March 26, 2019

Activist Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky Dies, 71

Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky, the wife of former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, died on Dec. 26. She was 71.

“We are shocked and devastated by this turn of events,” her family said in a statement released the day of her death. “We have lost an exceptional mother, a loving grandmother, and a beloved wife and partner in life. There are no words to describe what we are feeling at this moment, but our loss is profound and the void in our lives is immeasurable.” 

Yaroslavsky died in the midst of a difficult extended recovery following a severe West Nile virus infection. She was ill for the past six weeks but appeared to be on the slow road to recovery. On Wednesday morning, however, she collapsed during a physical therapy session and was taken by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, despite efforts to revive her, after 10 a.m., her family said.

She is survived by Zev, her husband of 47 years; their son David and daughter Mina; four grandchildren; a brother and sister and additional family members.

Born in Los Angeles on Aug. 9, 1947, Yaroslavsky was a lifelong volunteer and activist in the Jewish community and beyond. She supported various nonprofit and social service agencies involved in education and healthcare.

At the time of her death, she sat on the board of the Friends of the Saban Community Clinic and was the president of the Los Angeles Commission on Communities and Family Services, which lifts poverty-stricken families into self-sufficiency.

She was active on several boards at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, from what was formerly known as the Bureau of Jewish Education, to the Jewish Community Relations Council, which serves as the local Jewish community’s voice on government policy and advocates for Israel and world Jewry. She also participated in the Jewish Federation’s Koreh L.A. literacy program.

Additionally, she led the special projects group for the Zimmer Children’s Museum, which provides an educational play-space for children, and helped secure funding for the museum’s youTHink project, which is in many public schools statewide.

She married her husband, Zev, in 1971, four years before he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council.  They met while Zev was working as a shomer—hall monitor—at Los Angeles Hebrew High School and Barbara was working at the front desk of American Jewish University, which, formerly known as the University of Judaism, housed L.A. Hebrew High School at that time.

Zev served in the L.A. City Council from 1975-1994. Barbara, for her part, ran for the fifth district council seat that Zev vacated in 1994 but was defeated by current City Attorney Mike Feuer. From 1994-2014, Zev served in the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

Yaroslavsky’s sudden death prompted an outpouring of grief and support from various city leaders, including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“Los Angeles lost a dedicated activist and an unwavering champion for children and families today and [my wife] Amy and I lost a cherished mentor and a dear friend,” Garcetti said on Wednesday. “Barbara Yaroslavsky never stopped fighting for what she believed in. She was a model of what it meant to practice Jewish values in public life. An Angeleno born and raised, she worked every day to make our city a more fair, just, and compassionate place to work and live.

“I will miss her wisdom and leadership, and I hope it is a comfort to Zev and their children and grandchildren that so many mourn Barbara’s passing at this time,” Garcetti said. “May her memory be a blessing for all of us.”

As of press time, arrangements for a memorial service were pending.