October 20, 2019

Lertzman Family Mourned by Community

Siblings Michael and Rachel Lertzman. Photo courtesy of Aviva Eagle.

Community members are still mourning the Sept. 11 deaths of 19-year-old Michael Lertzman and 60-year-old Sandra Lertzman. The mother and son were shot and killed by their husband and father, Eric Lertzman, who then turned the gun on himself. 

Rachel Lertzman, 25, managed to escape through a bathroom window after her father shot at her, too. She currently is staying with family and close friends.

Eric Lertzman was a Los Angeles deputy city attorney. In a Sept. 12 statement, City Attorney Mike Feuer said, “It is with shock and profound sadness that we announce today that Deputy City Attorney Eric Lertzman was involved in a tragic incident which we understand resulted in the death of his wife, his adult son and himself.” 

American Jewish University’s Camp Alonim immediately reached out on Facebook to share the staff’s heartbreak. Michael was a counselor in training (CIT) at Alonim in 2015, took part in the Gesher Gan program in 2016 and worked for many years as an Alonim staff member. He also led Alonim team-building and ropes activities for school and camp groups. Alonim held its Shabbat service on Sept. 13 to honor him.  

“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by this news,” the Alonim staff said in a statement. “Mikey’s personal warmth, his gentle spirit, his wide smile, and his infectious enthusiasm will never be forgotten. He will always be a beloved member of our Camp Alonim family. We send our deepest condolences to his sister, Rachel (CIT ’10), and the many people whose lives Mikey touched.”

From left: Rachel, Sandra, Eric and Michael Lertzman. Photo courtesy of Aviva Eagle.

Sandra’s sister, Cindy Stern, told the Journal that Sandra “would light up a room when she walked in. … She was such a great family person and a wonderful friend to so many people, and I feel fortunate to have met so many of her friends who are now a part of our family.”

Lertzman family friends Shoshana Orenstein and the Schiller Novello family started a GoFundMe page to support Rachel. As of Sept. 17, it had raised more than $126,000. 

Michael, who attended Moorpark College, was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at Cal State Northridge, which also accepts Moorpark students. A memorial was held in his honor by the fraternity on Sept. 13.

“Knowing that so many people loved my cousins, it’s overwhelming and it also gives me a sense of happiness” 

— Aviva Eagle

Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom told the Journal in an email that more than 800 people attended a memorial service at the synagogue on Sept. 15. 

“Our entire Jewish community mourns this tragedy, the loss of three remarkable souls, Sandy, Eric and Michael Lertzman. We share all our prayers with Rachel, and with all their extended family,” Feinstein said. 

Aviva Eagle, a family cousin, told the Journal the amount of support has been amazing. “Especially during a tragedy like this, knowing that so many people loved my cousins, it’s overwhelming and it also gives me a sense of happiness, like, ‘Wow, these cousins influenced so many people,’ ” she said. “At the memorial, the room was filled with so much love, you could see the love.” 

Stern added that the family was overwhelmed by how many of Rachel’s friends flew in to be with her. 

“They came from New Zealand, Italy, Ecuador, New York City, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Austin, San Francisco, Reno, Las Vegas, San Diego and all over Southern California,” Stern said. “Rachel’s friends from Camp Alonim dropped everything to be with her because they said ‘she always shows up for things.’ She is an amazing young woman and we are so grateful that she is still alive, and she will eventually continue to thrive because of all the love and support of family and friends.”  

A private burial has been scheduled for later this week. The family asks that any donations be made to Jewish organizations in memory of the Lertzman family.