Obituaries


June Walker, Presidents Conference Chair and Hadassah Leader, Dies at 74

June Walker was in working mode two weeks ago.

On July 21, she presided over a farewell reception for outgoing Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman. Two days later she led a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which she chairs.

Late in the week, however, tests revealed the cancer she had fought for seven years had advanced too far to allow for a new round of treatment. Walker, of Rockaway, N.J., died Tuesday at 74.

“She was such a remarkable fighter,” said Walker’s rabbi, Amy Joy Small. “She did not let it stop her. She had things to do.”

Walker, a former president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, became only the second female to lead the conference last year when she replaced investment banker Harold Tanner as chairperson.

“Leaders of the United States and Israel held her in high regard and respected the person even more than the positions she held,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the Presidents Conference’s executive vice chairman, in a statement. “They, as we, recognized immediately her integrity, her intelligence and the sincerity of her advocacy. I am personally, as is the conference collectively, devastated by her passing.”

Walker’s nomination in April 2007 as chairperson was something of a departure for the Presidents Conference, the main communal umbrella body on foreign policy, which in recent years has been headed by prominent businessmen.

A respiratory therapist, former college professor and health-care administrator, Walker was a longtime community activist whose involvement with Hadassah began as a teenager.

In June, Walker was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa in recognition of her years of work on behalf of Israel, and in particular her devotion to health care in the Jewish state. Walker was one of seven honorees, including a former director of the Mossad intelligence agency and three university professors, but was chosen to deliver remarks on behalf of the group.

“She told me that she was determined she was going to be strong and healthy to get to Haifa and receive this award because it was for her symbolic of her lifetime achievement, something that represented for her a culmination of her accomplishments,” said Small, who accompanied Walker to Israel for the ceremony.

Small recalled that the honorees were to walk across a balcony and down a flight of stairs, a feat that she knew would be challenging for Walker, who was suffering back and leg pain as a result of her disease.

“She held herself with such dignity and such honor you would never have known that she was suffering,” Small recalled. “And she was beaming.”

Later, Small wrote that Walker was “this generation’s Golda Meir” in an article published on the Web site of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation.

Walker rose through a succession of positions at Hadassah before assuming the presidency in 2003, a post she held for four years. Under her leadership, the organization raised $75 million for a $210 million inpatient tower at its hospital at Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, and completed a $48 million emergency medicine facility in Jerusalem.

She also grew the student body at the Hadassah College of Technology in Jerusalem from 600 to 2,000 students.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we begin to mourn June Walker, a unique leader and a wonderful friend to many,” said Walker’s successor as Hadassah president, Nancy Falchuk. “June once said that Hadassah embodied everything she was interested in: Israel, women’s empowerment, Judaism, education, medicine and Zionism. But June personified values that Hadassah stands for: pride, dedication, and spirit enhanced by her own personal grit.”

Walker is the first Presidents Conference chairperson to die in office. The group says it has no succession plan.

“We’ve never had it,” Hoenlein said, adding that when top officials have become incapacitated in the past, former chairmen have temporarily stepped in.

Walker taught at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey and was the director of inservice education for pulmonary medicine at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. She is also a member of the Citizens Committee for Bio-Medical Ethics, the American Lung Association and the Reconstructionist Congregation Beth Hatikvah of Summit, N.J., according to her official Hadassah biography.

She is survived by her husband, Barrett; son, Davi; daughters, Julie Richman and Ellen; and six grandchildren. The funeral was held Aug. 31.

— Ben Harris, Jewish Telegraphic Agency



Oluwaninse Abhay Charan Adeyemi died July 8 at 11. He is survived by his father, Ayodele; mother, Adrienne Liberman; sister, Parama Liberman; and brothers, Manjari and Daniel Liberman. Hillside

Jacob Barad died July 12 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; and sons, David and Glenn. Hillside

Irene Barton died July 15 at 85. She is survived by her sons, Fred and Mark. Hillside

Mervyn Max Becker died July 21 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Yetta; son, Aaron; daughter, Carla; one grandchild; and sister, Elaine. Groman

Lynda Belasco died July 21 at 61. She is survived by her husband, Steven; son, Joshua; and uncle, Irving (Charlotte) Nudell. Malinow and Silverman

Dr. Murray Gill Boobar died July 7 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Helen; and daughters, Robin Lappen and Mindy Cahan. Hillside

