September 18, 2019

Temple Israel of Hollywood Interim Senior Rabbi, Peter Knobel Dies

Rabbi Peter Knobel; Photo from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership

Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH) Rabbi Peter Knobel died on Aug. 20. He was 76. 

Knobel passed away two months after being named TIOH’s interim senior rabbi.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) issued a statement on Aug. 21 saying it  “grieves deeply the death yesterday of our beloved Past President, Rabbi Peter S. Knobel.”

The statement, signed by CCAR president Rabbi Ronald Segal, also stated,Rabbi Knobel was an exemplar of our rabbinate. Scholar and Zionist, pastor and prophetic voice, Peter Knobel was as devoted to interfaith relations as he was to meaningful worship.”

Knobel was named interim senior rabbi at TIOH on July 1, after Senior Rabbi John Rosove retired. Knobel was to serve as interim rabbi through June 30, 2020.

According to the TIOH website, Knobel was a congregational rabbi for 50 years, first serving Temple Emanu-El in Connecticut and then as senior rabbi at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Ill. for 30 years, until his retirement in 2010. 

After his retirement, Knobel worked as an interim rabbi, guiding synagogues through rabbinic transitions in England, New Zealand, Chicago and Coral Gables, Fla. 

“Despite the short time that Rabbi Knobel served our congregation, he made remarkably deep connections, touching many congregants and staff members with his gentle manner, kindness, accessibility and vast wisdom,” according to a statement on TIOH’s website.

Knobel’s funeral service was held on Aug. 26 at Beth Emet and he was buried Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Ill. 

Knobel is survived by his wife, Elaine, his sons Jeremy and Seth, and their families.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Producer Hal Prince, 91

Legendary Broadway producer and director Hal Prince died July 31 in Reykjavik, Iceland. He was 91.

Prince had a hand in some of  Broadway’s landmark productions, including “West Side Story,” “The Pajama Game,” “Damn Yankees,” “Evita” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” He also was the primary force behind what became known as the “concept musical” (productions born of an idea or a message as opposed to a story) in shows such as “Cabaret,” “Company” and “A Little Night Music.” 

For Jewish audiences, Prince is best known for producing the 1964 hit “Fiddler on the Roof.” Based on the short stories of Sholem Aleichem, it was shunned by some investors as being “too Jewish” to reach a mainstream audience, but the initial Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, ran until 1972. With 3,242 performances, it held the record for longest-running musical until 1979 when it was supplanted by “Grease.” 

Prince was born Harold Smith Jr. in New York City on Jan. 30, 1928, the son of Harold Smith Sr. and Blanche. His parents divorced when he was a young boy, and his mother quickly remarried Milton Prince. Both his birth and adoptive fathers were stockbrokers and the Prince family was well-off. In his memoir, “Contradictions,” Prince described his upbringing as “privileged, upper-middle, lower-rich class, Jewish, both parents of German families which settled here soon after the Civil War.” 

West Side Story

Prince’s mother was a regular theatergoer and Prince caught the bug. He attended the University of Pennsylvania with an eye to becoming a playwright. But after graduating at 19, Prince got a job working for George Abbott, one of Broadway’s pre-eminent director-producers. He answered phones and made deliveries before he was drafted into the Army and served for two years in post-World War II Germany. On his return to the United States, he went back to work for Abbott, eventually becom-ing an assistant stage manager for 1952’s “Wonderful Town.”  

“His openness to things he didn’t immediately respond to was one of the things that made him such an ideal collaborator.” — Stephen Sondheim

Composer Stephen Sondheim, who worked with Prince on nine productions (starting with 1957’s “West Side Story,” which Prince co-produced), said Prince “learned the business from the ground up, so he knows how to order a pair of shoes, which many producers don’t.”

Prince befriended Richard Griffith, another stage manager, and they joined forces to produce shows. They were a success from their first production, 1954’s “The Pajama Game.” They optioned Richard Bissell’s comic novel “7½ Cents,” commissioned Richard Adler and Jerry Ross to write the score, hired a talented but little known young choreographer by the name of Bob Fosse, and hired Abbott to direct. It was a hit, running over 1,000 performances and winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, the first of Prince’s record-setting 21 Tonys. 

Fiddler on the Roof

Prince went on to produce “Damn Yankees” a year later, “Fiorello!” in 1959, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 1962 and “Fiddler” in 1964. He branched out to directing in the early 1960s and had his first directorial hit with 1968’s “Cabaret.” Prince came up with the idea of having a leering, white-faced Emcee introduce the numbers and keep up a steady patter, a role that made Joel Grey
a star. 

The 1970 hit “Company” was the first Sondheim work Prince directed. They would work together on five more shows: “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976), “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (1979) and “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981). 

By the 1980s, Prince had left the “concept musical” behind, and with “Evita” (1979)
and “The Phantom of the Opera” (1986), both featuring hit Andrew Lloyd Webber scores, ushered in the era of musical spectaculars. He returned to edgier material, reuniting with the songwriting team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, whom he had worked with on “Cabaret,” for 1993’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

He produced a hit revival of “Show Boat” in 1994 and his final credit was “Prince of Broadway” in 2015, a revue of songs from his past productions. 

The New York Times interviewed a dozen Broadway stars about Prince, and many spoke of how he coaxed the best work out of them by giving them the freedom to try new things. Sondheim praised Prince’s “openness to things he didn’t immediately respond to,” calling it “one of the things that made him such an ideal collaborator.” Patti LuPone, who played the title role in “Evita,” remembered Prince pulling her aside to tell her not to worry when rumors she was being replaced were published. Sarah Brightman, who starred in the original producton of “Phantom,” said Prince “gave me a lot of confidence because he actually trusted what my line of thought was.”

On July 31, the lights on all the marquees in New York’s Theater District were dimmed in Prince’s honor. 

Prince is survived by his wife, Judy Chaplin (whom he married in 1962); his son, Charles; daughter, Daisy; and three grandchildren.

Charles Levin, Played Mohel on ‘Seinfeld,’ 70

Charles Levin in “Seinfeld”

Charles Levin, an actor best known for his role as the mohel in the 1993 “Seinfeld” episode “The Bris,” has died. He was 70.

