (Dena), Yom Tov (Leah), Joel, Samantha and Aubra; 10 great-grandchildren; brothers, Jack and Charles Barenfeld; and sister-in-law, Marion Barenfeld.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent in the name of Rosalind Glaser Peters to Hadassah Medical Center-Jerusalem or the United Jewish Fund.

Eulogies


Neil Harvey Zwelling lost his 6-month battle with pancreatic cancer on Friday, Nov. 9. Born in 1943 in Dayton, Ohio, to Charles and Irene Zwelling, Neil Zwelling was a successful businessman in the residential and commercial lighting industry, and was past president of Congregation Ner Tamid of Rancho Palos Verdes, past member of the board of directors of Chadwick School and an avid traveler.

He is survived by his son, Jeffrey (Deborah); daughter, Rabbi Sherre Z. Hirsch (Dr. Jeffrey Hirsch); two brothers, Rabbi Victor David and Joel; sister, Rena Beyer.

Eulogies: Sadie Scheiner, 102


Sadie Scheiner, 102, matriarch of a family of pioneer Orthodox Jewish community leaders and ardent Zionists in her native St. Louis and later in Los Angeles, died peacefully on Oct. 22. She was the last surviving child of the Talmudist HaRav Levi Friedberg (nee Melamud), an early arbiter (“posik”) of Jewish law in the Midwest at a time when Torah scholarship was limited primarily to the Northeast and Chicago. In Los Angeles, her children and grandchildren were among the founders and leaders of Young Israel of Northridge, Young Israel of Beverly Hills and B’nei Akiva. She and her husband, Sam Scheiner, were primarily responsible for the growth of a then-small Orthodox congregation in the fledgling Pico-Robertson area — Anshe Emet (where her husband served as president for 15 years). Under their dynamic leadership, membership swelled in the 1950s and ’60s and scores of Jews were attracted to the neighborhood.

Born on May 15, 1899 in St. Louis, Mo., Scheiner was one of seven children. Her parents’ home, first in Omaha and later in East St. Louis, Ill., became a gathering place for rabbis and Torah scholars throughout the Midwest who sought her father out to make important Jewish legal (“Halachic”) decisions. Friedberg never led a congregation and never formally taught. He owned a grocery store but left the day-to-day operation to Mrs. Scheiner’s mother, Fannie Friedberg, so he could fully immerse himself in Torah study.

In later years Scheiner lived in the Fairfax area.

She is survived by her daughter Patricia Ann Macales of Northridge; son, Julian, of Los Angeles; grandchildren Jack Macales of Rehovot, Israel, Richard Macales of Ginot Shomron, Israel, Jeffery Macales of Granada Hills; Ze’ev, Danny and Yosef Scheiner of New York; and Ruth Scheiner of Los Angeles; and 17 great-grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha Mortuary. Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

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