Larry Chalfin died July 20 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Vicki; son, Charles; and daughter, Leah Gordon. Hillside

Edward Chersky died July 17 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Evelyn; and sons, Robert, Barry and Stewart. Hillside

Mania Sara Cymer died died July 12 at 97. She is survived by her sons, Harry and Max. Hillside

Ilse Erlanger died July 13 at 97. She is survived by her daughter, Susan (David) Leveton; and grandchildren, Steven Leveton and Stephanie Kinedale. Hillside

Frances Gordon died July 15 at 97. She is survived by her nephew, Peter Spring. Hillside

Dr. Lawrence Gosenfeld died July 19 at 67. He is survived by his friends. Hillside

Victoria Harris died July 21 at 100. She is survived by her sons, Godfrey (Barbara), Micheal and David. Hillside

Philip Kozin died July 20 at 96. He is survived by his daughter, Gail (Stan) Holander; and son Howard. Hillside

Anna Landsberg died July 12 at 92. She is survived by her sons, Abe and Raymond. Hillside

Charles Robert Lever died July 16 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Pamela; and stepson, Mark Neilson. Hillside

Diane Rita Mehlman died July 17 at 75. She is survived by her son, Lon; and daughter, Dina. Hillside

Emily Bell Miller dies July 14 at 93. She is survived by her daughter, Joyce (Stephen) Ranger; and granddaughter, Courtney Ranger. Hillside

Terry Lee Miller died July 12 at 69. She is survived by her daughters, Allison and Julie; four grandchildren; and companion, Norman Lieberman. Hillside

Gerald David Novorr died July 13 at 91. He is survived by his wife, Pearl; son, James; and daughter, JoAnn. Hillside

Bernard Rumack died July 21 at 87. He is survived by his daughter, Robin; and sister, Vella Bass. Hillside

Lillian Schafer died July 13 at 86. She is survived by her daughters, Sue Sanders, Lyn Caron and Elaine Thomassian. Hillside

Rubin Schieren died July 21 at 93. He is survived by his daughter, Phyllis (Ben) Berkley; son, George (Ellen); and seven grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Ira Schulman died July 20 at 81. He is survived by his sons, Alan and Russell; daughter, Leslie Mendoza; sisters, Davida Racine and Diane Friend; and partner, Nora Graham. Hillside

Mike Simon died July 10 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Angela; sister, Billie Evenas; and stepdaughter, Patricia Garza.

Harry Talsky died July 17 at 93. He is survived by his children, Leland and Martha. Hillside

Marla Lynn Waldman died July 20 at 51. She is survived by her father, Gerald; mother, Barbara; and brothers, Ron and Craig. Hillside

Hilda Weiner died July 15 at 93. She is survived by her sons, Arnold (Elaine) and Edward (Susan). Hillside

Irv “Kup” Kupcinet


Irv Kupcinet, the legendary Chicago Sun-Times columnist for 60 years, died Monday, Nov. 10 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. With him were his son, Jerry Kupcinet, and grandchildren, Kari Kupcient Kriser and David Kupcinet. He was hospitalized Sunday after suffering from shortness of breath, and doctors later determined he had pneumonia. He was 91.

From Hollywood stars to sports legends, from U.S. presidents and heads of state, to the man and woman on the street, Kup talked to everyone.

His “Kup’s Column” was an institution at the Sun-Times since the day the newspaper began in 1948, and before then the column appeared in the Chicago Times, where Kup was hired as a sports writer in 1935. At one point it was syndicated to 100 newspapers. His last column appeared Nov. 6, 2003.

He was host on the pioneering, late-night Saturday television show “At Random,” and then later, “Kup’s Show,” devoted to the “lively art of conversation.”

Kup was a tireless worker for charities — including the Variety Club of Chicago and Little City; hosting the Irv Kupcinet Open Celebrity Golf Tournament and the old Harvest Moon Ball; conducting the annual Purple Heart Cruise outings for wounded veterans for 50 years after 1945; and as the original and perennial Chicago host of the annual Cerebral Palsy telethon.

He also raised huge sums for Israeli organizations, especially the Weizmann Institute of Science. He traveled to Israel (then Palestine) in 1947 to report on the plight of Jews trying to flee the aftermath of the Holocaust. In Israel’s Judean Mountains, the Irv Kupcinet Forest now grows on what was barren land before 1960.