Levin was discovered July 15 near his car on a remote road in southwest Oregon. Levin was reported missing by his son, Jesse, on July 8. No cause of death has been announced, but local authorities have ruled out homicide and suicide.

Levin, who moved to the Northwest after retiring from acting in the late 1990s, was a versatile performer with 63 credits listed on the Internet Movie Database. He appeared in the movies “Annie Hall,” “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” and “This Is Spinal Tap,” and had recurring roles on the TV shows “Hill Street Blues,” “Alice,” “Punky Brewster” and “NYPD Blue.” But it was his appearance on “Seinfeld,” as a shaky mohel who accidentally cuts Jerry’s finger, that brought him a new level of recognition.

Jesse told The New York Times that “every bris that I go to now, every mohel compares himself to him,” adding that his father became “the team mascot for that profession.” 

When the episode was taped, the younger Levin said, his father’s performance was “so over the top and ridiculous that Jerry Seinfeld fell out of a chair laughing at how ridiculous he was.” He described his father as “incredibly comedic. He just had a humongous personality. He was extremely charming. It’s very sad what’s happened.”

Philanthropist Jake Farber Dies at 94

Jake Farber

Jake Joseph Farber, whose unstinting support and dedication to a wide range of Jewish and Israeli causes earned him — along with his wife, Janet — the sobriquet “Tzedaka Heroes,” died March 24. He was 94.

Jake Farber was born Dec. 19, 1924, in Los Angeles, into a poor Orthodox family and raised in Boyle Heights. His father died when the boy was 8, and his mother worked as a seamstress to support Jake and his younger sister.

Later, as a successful businessman, Farber would recall “I know what it means not to have anything. So I was hoping for the day that I would be able to help someone else.”

During World War II, he was drafted into the U.S. Army a few days after his graduation from Roosevelt High School. Upon his discharge, he enrolled at USC under the GI Bill and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

He married Janet Alpert in 1950 and soon started working in her father’s scrap metal business, Alpert & Alpert Iron and Metal.

Together with his brother-in-law, Raymond Alpert, Farber grew the company to become one of the premier metal and recycling businesses in the nation.

As his wealth and position in the community grew, Farber dedicated himself to a large number of Jewish causes, always in partnership with Janet.

The couple was an active and generous supporter of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Camp Ramah, American Jewish University, Adat Ari El Synagogue, Jewish Home for the Aging, Builders of Jewish Education, de Toledo High School, AIPAC and the Pico-Union Project, among others.

In addition to its concern for domestic organizations, the Farbers were ardent supporters of Israel and Israeli causes and traveled to the Jewish state more than 50 times.

In 1948, as the birth of the Jewish state was nearing reality, the couple went from door to door in their neighborhood to raise funds for the emerging nation’s support. “If I saw a mezuzah on the front door, we knocked on it,” Janet Farber recalled.

Among the Israeli projects that benefited from the Farbers’ involvement was the Yemin Orde Youth Village for at-risk young people, and at its 2017 banquet, the Farbers were lauded for their nearly 70 years of sharing a passion for Israel.

“Their generosity, leadership and dedication have helped to build a strong and cohesive community in Los Angeles and a secure State of Israel for today and generations to come,” the scroll read.

On another occasion, at the 2013 gala of the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education, the Farbers were the honorees and were praised for embodying the Jewish concept of “le-dor-va-dor” — for all generations — through their deep ties to the Jewish community and Israel.”

The Farbers passed on their values to their three children. Son Howard is a member of the de Toledo High School community; daughter Rochelle Cohen currently serves on the board of the Federation; and daughter Nadine Lavender is active in Koreh L.A., a children’s literacy program.

In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Grandson Max Farber, observed, “My grandparents exemplify what it is to take an active role in one’s education, that is, to seek out education, rather than let it find me.”

Services for Jake Joseph Farber were held at the Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to any of the causes and organizations which he supported.

Hal Blaine, Wrecking Crew Drummer, 90

You might not know the name Hal Blaine, but you’re probably familiar with his work. Blaine, who was Jewish and died March 11 at the age of 90, was the drummer for the fabled Wrecking Crew, a collection of first-call Los Angeles session musicians who played on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s and ’70s.

He is credited with playing on more than 35,000 songs, including more than 150 top-10 hits, of which 40 reached No. 1. That list includes the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” and “Good Vibrations”; Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”; the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man”; and Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Somethin’ Stupid.”

Blaine would be assured a spot in music history if only for four notes — the “Boom Ba-boom POW” that kicks off the Ronettes’ 1963 classic “Be My Baby.” According to Blaine, that famous lick resulted from an accident during a rehearsal, when he dropped a stick and added an extra beat. “One of the things you learn is that when you make a mistake, if you do it every four bars, it becomes part of the song,” he once told the Percussive Arts Society. It’s a mistake that’s been imitated by drummers for more than 50 years.

Hal Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky on Feb. 5, 1929, in Holyoke, Mass., the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Meyer and Rose Belsky. In 1936, the family moved to Hartford, Conn., where Blaine became interested in the drums after watching the fife and drum corps at the Roman Catholic school across the street from his Hebrew school. He was soon drumming with that band. 

When he was 16, Blaine dropped out of high school to join the Army, where he was assigned to the band. He was so proficient that Pfc. Blaine was soon drumming in the officers band. After his discharge in 1948, he moved to Chicago and began studying with Roy C. Knapp, who was also Gene Krupa’s teacher. To supplement his income, he started playing club dates around town. He moved back to California, where he landed jobs in jazz bands backing singers such as Tommy Sands, and occasionally filled the drum seat in the Count Basie Orchestra. 

“May he rest forever on 2 and 4.” — Blaine family

But it was in the studio where Blaine found his true calling. A quick study who could sight-read music charts, he set himself apart from his jazz and big band contemporaries in his acceptance of pop and rock music. He became part of the group of musicians who made up record producer Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound.” Blaine claimed to have first called the group the “Wrecking Crew” because the older, more conservative musicians believed the younger, informally dressed players — who included Glen Campbell and Tommy Tedesco on guitar, Carol Kaye on bass, and Leon Russell and Larry Knechtel on keyboards — would “wreck the business.”  Blaine was especially in demand because of his versatility and his ability play a song perfectly from the first take.

