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Friday, May 29, 2020

Gary Shapiro, cantor and comic, 52

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Eitan Arom
Eitan Arom is a Jewish Journal senior writer, covering a range of local Jewish issues such as civic engagement, culture, Holocaust memory, faith-based activism, politics and people. Before that, he worked as a freelance journalist in Jerusalem, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. He graduated from UCLA with bachelor's degrees in mathematics/economics and communication studies.

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Gary Shapiro, who delighted audiences both at congregations and comedy clubs across Los Angeles, died suddenly April 27. He was 52.

A comedian who infused his act with music, Shapiro trained as a cantor at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, taking over as the synagogue’s cantor in 1984. He stayed on in that role for two years before stepping away from synagogue life to pursue his comedy career.

Seven years ago, he joined Congregation Beth Israel on Beverly Boulevard to co-officiate High Holidays services. He was well known and admired there, according to synagogue staff.

“He truly, honestly, was a pure, pure good soul,” said the synagogue’s director and co-cantor, Steve Walfish. “He was kind and considerate and loving.”

Rabbi Baruch Cohon, a former longtime cantor at Temple Emanuel who mentored Shapiro there, said, “He was always a very positive and talented young man,” with a great sense of humor.

Shapiro often combined his musical abilities and comic talents by performing onstage at comedy clubs with guitar in hand. He also took to YouTube with many of his satirical ballads. He had performed as recently as April 23.

 

His other roles included as a religious consultant on the TV shows “Six Feet Under and “Seventh Heaven,” according to a 2004 Los Angeles Times interview.

As a teen, Shapiro attended Beverly Hills public schools. His comic streak was evident even then. His high school prom date, Daryn Kagan, recalled on Facebook that he showed up for the big night in a leather tuxedo jacket with gold sequin trim.

Walfish and Cohon co-officiated a funeral at the TaNaCH Chapel of Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills at 12:30 p.m. on May 1.

Shapiro is survived by parents Judy and Aron and brother Howard.

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