January 21, 2019

Howard David Pilch, attorney and Jewish philanthropist, dies at 69

Howard David Pilch, of Beverly Hills, passed away at the age of 69 on Tuesday, Aug. 30.  He was a former president of Temple Beth Am and a prominent Jewish philanthropist.

Born in Los Angeles on May 10, 1947, Howard was the son of Charles and Rose Pilch, pillars of the Los Angeles Jewish community. He was the heir to their legacy, expanded it and made it uniquely his own. He learned from them a love of family and a responsibility for community, 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 Berkley 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 he was honored with chanting the Haftorah 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.

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

Temple Beth Am was his home away from home. Each Shabbat and on every festival one could see four generations of the Pilch family in synagogue, faithfully and devotedly. He was a product of the synagogue, having grown up within it, receiving his education there, participating in the Youth Congregation as a teenager, where his youth leader was Joel Rembaum, who was his Rabbi during his Presidential term. He worked his way up the leadership ladder by doing each task he undertook with dedication and skill, eventually serving as its President. But when he left office, he did not leave his commitment behind.

Pilch was deeply loyal to family and friends — and to rabbis. He remained dedicated to the rabbi of his youth, Rabbi Jack Pressman and his wife, Marjorie Pressman, bringing them to synagogue each week as they became aged and their attendance more difficult; planning and sharing Passover seders together and holiday meals and honoring the Rabbi and Rebetzin with the type of devotion that he modeled in the love and care that he shared for his mother. He never boasted about what he did; he just did it.

He was a mentor to future leadership of the synagogue, coaxing the young 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 serving 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 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 the Los Angeles Hebrew High School and its proud graduate.

Three generations of the Pilch family, father and daughters and now his oldest grandson, Chason, have enjoyed a summer of intense Jewish living and learning at Camp Ramah, along with its fun. We shared season’s tickets to the Dodger game and he was so looking forward to attending with Chason, as I attended with mine.

A funeral will be held at Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 at 1 p.m., with interment to follow at Hillside Memorial, 6001 W. Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles.  Please contact Temple Beth Am for shiva information.  Contributions in memory of Howard may be directed to the Pilch Scholarship Fund of Temple Beth Am. 

Howard Pilch extended himself to others, giving and caring to the people in his life – and even to the friends of his friends. Though he created a blended family when he married Kathe, the blending was complete; he showered respect and attention to her mother as his own. His sons-in-law did not feel like in-laws.  He died surrounded by great love, his wife and his daughters knew how he wanted to end his days and they were at one with him – and most important to the values he modeled for them – at one with each other.