Blaine’s personality also might have been a factor in his successful career, Michael Ackerman, an entertainment lawyer and drummer told the Journal. He met Blaine in 1992, when they bonded over “drumming and bad divorces,” and Blaine “was funny and such great company,” Ackerman said. 

By the mid ’70s, session work was dying out, and Blaine found work on commercials and TV, where he played on theme songs for shows such as “The Brady Bunch” and “Three’s Company.” Married and divorced five times, by the 1980s he was forced to make a living as a security guard. Danny Tedesco’s 2014 documentary on the Wrecking Crew helped bring some recognition, and Blaine became a regular at trade shows. 

Declining health led him to curtail his public appearances, although he did make an appearance at a concert in honor of his 90th birthday. As he explained to Ackerman in one of his all-caps emails, “I HATE TO DISAPPOINT FOLKS WHO WANT A MEET AND GREET BUT I SEEM TO HAVE LOST MY YOUTHFUL STAMINA… GO HOLLER AT FATHER TIME!!”  Even so, he ended the message on a positive note: “KEEP ON SMILING !!!” 

He is survived by his daughter, Michelle Blaine, and seven grandchildren.

Announcing the death on his Facebook page, his family wrote, in reference to the common four beats per measure: “May he rest forever on 2 and 4.”

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Founder of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Dies at 67

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, died Wednesday, February 6, at 67. It is reported that Eckstein died from sudden heart failure.

The mission of the organization, which was founded in 1983 as the Holyland Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is “To promote understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians and to build broad support for the State of Israel.”

IFCJ posted this on its website:

We are heartbroken to share that Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship’s Founder and President, passed away in his home in Jerusalem at the age of 67.

All of us at The Fellowship are deeply saddened and shocked. Even as we give thanks to God for Rabbi Eckstein’s life, we especially ask that you pray for Rabbi Eckstein’s family, and for all of us at The Fellowship who mourn this incalculable loss, during this most difficult time. Thank you, our dear friends and partners, for holding us up with your prayers.

In a 2015 Jewish Journal article about Eckstein, Jonathan Kirsch wrote:

“From the outset, Eckstein’s particular kind of missionary work has drawn criticism from both highly observant Jewish clergy and Jewish secular leaders such as Foxman. The chief Ashkenazic rabbi in Israel, for example, once ruled that any Jew who accepts donations originating with Christians will ‘lose both their worlds, this and the next.’ But Eckstein has always remained a true believer in himself:

“It didn’t even occur to me to quit,” he tells Zev Chafets in “The Bridge Builder: The Life and Continuing Legacy of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, An Authorized Biography.” “I have a personal relationship with God … and I had a moral certainty that came from God. That’s what has guided my work and my life, from the beginning until today.”

In a statement on his Facebook page, Eckstein’s friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote:

“I am in utter and absolute shock at the passing of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a world pioneer in Jewish-Christian relations. Yechiel spoke at my son’s Bar Mitzvah at the Psagot Winery in the Judean Hills just two nights ago. He was smiling; he looked incredibly happy as the public video of the speech shows. How could this possibly happen?

I wish immense comfort to his family and may G-D bring an end to their terrible suffering.

Yechiel brought Jewish-Christian relations to heights that none could have foreseen. When so many looked at Christians as people who had wanted to convert us, or people who harbored hostility toward us, he presciently saw a brighter future of unity and cooperation, within which Evangelical Christians would emerge as Israel’s greatest friends and protectors.

Yechiel supported countless people with innumerable good acts. Whether caring for Holocaust survivors throughout the world or working tirelessly to shore up Israel’s security, supporting Israel’s soldiers or countless other organizations, Rabbi Eckstein’s dedication and love for his people never ceased to amaze. He was and will remain absolutely irreplaceable.

May G-D comfort his family and the entire Jewish people, whom Yechiel loved so much.”

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir today issued the following statement on Eckstein, who was a FIDF supporter:

“Today we lost a friend, a partner, and a great supporter. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein z”l was an ardent Zionist who devoted his life to the State of Israel, a highly respected visionary and leader who built bridges between Jewish and Christian communities and across great divides, making the world a better place for us all. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy for us to continue his crucial work, bringing together Jews and non-Jews in support of Israel and her guardians – the men and women of the IDF. The FIDF family extends its most heartfelt sympathies to his loved ones.”

Eckstein and his wife, Joelle, live in Jerusalem. They have three daughters and eight grandchildren. His funeral will be held in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Alan Canter, Owner of Canter’s Deli, Dies at 82

Canter's Fairfax. Image from Canter's Facebook

Alan Canter, whose father, Ben Canter, opened the original Canter’s Brothers deli in 1931 in Boyle Heights with his brothers, has died at age 82.

The Canter’s Facebook page announced:

Our beloved owner, Alan Canter, has passed away at age 82. He kept his family legacy alive and built an LA landmark. He worked 18 hour shifts and took pride in hand-cutting each fruit cup. He taught his children how to run this business just as his father taught him. We are deeply saddened by this loss. A memorial will be held Monday, the 28th at 12:30 at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks, 5950 Forest Lawn Dr. Los Angeles CA 90068

In 1953, the restaurant moved to its current Fairfax location and changed its name to Canter’s Fairfax. The deli was known for its connection to local politics as much as for its pastrami

Al’s son, restaurant co-owner, Gary Canter, died in 2017. The deli, which has hosted many celebrities over the years, has been featured on HBO’s “Entourage,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Be Cool,” Enemy of the State,” and Neil Simon’s, “I Ought to be in Pictures.”

Moshe Arens, Former Israel Defense Minister, Dies at 93

990427-D-2987S-071 Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Arens answers a reporterÕs question during a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in the Pentagon on April 27, 1999. DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released)

Moshe Arens, who died on Jan. 7 at 93, was one of the finest politicians in Israel’s history. He served as foreign minister and several stints as defense minister in the 1980s and ’90s. He discovered and groomed current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (but don’t hold it against him). He was gentle, wise, caring and optimistic. He loved Israel, even though he was not born in Israel. Perhaps he loved it as only someone who was not born in Israel can. We last spoke three or four months ago. The topic was his idea for a book he thought about writing.

He was a thoughtful man, and his thoughtfulness often led him in directions not in line with a party or a government of which he was a member. As news of his death saddened me, I contemplated some of these instances. While he was still involved in public life, Arens was a member of the polite yet stubborn opposition to some of Israel’s most crucial decisions. Looking back at his actions, one can imagine an alternative history for Israel. A “what if” history. I think he would appreciate such intellectual exercise.

