November 17, 2018

Howard David Pilch, Attorney, Jewish Philanthropist, 69

Howard David Pilch, of Beverly Hills, died Aug. 30 at 69. An attorney, he was a former president of Temple Beth Am and a prominent Jewish philanthropist.

Born May 10, 1947, in Los Angeles, Pilch was the son of Charles and Rose Pilch, pillars of the Los Angeles Jewish community. He was the heir to their legacy, which he expanded and made uniquely his own. He learned from his parents a love of family and a responsibility for community, which he considered his extended family. 

His was a Los Angeles story: elementary school at Castle Heights, followed by high school at Hamilton. Los Angeles Hebrew High was central to his Jewish education and his teenage years, followed by UC Berkeley and Boalt Hall. 

Four generations of the Pilch family have been central to Temple Beth Am, whose additional sanctuary for daily prayers bears the Pilch family name and where Howard donated the ark and the shulchan (the Torah reading table), and, later in life, he commissioned a Torah to grace the ark, replete with its Torah cover, commissioned from an artist who herself was grappling with a family tragedy. For many years, Pilch was honored with chanting the haftarah on Yom Kippur morning.

Pilch was a well-respected family attorney in Century City but his life was dedicated to family and to the Jewish community.

Pilch was a mentor to future leadership of the synagogue, coaxing young members to assume positions of responsibility and teaching them how to discharge those responsibilities with dedication, competence and enthusiasm. He was a beloved figure who, in the words of Mark Wolf, the man who succeeded him as president, “a larger-than-life personality who could be emotional and empathetic one minute, and if the situation called for it, be like a little kid and make you laugh.”

He was also a proud supporter of American Jewish University, where the Pilch name is dedicated to a courtyard and the rabbinical school offices. He was a consistent funder and fundraiser for Los Angeles Hebrew High School in Van Nuys, as well as its proud graduate. 

Pilch is survived and will be dearly missed by his wife, Kathe; daughters Jessica (Mark) Samuel and Rebecca (George) Greenberg; mother, Rose, who is a month shy of her 99th birthday; step-daughter Kimberlee Walbourne; brother Lloyd (Bethe) Pilch; and grandchildren Chason, Eleanor and Sienna Samuel, and Oliver Greenberg. 


Michael Berenbaum is professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics at American Jewish University.