This past May, broadcaster and journalist Larry King emceed a star-studded evening of live and video entertainment in Chicago honoring the 60th Anniversary of “Kup’s Column.” The evening was a benefit for one of Kup’s and his late wife, Essee’s, favorite charities, The Chicago Academy for the Arts.

Just two weeks ago, Kup agreed to become a Chicago co-chair of a January fundraising event in Los Angeles sponsored the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Kup was a loving father to son, Jerry (Sue) of Los Angeles, and daughter, the late Karyn “Cookie”; adoring grandfather of Kari (Brad) Kriser and David; great-grandfather of Sam and Amaya Kriser; and fond brother-in-law to Sofia (the late Leonard) Solomon.

Services were held Nov. 12, at Temple Sholom of Chicago. Interment was at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in his name may be made to The Chicago Academy For The Arts, 1010 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60622 or to the Karyn Kupcinet School at The Weitzman Institute, 79 W. Monroe St., Suite 1111, Chicago, IL 60603. — Cheryl J. Lewin Assoc. Public Relations, Chicago

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

A coalition of Southern California Jewish organizations comes together today for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 60th Anniversary Commemoration. Theodore Bikel narrates the program, which includes the lighting of six memorial candles by Holocaust survivors in honor of the 6 million, poetry readings in Yiddish and English and performances by Bikel and the Workmen’s Circle Mit Gezang Yiddish Chorus, led by Dr. Michelle Green-Willner.

8 p.m. $5 (requested donation). Westside JCC, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Sunday

Getting a jump-start on Tuesday’s holiday, the Zimmer Children’s Museum hosts Celebrate Earth Day! Artist and environmentalist Ruth Askren teaches your little ones all about endangered species and ways to protect the Earth. The hands-on fun also includes collage-making with recycled materials.

1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Free (members), $3 (nonmembers, plus museum fee). 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, Los Angeles. (323) 761-8998.

Monday

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, KCET has a host
of films airing this month. First, brush up on your World War II history with
the documentary, “Yalta: Peace Power and Betrayal,” tonight. Then tune in
Wednesday for the broadcast premiere of Academy Award-winning documentary, “Into
the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport,” and next week for “Elie
Weisel: First Person Singular.”

Moments of Silence


There were a lot of moments of silence this week.

There was the one early Saturday morning when you firstheard the news of the space shuttle Columbia’s disappearance. Whoever told you,whomever you told, there was that instant of disbelief, that moment when wordsfailed you.

As the reality hit, the white noise of wall-to-wall newscoverage filled our cars and living rooms. But off the air, the rest of us hadfew words to say.

The tragedy, which would have been awful under anycircumstances, stung Jews especially deeply. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli inspace, was also the first Israeli to die in space.

As rabbis and their congregants filtered into synagogues forShabbat services Saturday morning, they entered shaking their heads, ready tocry, unable to express the sadness and loss. Synagogue turned out to be aperfect place to be.

A full-to-bursting schedule of planned events this pastweekend brought Jews together, where they could, among other things, be silenttogether.

Saturday night, just hours after the tragedy, Israeli ConsulGeneral Yuval Rotem and his wife, Miri, were honored by Pressman Academy Jewishday school at a ballroom dinner dance. It was a celebration singed with sorrow.

Organizers, said Rabbi Joel Rembaum, debated whether tocancel the music and dancing. They decided that, in the end, strength came fromboth mourning and celebrating. Rotem delivered a powerful eulogy for Ramon (seepage 9), whose picture stood propped up on the stage above a row of yahrtzeitcandles. There was a moment of silence, then, as the dancing began, PiniCohen’s band shared the stage with the smiling image of the astronaut.

Wherever Jews gathered this week, the rituals were similar.Sorrow, then business. Sorrow, then celebration. The image of Ramon — hispromise, his courage, his achievement — orbited each gathering.

At the annual meeting of the Jewish Historical Society ofSouthern California, held Sunday at the Japanese American National Museum, thehundred or so people gathered to honor Jerry Freedman-Habush began theirprogram with a moment of silence.

At a dinner Sunday evening for the University of Judaismhonoring Ruth Zeigler, UJ President Robert Wexler called for a moment silence.

Some 500 people attended the memorial service for theastronauts on Sunday at Adat Shalom synagogue in West Los Angeles. “It wouldhave been a tragedy even if Ilan Ramon wasn’t on board,” Rabbi Michael Resnicksaid. “We would have done something anyway. At difficult times we cometogether, we reach out for strength, for optimism.”