What if Arens had the upper hand in the late 1970s, when he was part of a small faction opposing the peace agreement with Egypt? He never retracted his opposition to the Camp David Accords. Yes, he would say, peace with Egypt has its many advantages. And yet Arens believed that Israel’s decision to hand back all of Sinai to the Egyptians, to the last mile, was a strategic mistake that still haunts Israel. It was a precedent from which Israel can’t quite release itself. If Egypt got back the territory, why not Syria in the Golan Heights? Why not the 1967 line in the West Bank? Arens believed that Egypt didn’t have many cards at that time — that then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat couldn’t initiate another war if his maximalist demands were not met. He voted no. What if?

More than a decade later, Arens demanded action but was rebuffed by his boss, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. On Jan. 7, when veteran politicians reminisced about their relations with Arens, Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Sephardic-Charedi party Shas, said they were shouting at each other. Arens? Shouting? Apparently, this well-mannered man could do that when the stakes were high. And in the early ’90s, the stakes were high. The United States just launched operation Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and missiles were raining on Israel from the skies.

But there was a problem: The United States was leading a well-forged coalition of many nations —  including Arab nations — against Iraq. And its leaders — President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State James Baker and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney — wanted Israel to sit out this one, so as not to hand the Arabs a reason or an excuse to abandon the coalition. In other words: Israel was asked to get beaten up by the bully – Iraq – and do nothing.

This was not an easy request to swallow. Israel is not used to letting its neighbors attack it without paying a price. It is not used to letting others (the coalition) guarantee its security. Arens believed that Israel should act. Last year, a recording of an interview with then-Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Shomron was released in which Shomron describes how Arens — then the defense minister — approved a plan of attack. Arens didn’t realized that Shomron merely intended this to be a presentation of what Israel could do, not of what Israel ought do. Arens hurriedly called Cheney to warn that Israel was about to send in the air force. But in the cabinet meeting, the Israel Defense Forces took the the Americans’ side, and Arens, with several other ministers, remained in the minority.

Would the international coalition against Iraq collapse? Arens believed until his last day that Secretary of State James Baker was bluffing, and that the coalition would have survived an Israeli counterattack. Could Israel launch a successful operation against the scud missile launchers in western Iraq? Many military analysts have doubts. Was an Israeli response essential to maintaining its deterrence against Arab belligerents? It’s impossible to know.

What if? Arens insisted that his positions concerning Egypt and Iraq stand the test of time, but didn’t waste his days rehashing past debates. When he celebrated his 90th birthday, he said that all his dreams came true. As I mourn his passing, I envy his peace of mind.

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.

Obituaries: Hungary Holocaust Scholar Randolph Braham, 95

Randolph Louis Braham, a two-time Jewish National Book Award winner for works on the Holocaust in his homeland of Hungary, and a founding member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, has died. He was 95.

Braham, whose his parents and siblings perished at Auschwitz, became the foremost American scholar of the Holocaust in Hungary, maintaining what a fellow professor described as a “moral compass” throughout his life. Late in his career, he rejected Hungary’s highest award to protest official attempts to whitewash the country’s collusion with the Nazis in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews during World War II.

Braham died on Nov. 25 at his home in Forest Hills, Queens, N.Y. The cause of death was heart failure, his son told The New York Times.

He was born Adolf Ábrahám on Dec. 20, 1922, in Romania and grew up in his parents’ hometown of Dej, in Northern Transylvania, where he attended a Jewish elementary school.

In 1944, during World War II, after escaping a slave-labor unit in the Hungarian army in the Ukraine, he was hidden by a Christian farmer named István Novák, who later was honored by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as a Righteous Among the Nations. Braham made his way to the American Zone in Berlin, where he became a translator for the U.S. Army.

Braham came to the United States in 1947. He received a master’s degree from the City College of New York in 1949, and a doctorate in political science from The New School for Social Research in 1952. He became a professor at the City University of New York, where he taught Comparative Political Science from 1956 until 1992, when he retired.

His two-volume work, “The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary,” won the 1981 Jewish National Book Award. He won again in 2014 for his three-volume “The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary.”

Braham edited more than 60 books, most of them dealing with the Holocaust in Hungary; co-authored or wrote chapters to 50 others; and published a large number of scholarly articles.

In 2014, when he was in his early 90s, Braham was outraged by the attempts of Hungary’s nationalist government to equate the murders of nearly 600,000 Jews in Hungary during World War II with the suffering of other Hungarians under the German occupation. He responded by returning the country’s highest honor, the Order of Merit, that he had received in 2011 for his years of research. He also asked that his name be removed from the Library and Information Center of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest, The New York Times reported.

In a letter explaining his decision to the president of the center, Braham wrote:

“I realize that for a variety of political and economic reasons the leaders responsible for the operation of the [Holocaust Memorial Center] would or could not speak out against the brazen drive to falsify history. I, on the other hand, a survivor whose parents and many family members were among the hundreds of thousands of murdered Jews, cannot remain silent, especially since it was my destiny to work on the preservation of the historical record of the Holocaust.”

Last year, Braham appeared at an event in Budapest, where he was honored for his work. The Times reported that he was welcomed by professor Maria M. Kovacs of Central European University, who described his “Geographical Encyclopedia” as “an immensely precise, panoramic and microscopic study of the Hungarian Holocaust.” And Braham, she said, was “a moral compass for our profession.”

Murray Fromson, war correspondent, 88

Murray Fromson, renowned American war correspondent, university professor and fighter  for press freedom, with close ties to Israel, will be laid to rest Friday, June 15, at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. Services start at 10 a.m.

Fromson died June 9 in his sleep in Los Angeles after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years. He was 88.

Born Sept. 1, 1929, in the Bronx, N.Y., one of his early idols was legendary CBS correspondent Edward R. Murrow. “I was enamored of him,” Fromson recalled in a 2015 Jewish Journal interview. “I’d go to sleep with a pencil under my pillow, pretending I was a microphone.”

