Stanley Sheinbaum, liberal activist, dies at 96

September 13, 2016

Stanley Sheinbaum, who dedicated his life to the promotion and defense of liberal causes in Los Angeles, the United States and the world, died Sept. 12 at his Brentwood home. He was 96.

Some of the high points of his nearly 70 years as an activist were summarized in 2004 by Jewish Journal reporter Marc Ballon: 

“Like a modern-day Forrest Gump – albeit one with a Phi Beta Kappa key – Sheinbaum has witnessed history up close and personal, leaving his thumbprints all over some of the defining moments of the past half century.

Whether acting as the police commissioner who led the successful fight to oust former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates in the early 1990s; heading a controversial delegation of American Jews to the Middle East in the late 1980s to convince Yasser Arafat to publicly renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist; fighting for divestment from South Africa as a University of California regent; or raising nearly $1 million for the successful defense of Pentagon Papers principal Daniel Ellsberg, Sheinbaum has made a difference.

The salons hosted by Stanley and his wife, Betty, in their spacious Brentwood home were gathering places for aspiring presidents, Middle East royalty, Hollywood stars, civil rights leaders and politicians.

That role was a long way from his childhood in New York City. Son of a leather-goods manufacturer who went bankrupt during the Depression, young Stanley tried to do his bit by selling magazines, working as a delivery boy and clerking in a department store.

He had no interest, and deplorable grades, in high school, as he recalled in his 2012 memoir, whose title “Stanley K. Sheinbaum: A 20th Century Knight’s Quest for Peace, Civil Liberties and Economic Justice,” might also serve as a one-sentence summary of his life.

After six years in the army during World War II, mainly spent making maps, he applied for admission to 33 colleges but was turned down by all of them due to his failing and incomplete high school grades.

At 26, Sheinbaum returned to high school and then went on to graduate from Stanford University with highest honors as an economist and won a Fulbright fellowship to study international monetary affairs in Paris.

Sheinbaum had little involvement with the Jewish community, though he had a wide circle of Jewish friends, whom he enrolled in his causes.

He was a close friend of the late Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Leo Baeck Temple, recalled Rabbi Emeritus Sanford Ragins, and supported the temple through donations.

Richard Gunther, a fellow leader in Los Angeles of the Americans for Peace Now movement, met monthly for 40 years with Sheinbaum and some 10 other Jewish and Christian thinkers for long discussions on every conceivable subject.

“Stanley was a passionate liberal, a man of great courage, principle and dedication,” Gunther said, recalling that he and his wife, Lois, also hosted Sheinbaum during a family seder.

Perhaps no single action by Sheinbaum drew more international attention – and flak – than his 1988 visit to Stockholm, Sweden to meet with Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization . As a result of the trip, Sheinbaum was excoriated by large segments of the Jewish community and its leadership, called a traitor and had a dead pig deposited on his driveway.

Questioned on this point, Sheinbaum told the Journal that depite having paid a price for his effots, he felt it was his duty to fight for peace in the Middle East, “These are my people and I’m not going to walk away,” he said.

Stanley Sheinbaum is survived by Betty Warner Sheinbaum, his wife of 52 years, stepchildren Karen Sperling, Cass Warner, Matthew Sperling and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Bauer, as well as eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is being planned for a future date.


FOR THE RECORD 9/15/2016

This artcile was updated to correct the location of the meeting between Stanley Sheinbaum and Yasser Arafat. It look place in Stockholm, Sweden. In addition, Sheinbaum and others met with Richard Gunther for wide-ranging discussions monthly, not weekly.

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