Resnick reminded the gathering of Ramon’s view from theColumbia. “There are no lines, there is just the world,” he said. “It becomesso clear that from space that we are one.”

At the home of Jean and Jerry Friedman, an elegant dinnerreception Sunday evening for some 200 major donors to Jewish education fromaround the country began with a moment of silence. And at a high-spiritedMitzvah Day organized by The Jewish Federation/South Bay Council, 500 peoplestopped to remember the astronauts.

One simple reason Ramon’s death provoked such deep reactionis that many people here knew him, and even more people felt as if they did.

Ramon’s death broke the hearts of students at ShalhevetSchool, who had sent Ramon a letter on Jan. 13, while he was still in orbit,thanking him for his achievement. “May you reach a clearer understanding of theuniverse through your unique vantage point on God’s creation,” they wrote.

Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita was aclose friend who celebrated this past Thanksgiving with the astronaut and hisfamily. At the end of the meal, Blazer had wished Ramon, “Nesiya tova,” Hebrewfor bon voyage. “I realized this was the first time I had ever said these wordsto someone going up into space,” Blazer wrote in The Daily News.

“It’s just terrible,” said William Elperin of the “1939”Club. “I couldn’t get him out of my mind all weekend. We were at his home inHouston and spent time with his wife and four children. He was such a wonderfulman.”

The “1939” Club honored Ramon in October 2000, presentinghim with a barbed-wire mezuzah symbolizing the Holocaust. The son and grandsonof Holocaust survivors took the mezuzah into space with him. 

Ramon’s picture adorned the walls of many Jewish schoolclassrooms. At Pressman Academy, educators added a prayer for peace and otherreadings in memorial of the astronauts, and students of all ages wrote e-mailsto the Ramon family to express their concern and thoughts. 

It was exactly a year ago that Kol Tikvah religious schoolstarted a letter-writing campaign to Ramon, sending him letters of support,following his progress and awaiting his visit after landing. Instead, studentswrote condolence cards.

At Universal Studios theme park, where Ramon went with hisfamily as a guest of honor during the park’s 2002 Chanukah celebration,employees remembered how Ramon had been scheduled to sign autographs for ahalf-hour. As the line grew, he refused to leave or even accept lunch untileveryone had a signed poster, nearly three and a half hours later. Ramon vowedto return after his flight so he could experience the park with his children.

Sarit Finkelstein-Boim had just seen Ramon when he served asone of the Executive Honorary Committee members for her installation aspresident of B’nai B’rith Shalom Unit. Her husband, Nahum, an aeronauticalengineer, was a friend of Ramon from the air force.

Carol Koransky remembered seeing Ramon at the GeneralAssembly of Jewish federations in Philadelphia this past December. Ramon satgood-naturedly through a program that ran on until midnight. When finallyintroduced to a much-dwindled audience, he came to the podium and said, “Goodmorning.” Then, Koransky said, he proceeded to astonish the audience with aheartfelt explanation of what his trip would mean to him as an astronaut and asa Jew.

For so many, Ramon was the poster boy for the ideal Jewishidentity. Two recently released surveys of American Jewish opinion found that66 percent of Jews believe anti-Semitism is the “greatest threat” to Jewishlife, 73 percent of Jews said caring about Israel was important. Half saidbeing Jewish is “very important” to them, while 41 percent said “being part ofthe Jewish people” defined their identity.

Here was Ilan Ramon to fill all those roles at once — awarrior, an Israeli, a proudly self-identified Jew who took a Torah and kiddushcup into space, a real-life mensch and a textbook hero.

The imagery of the catastrophe and its aftermath could havebeen a chapter from mythology. The heroes soaring through the heavens, theirfirey deaths as they sought to bring the secrets of the cosmos back to those ofus on Earth, the few sacrificing themselves for the many.

Not surprisingly, the memorials held in their honorthroughout the week, like President Bush’s initial announcement of thedisaster, shuttled effortlessly between the sacred and the mundane.

Ramon’s death was marked and mourned with such intensitybecause of how he lived his life, and because of how we dream of living ours.He asserted the importance of his Jewishness to his life’s mission,understanding that in serving his faith and his people, he was serving all ofhumanity; and in serving all humanity, he served his people.