His family moved to Los Angeles when Murray was 11 and he celebrated his bar mitzvah at the old Sinai Temple. The start of his journalistic career was as a copy boy and stringer at the Los Angeles Times, followed by an stint in the Army as a reporter for Stars and Stripes. After his discharge, he joined the Associated Press, filing stories from across the United States and Southeast Asia.

In 1960, he followed in Murrow’s footsteps and became a network correspondent, first for NBC and then during a decades-long career with CBS. Abroad, he covered the Vietnam War, including the fall of Saigon, and at home he reported

Murray Fromson

on the Richard Nixon-John F. Kennedy presidential race and the civil rights movement in the South.

Fromson was deeply effected by the brutality he witnessed in Vietnam and the American  South. As an eye witness to so much hatred and devastation, Fromson said, “What can I say, except ‘When will this misery ever stop?’ ”

Fromson entered the struggle for freedom of the press in 1969, when President Nixon vowed to subpoena journalists to force them to reveal the names of anti-war activists.

With Tony Lukas of The New York Times, Fromson established the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which continues to this day.

During a two-year stint as CBS bureau chief in Moscow in the mid-1970s, Murray and his wife, Dodi, befriended many Soviet Jews who were barred from emigrating to Israel by the Communist government.

The Moscow experience made a strong impression on the two Fromson children, Lisa and Derek. The former, adopting the name of Aliza Ben Tal, studied at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and subsequently worked in the president’s office as assistant for international affairs.

The Fromson parents joined their daughter’s effort by sponsoring an annual — and ongoing — Fromson Media Mission to BGU, which has brought the university’s accomplishments to the attention of millions of American readers and viewers.

Fromson joined the faculty of the USC in 1982 and served as director of its communications and journalism school for five years. He founded the university’s Center for International Journalism, which brought foreign journalists, mainly from Latin America, for study on the USC campus.

In a tribute to her predecessor, Willow Bay, current dean of the USC journalism school, told The New York Times, “Not only was professor Fromson one of the great journalists of his time, he was also a an extraordinary teacher and leader, who built the USC international journalism program from the ground up.”

In addition to Dodi, his wife of 57 years, and two children, Fromson is survived by two grandchildren.

Comedy Store’s Mitzi Shore, 87

Mitzi Shore, who for decades ran The Comedy Store, the legendary club on the Sunset Strip, died on April 11 following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 87.

“It is with great sadness and very heavy hearts that we report the passing of Mitzi Shore yesterday morning,” The Comedy Store said in an April 12 statement. “Mitzi was an extraordinary woman and leader who identified, cultivated and celebrated comedy’s best performers. She helped change the face of comedy and leaves behind an indelible mark and legacy in the entertainment industry and stand-up community. We will all miss her dearly.”

Shore was born Mitzi Lee Saidel on July 25, 1930, in Menominee, Mich., and raised in Green Bay, Wis. She attended the University of Wisconsin but dropped out to marry comedian Sammy Shore, whom she met while working at a Wisconsin resort one summer. In the 1950s, through her marriage, Shore met Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Shelley Berman and Buddy Hackett, and she became a mother figure to the comedians.

On April 7, 1972, Sammy opened The Comedy Store — Mitzi came up with the name — with comedy writer Rudy De Luca. It was the world’s first all-stand-up-comedy nightclub. Two years later, the Shores divorced and Mitzi received control of the club in their divorce settlement.

According to veteran journalist William Knoedelseder, author of “I’m Dying Up Here,” Shore deserves partial credit for transforming the 1970s into the golden era of comedy. Shore nurtured many talented young comedians, including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Bob Saget, Richard Lewis, Garry Shandling and Elayne Boosler. Working behind a sign on her desk that read, “It is a Sin to Encourage Mediocre Talent,” Shore pushed those she saw as having that special spark to perform, allowed them on her stage and encouraged authenticity in their comedy.

In 1976, she expanded the 99-seat nightclub to a multistage venue, featuring three rooms: the Original Room, the Main Room and the Belly Room. She operated The Comedy Store as an artists’ colony, where comedians could tinker and work out their material before fellow comedians, comedy lovers and entertainment industry professionals. However, Shore did not pay her comedians until 1979, when performers began picketing outside the club.

“Looking back on my mom’s life, the one word that comes to mind is giver. She gave her heart, her soul, and her stages.” — Pauly Shore

Shore eventually opened additional Comedy Store locations, including in La Jolla, Calif., Las Vegas and Honolulu.

In the late 1990s, Shore’s Parkinson’s became so severe that her hands shook when she wrote the lineup sheets for each evening’s show. Two of her four children, including actor-comedian Pauly Shore, took control over the operation of the club. Shore spent her final days in hospice care.

On Twitter, Pauly said his mother’s legacy was her compassion for her performers.

“Looking back on my mom’s life, the one word that comes to mind is giver,” he wrote. “She gave her heart, her soul, and her stages.”

Saget and other comedians also posted tributes on Twitter.

“Mitzi Shore started my career when I was 21 by believing in me,” Saget wrote. “I will forever be indebted to her and love her and always knew that she loved me.”

The Comedy Store closed on April 11 to honor Shore, only the ninth night in its 46 years that the club closed.

Shore’s funeral was held on April 13. She is survived by her four children — Pauly, Peter, Scott and Sandy.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Comedian’s Assistance Fund is accepting donations in Shore’s memory.

Sol Liber, Uprising Resistance Fighter

Sol Liber, one of the last known members of the Jewish resistance during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, died on March 21. He was 94. His legacy will live on through his three children, eight grandchildren and the testimony of his harrowing experiences at three concentration camps. His interview was number 50 of 50,000 at the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation.

“My father was very focused, primarily on family, work, and the Jewish people,” Liber’s son, Sheldon, said at the funeral on March 23. “He was a great teacher that shared lessons about all three [of these things] with great emphasis on personal integrity, honesty, loyalty and taking the initiative to help others.”

Liber was born in the town of Grojec, Poland, 40 kilometers south of Warsaw. He was thrust into the trauma of World War II at the age of 15 when he was drafted to fight for the Polish Army against the invading Germans. After Poland’s quick surrender, he returned home, but was soon chased out. He eventually landed with his father, mother and four siblings in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Desperate, yet resourceful, Liber would sneak beyond the walls to barter goods for food for his family. When word came the Germans intended to empty the Ghetto and disperse those who survived to death camps, Liber was led blindfolded to meet the head of the secret Resistance, Mordechai Anielewicz. He was enlisted to help smuggle children through the sewers to groups shepherding them to safety. When the Germans mounted their final attack, Liber was assigned to battle them.

