September 18, 2019


Sam Dinin,
Pioneer in L.A. Jewish Education,
Dies at 103

Samuel Dinin, who helped lay the foundation for Los Angeles’ Jewish education system, died in his home in Westwood on Dec. 8. He was 103.

He was among the most prominent of Los Angeles’ post-World War II Jewish leaders to push for a Jewish education system to serve and promote Jewish values and faith. In 1945, he helped found and became the first director of the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), setting up teacher-training programs and certification systems for day schools and religious schools.

Dinin, who had been a registrar and professor of Jewish education and history at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York, encouraged JTS to open a branch in Los Angeles. In 1947, he took part in setting up and advising the fledgling University of Judaism (UJ), while also still serving as director of BJE.

In 1949, Dinin helped launch the Los Angeles Hebrew High School (LAHHS) with 36 students in 1949. Today, more than 500 students receive their Jewish education through LAHHS. Along with other community stalwarts, Dinin also helped found Camp Ramah in Ojai in 1955, where about 1,300 campers spend each summer.

“The passing of Sam Dinin brings to an end the era of the giants of Jewish education in 20th century America, of the pioneers who laid the foundations for the Jewish teaching profession in this country and the subsequent growth of the Jewish schools,” said Dr. David Lieber, president emeritus of the University of Judaism.

Dinin, a native of Russia who grew up in New York, arrived in 1945 in Los Angeles. He recognized a need for a structured way of educating and reaching Jewish youth, which led to the formation of the BJE.

He proved that “the educational function was not a stepchild of the rabbinate, but a priority,” said Rabbi Jacob Pressman, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Am, in a Jewish Journal article commemorating Dinin’s 100th birthday.

Dinin left BJE in 1956 to become academic dean at UJ, later becoming faculty chairman and then vice president, all the while teaching history and education until he retired in 1974. He stayed active in the field of education through the late 1980s.

“The skilled hand of Samuel Dinin did much to establish and shape these institutions, which continue to strengthen Jewish life and Jewish learning in the 21st century, ” said Gil Graff, current executive director of the BJE.

Dinin’s wife, Bessie, died in 1996. He is survived by his children, Mimi (Jerry) Sisk, Michael (Glennie) Dinin and Mala (Sam) Langholz; grandchildren, Lisa (Ben) Goldberg, Rachel, Joe and Shana Sisk, Rena and Joel; and great-granddaughters Elana and Lily Goldberg.

Donations can be made to the Samuel Dinin Professional Development Fund, Bureau of Jewish Education, 6505 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, 90048. — Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Marvin Braude,
Longtime L.A. City Councilman,
Dies at 85

Longtime City Councilman Marvin Braude, one of the earliest and staunchest environmentalists in L.A. government, died Dec. 7 at age 85. Among the many who praised his legacy was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who said that Braude understood the message of tikkun olam, to repair the world, and translated it into a cleaner, more livable community.

Villaraigosa made his comments at services this week for Braude, who represented his Westside district on the City Council for 32 years.

A man of legendary persistence, Braude labored for decades to protect the open spaces of the Santa Monica Mountains from developers, to ban smoking in public places, and to create the Venice Beach bike path. He fought for 17 years, unsuccessfully, for a moratorium on the proliferation of billboards in the city.

At the time of his retirement in 1997, the late Jewish Journal columnist Marlene Adler Marks, wrote that, “Braude’s unique and pioneering focus on slow growth and environmental issues helped define a new brand of Jewish political activism … He walked (or, rather, rode his bike) to the beat of his own drummer.”

The son of immigrants, Braude and his wife, Marjorie, moved from Chicago to Brentwood in 1951, after spending their honeymoon in Yosemite and falling in love with California and its mountains.

Dr. Uri Herscher, founding president of the Skirball Cultural Center, recalled at the services that Braude once advised him that “Jews should take their holidays into the voting booth.”

“Marvin believed that you couldn’t celebrate Passover and advocate slavery or ignore the poor and homeless,” Herscher said.

Others paying tribute were Rabbi Allen Freehlig of University Synagogue, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and Braude’s two daughters, Ann and Liza.

Marjorie Braude, his wife, a psychiatrist and lifelong activist against domestic violence, died in February.

Donations in Braude’s honor can be made to the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy, 5750 Ramirez Canyon Road, Malibu 90265. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Wendie Jo Sperber,
Actress and Activist,
Dies at 47

Comic actress and “Bosom Buddies” star Wendie Jo Sperber lost her fight with breast cancer on Nov. 29. She died at age 47 at her Sherman Oaks home.

“She fought so damn hard,” said actress Lesley Boone, Sperber’s childhood friend from their days attending Northridge’s Temple Ramat Zion.

“We had gone out for margaritas in the middle of the day two months ago,” Boone told The Jewish Journal. “We both grew up as two Valley Jewish girls.”

Sperber played opposite Tom Hanks in the 1980-82 sitcom “Bosom Buddies.” Only Sperber’s character knew that Hanks and co-star Peter Scolari were actually men dressing as women to live in the show’s women-only Manhattan hotel.

She also played Linda McFly, sister to Michael J. Fox’s Marty, in the first “Back to the Future” movie, as well as Maxine Dexheimer in “1941” and Rosie Petrofsky in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

Sperber starred in the 1990-1991 sitcom “Babes,” about three sisters living together in Manhattan, with all three played by Jewish actresses — Sperber, Boone and Susan Peretz. Peretz died of breast cancer in August 2004.

Following her diagnosis, in 1997, Sperber created the nonprofit weSPARK Cancer Support Center in Sherman Oaks, with funding from Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Sperber’s parents, Burton and Charlene. Since the late 1990s, the group has hosted an annual Wendie Jo Sperber Celebrity Golf Classic.

Breast cancer survivor and activist Selma Schimmel said Sperber “embodied the qualities of survivorship on every level.”

A private funeral service was held Dec. 2 at Mount Sinai Memorial Park. She is survived by a daughter; son; parents; sisters, Michelle and Ellice, and brother Richard. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

David S. Saxon,
Former UC President,
Dies at 85

David S. Saxon, who was once fired for refusing to sign a loyalty oath but later rose to become president of the University of California system, died Dec. 8 at age 85.

Saxon was not especially known for being active in the Jewish community, but he did receive honorary doctorates from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institite of Religion and the University of Judaism.

In 1950, he set an example of moral courage, when, as a young assistant professor of physics at UCLA, he put his career at risk by refusing to sign, as a matter of principle, the loyalty oath required during the McCarthy era.

He was fired, then reinstated two years later. He eventually became UCLA’s executive vice chancellor, and later was named to the UC presidency. He served in that position from 1975-1993.

Saxon is survived by Shirley, his wife of 65 years; six daughters; and six grandchildren. — TT