“If you have the will to live, you will try anything.” – Sol Liber

After the German army prevailed, Liber and two surviving sisters were shipped on a tightly packed train to Treblinka. Once they arrived, Liber was pulled aside with 500 other men, and watched his two sisters head for the gas chambers.

He was put back on a train and sent to Majdanek. After surviving that inhumane torture camp, Liber was shipped to Buchenwald, where he spent each day in an underground munitions factory. Finally liberated by the Russians in 1945, he returned briefly to his village before making his way to Eggenfelden, a displaced-persons camp.

“My dad was both a simple and complicated man,” his son Rodney said at the funeral. “His school education was cut short at fifth grade when he was placed with a tailor to learn the trade, one he told me several times he never liked. His education on the mean streets of the world however was vast, and he wore that early experience everywhere he went and in everything he did.

“He escaped death many times, if not every day in his late teens and early 20s. He told me of at least a dozen close calls but I’m sure there were many more. He was tough and he instilled at least some of that toughness in me, which I hope has served and will continue to serve me well.”

Liber made his way to Marseilles, France, to start training to fight in Palestine, but was convinced by his cousin that it was not his fight. “You did not survive the atrocities and see your family perish to now put yourself in jeopardy. You must live on!” the cousin said. With that, he traveled to Paris, lived with his cousin and helped support the family by working as a tailor.

Liber later made the journey to Quebec to see his only surviving family member, his brother Jack, in Winnipeg. Eight months later he traveled to Montreal, where he met his future wife Bella and had two children, before moving to Los Angeles.

Years later, when asked how he survived, Liber simply said, “If you have the will to live, you will try anything.”

At his funeral, his eight grandchildren paid their respects, too. “As adults, knowing more now about his history, about the many lives he led long before our time, about the unspeakable ordeals he endured … we are filled with many emotions; pride, reverence, awe, humility,” they said. “We all want so much to honor Grandpa Sol, to repay him for all he gave us, to live up to the standard he set and to continue his legacy.”

Carrie Beth Lutin-Scott, 60

Screenshot from Facebook.

Carrie Beth Lutin-Scott died early on March 14 as the sun was rising over the canyon outside her Pacific Palisades home, where she was surrounded by her family, after a battle with cancer. She was 60.

She is survived by her husband of almost 32 years, Michael B. Scott, and children Rachel, Zachary and Shoshanna, as well as parents Evy and Martin Lutin, and her sister Robin Lutin.

Carrie was born Jan. 15, 1958, and raised in Encino. She often related the stories of how pop singing legend Michael Jackson and his family lived around the corner, and how she met Ringo Starr at a neighborhood party. Lutin-Scott attended Birmingham High School, graduating a semester early in 1976 and matriculating to UC Santa Barbara.

Lutin-Scott transferred to the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Although she loved her college experience, during her junior year, she decided to travel the world on a program called Semester at Sea.

Lutin-Scott told friends and family that when she approached her father to tell him that she wanted to travel the world, he replied, “How much would that cost?” She said, “Oh, I think around $9,000.” Her father paused and told her, “Well, Carrie, if you really want to go, you will have to pay for it yourself.”

So Lutin-Scott went on the game show “The Hollywood Squares” and won not only $15,000 but also a car and trailer. She again approached her father and said, “Dad, as you know, I now have enough money for Semester at Sea. Since you are saving money by not paying for my college tuition this semester, what do you think about giving me some extra money for the trips I want to take along the way?” Her father agreed with the idea and gave her the money.

Lutin-Scott’s negotiating skills served her well during 20 years of selling advertising space in the automotive industry, where after her first year she was the top salesperson on a nationwide sales team of 120.

Lutin-Scott’s husband, Michael, describes their relationship as a “great love affair.” While both were in their late 20s and living in Southern California, fate placed them on the same bus in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1985. Lutin-Scott and her mother were in the city to lobby for a Jewish mission, and Michael had traveled there to attend a wedding.

During the bus ride, Lutin-Scott turned around in her seat and spotted an attractive young man seated in the back. She got up and walked down the aisle. Michael later described how he looked up from his newspaper to see this woman in a bright blue dress heading his way and thought, “Oh, boy, here comes trouble!” They became engaged three months later and married on June 21, 1986.

They honeymooned in Papua New Guinea and, in 1991, moved to a house in Pacific Palisades, which was soon filled with three children. The couple hosted pool parties, cookouts, birthday parties, prom parties, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts fundraisers, Friday night Shabbat and Sunday night neighborhood dinners.

Lutin-Scott was involved in Kehillat Israel’s early childhood development program, served on the Southern California board of Birthright Israel Foundation, the board of the University of Colorado Parent Fund and chaired the United Jewish Fund Automotive Division.

She volunteered at her children’s schools and drove students on field trips in her GMC Denali, the “big blue bus.” As their children progressed through school, Lutin-Scott supported their sports teams, musical productions and arts programs.

As their children became young adults, she and Michael moved a few blocks away into a home they had built. In the past few years, she played paddle tennis and mahjong. Lutin-Scott was an avid skier, scuba diver, tennis and paddle tennis player, hiker, photographer and traveler.

Donations can be made in Lutin-Scott’s memory to the Team Carrie — Carrie Strong Foundation by visiting givebox.com/1154.

For further information, email Michael B. Scott at mscott@narvidscott.com. 

Educator Emil (Uzi) Jacoby, 94

Emil Jacoby and Leonard Cohen on Grandparents’ Day at Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School on March 31, 2015. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Jacoby

Beloved local Jewish educator Emil (Uzi) Jacoby died on Feb. 15 in Los Angeles. He was 94.

Jacoby was born on Nov. 30, 1923, in Cop, Czechoslovakia. After his bar mitzvah, he went to study in yeshiva, first in Cop and then in Ungvar, which at the time was part of Hungary.

At 16, Jacoby left yeshiva and went to the Gymnasia in Ungvar. He graduated in 1943 and moved to Budapest, Hungary. There, he was trained to become a leader of the then-illegal Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement. It was then he adopted a Hebrew nom de guerre — Menachem Uziel. From that day forward, he was known as Uzi.

During World War II, Uzi helped lead the efforts in Bucharest, Romania, and Budapest to rescue European Jews and bring them to Israel. After the war, Uzi was elected as Bnei Akiva’s director of operations in Hungary and served as the camp director at Lake Balaton’s summer camp. It was there that he met the greatest love of his life, Erika, a Holocaust survivor.

On Nov. 29, 1947, Uzi received his doctorate and also became engaged to Erika, almost a year after they met. It was also the day that the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab.

Shortly afterward, Uzi (now called Dr. Emil Jacoby) moved to Paris to work with Yosef Burg in the European office of the Mizrahi political movement. He visited Israel and in August 1949 traveled to New York City, where he reunited with Erika.

Settling in New York, Uzi taught at the Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Brooklyn while simultaneously completing two degrees at the Jewish Theological Seminary, as well as a master’s degree in mathematics at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Uzi and Erika moved to Los Angeles in July 1953. From 1953 to 1956, Uzi was the director of education at Valley Jewish Community Center/Adat Ari El. From there, he went on to become the associate director, executive director and then accreditation consultant at the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles (now called Builders of Jewish Education). He remained in that position until he retired in 2008.

Uzi also spent 10 summers as the education director for Camp Ramah and was an adjunct professor at the University of Judaism.

Uzi is survived by his wife, Erika, three children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Holocaust Survivor Kalman Aron Dies

It is with profound sadness, that the world has lost another Holocaust survivor, Kalman Aron. Mr. Aron died in a hospice in Santa Monica, California, Feb 24th, with his son, David Aron, at his side.

I first met Kalman a little over a  year ago, at his humble home and painting studio in Beverly Hills. His spirit and personality were that of a much younger man than the 93-year-old gentleman that was in front of me.

He gave me an incredible tour of his modest home, and then gave me the history of a few of the hundreds of master artworks that were all over the apartment. I felt like I was getting a tour of a miniature Louvre. Every painting was a masterpiece;It was beyond impressive.

Our first meeting was a lovely time, as lovely, as a person could have. Kalman allowed me to film him for the first two hours, and gave me the rights to his life story. We then broke bread and spent time talking about his career and his time in seven Nazi concentration camps.

“I made it through the Holocaust with a pencil,” Kalman declared, with a Cheshire cat grin.

A  Nazi guard came before him with a machine gun, and he was able to draw an exact portrait of the guard in real time. The guard was so impressed that this was the beginning of a Kalman Aron seven Nazi concentration camp tour.

What makes Mr. Aron’s story so very different and unique than any other Holocaust story that one has heard, was that he was treated relatively well, during the entire four and one-half years he was interned.

“I would tell the Commandant or the guard I was painting, if I could just get a little more cheese and bread, I could paint much quicker,” he said with a smile. “This worked often,” says Kalman.

He then told me he was even able to get the Nazis guards to give him extra blankets.

“I had to always be thinking,” said Kalman.

The next time I would meet Kalman, I would bring a very special guest. Now that I had the rights to his life story, I began looking for partners and Executive Producers. I had met Norman Lear 10 years earlier, when he had written me a sizable check for my award-winning film, “Unbeaten.”

I called Norman up, and told him about this incredible man, and asked if he had time to meet him. Mr. Lear did not flinch. The meeting was set, and on a warm Tuesday morning in September 2017, I walked into Kalmans home with the greatest and kindest most iconic TV  producer in the history of Television.

When these two nonagenarian’s met, it was like they had known each other all of there lives. There was laughter. There were tears, and there was great admiration for one another as artists. There was also great profoundness as Norman was a B-17 gunner and radio man, and actually dropped bombs very close to where Kalman was interned. The Nazis could not kill Kalman, and neither could Norman Lear!

The next few months, I would have dinner and lunch with Kalman a few times, and I was very fortunate to be able to have NPR do a global story on him on the program, The World, with Marco Werman. Little did I know at the time, this would be my last time seeing Kalman.

In early January, Kalman took a fall, and would be admitted to Cedars. Always the fighter, he was released in a week, and was back home painting. A month later he would take a turn for the worse, and on Feb. 24th, the world lost one of its greatest  global citizens.

My time with Mr. Aron was brief, but very, very rich. He produced  thousands of paintings through out his long life, including portraits of Ronald Reagan, Henry Miller and Andre Previn, just to name a few. Kalman was the father of ‘”Psychological Realism”

Kalman brought love, joy and peace to all who knew him. Mr. Aron beat the Nazis with a pencil, and he strove for greatness in everything he did. Kalman Aron was a master painter, and very great man. Kalman personified all that is good in human kind. He will be missed.


Steven C Barber is a writer ,director and producer residing in Santa Monica, California. His work can be found at www.vanillafire.com.

Sharing My Father’s Words on the Afterlife

A little over a month ago, my father, Abraham Haimoff, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 73. My father had a strong love of Israel, which started when he was a teenager. In 1963, at the age of 17, he left his comfortable home in Iran to join the Israeli military. Over the next 30 years, as a dedicated soldier and commander, he survived many difficult battles and sustained war injuries. Throughout his life, he always stayed connected to Judaism. Soon after retiring from the Israeli military and moving to the United States, he started to dive deeper into the spiritual and religious studies of Judaism.

While sitting shivah at my parents’ home, we discovered in his library my father’s writings on Jewish philosophy, tradition and history. I was so moved by one of his writings on the afterlife that I decided to translate it and shared it at his memorial service. In his honor, I’d like to share it with our community:

The Torah speaks to the existence of the soul to eternity and being a separate entity from the body. As people, we may think that living 80 years in good health, comfort and wealth, with a peaceful death, is something to aspire to; however, such view of life may be limited. If we are aware of the existence of our soul, we realize that our existence continues into infinity. This world of “now” gives us an opportunity to do things that would ultimately lead and influence our “afterlife.” The deeper spiritual question is who is the one that creates a deeper connection with god? Who is happier, under the infinite life of the soul? The healthy person who lives a life of comfort and pleasure but yet without any spiritual connection to god vs. another person, who is poor, hungry and perhaps physically disabled, but yet with a rich and deep spiritual connection with god? Clearly, material possession represents an artificial and shallow view of the world as compared with a rich and deep spiritual connection with god.

So, what is life after death?

Our “afterlife” is the world of truth and transparency.

When a person passes away from this world and his soul or spirit arrives to the heavens, he may be faced with the first film, titled “This Is Your Life,” which would include every thought, every action, whether good or bad, intimate moments and every detail, which are passed before his eyes. Our “afterlife” is the world of truth and transparency. As we reflect on our actions in life, we quickly realize that hell may be a place where all of our sins are revealed to all in pain and shame. Then, the second film, titled “How It Could Have Been” is shown, and focuses on how life could have been, had a person made the right decisions in his life and fulfilled his potential. The second film reflects the missed opportunities and the resulting sorrow to the soul because of the mistakes made by a person. The second film helps to purify the soul through the feeling of pain and regret and breaks down the barriers that caused the bad deeds and the wrong decisions made during a person’s life, allowing, then, the soul to connect with god. Not all souls require the purification process. Still, other wicked souls, like the one of the Pharaoh from biblical times, who enslaved the Hebrews, do not even get the privilege of going to hell.

So what about heaven?

This is the highest privilege for the soul, allowing the closeness to god.  However, the depth of the closeness and experience with god would heavily depend on the preparation of the soul well in advance. While the “afterlife” is not clearly articulated in the Torah, we should look to our actions and deeds, and aspire to live a life of “Torat Emet,” where we look to our morals, virtues and values based on our tradition to get ourselves ready for the “afterlife.”

Remembering Shelley Berman

Danny Lobell and Shelley Berman

The music blared as friends and family gathered around to welcome my bride and me. As we walked from the yichud room to the social hall, someone joined my side: an old man. He was not my grandfather, as most of the guests thought. He was the legendary comedian Shelley Berman.

Although he was 90 years old, Berman was keeping up with everyone, dancing to the loud Israeli music with his cane up in the air, and smiling from ear to ear. He was the life of the party on the dance floor.

I first met Berman in 2014, when I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview him on my podcast. After the interview, Berman and his wife, Sarah,  invited my wife and me to look at Berman’s impressive knife collection and have some tea. We talked about how Sarah converted to Judaism, and how my wife, Kylie Ora Lobell, was in the process of doing the same. It turned out, in fact, that we all had a lot in common, and an instant friendship was born.

As a new couple in Los Angeles looking for another couple to hang out with, we had finally found our match. It just so happened that they were a few years older than we were.

They told us to stay in touch and we did. We drove up to Shelley and Sarah Berman’s house a few more times for lunch and became a fixture at their holiday party every Hanukkah. When Kylie and I got married in the summer of 2015, Sarah and Shelley Berman were there with their daughter, Rachel, celebrating with us.

The following Rosh Hashanah, Shelley Berman came to our festive meal along with his daughter and two grandsons. He had us all laughing throughout the holiday. He showed us how he ate pomegranates by first rolling them against the table to loosen the skin and then just biting into them. He said that nothing made him happier than a good pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah.

In fact, Rosh Hashanah was one of Shelley’s favorite days of the year, so much so that he had written a poem about the sounding of the shofar is his book “To Laughter With Questions: Poetry by Shelley Berman.”

The next time I was to hear this poem was sadly at Berman’s funeral; he died in Southern California on Sept. 1, 2017, at 92. The Chabad rabbi presiding over the funeral read it aloud, because it had been a gift to him from Berman, and Rosh Hashanah was only a few weeks away.

On Jan. 30, 2018, droves of people, including Kylie and me, went to the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach to celebrate Berman’s life and career with a memorial service. We heard from his contemporaries, friends and family, such as the host of the event, comedian Lewis Black, comedian George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, producer and writer Alan Zweibel, and comedians Laraine Newman and Fred Willard, who brought down the house with a story about the two of them grand marshaling a Hollywood parade. In attendance were many of Berman’s co-stars, including actors Larry David and Cheryl Hines, and comedians who wanted to pay their respects. Sarah Berman closed the afternoon by talking about their loving 70-year relationship.

Most people will remember Shelley Berman for his work on the comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” on which he portrayed Larry David’s father, Nat David. Or perhaps the older generation will remember his many television performances and famous telephone routine. Maybe he will be remembered for being the first comedian to win a Grammy for a comedy album, his 1959 work “Inside Shelley Berman,” and for changing the face of stand-up comedy.

I will remember him for being a mensch and a great friend.


Danny Lobell is a stand-up comedian.

Philanthropist Ruth Ziegler dies at 98

Screenshot from Facebook

Ruth Ziegler, for decades a leading philanthropist supporting Jewish institutions in the United States and Israel, died of natural causes on Feb. 4 at Saint John’s hospital in Santa Monica. She was 98.

A public service honoring her lifetime achievements was scheduled for Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. at the Mount Sinai Memorial Cemetery Hollywood Hills, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, followed by a private interment. On the same day at 5 p.m., American Jewish University (AJU) at 15600 Mulholland Drive was set to host a minyan service.

Ziegler grew up in St, Joseph, Mo., the only child of a Reform rabbi, but in her late teens she moved to Los Angeles, initially intent on an acting career and joining the Pasadena Playhouse. She subsequently enrolled and graduated from USC, where she met Allen Ziegler, then a USC law student.

After Allen’s Navy service during World War II, he and Ruth married. He became head of Westco Products baking supplies and set the family standard for open-handed philanthropy, continued and extended by his wife after his death.

Among the Zieglers notable beneficiaries are the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at AJU, Sinai Temple, City of Hope, Venice Family Clinic, Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Center for Jewish Education at the University of Haifa in Israel. As word of Ruth Ziegler’s death spread, tributes to her personality and generosity arrived at the Jewish Journal.

Excerpts from some of the tributes include one by AJU President Robert Wexler. He recalled that in the mid-1990s, when trying to establish the university’s School of Rabbinic Studies, Ziegler called him on her own initiative and asked how much money would be needed to transform the vision into reality.

Wexler did some quick calculations and came up with a $19 million figure. A few days later, Ziegler called again to say that she didn’t have that sum on hand, but asked Wexler if he would agree to $22 million, spread over a 10-year period. The AJU president agreed. Sinai Temple Max Webb Senior Rabbi David Wolpe, currently traveling in Asia, sent an email, which read in part: “Yankee Stadium used to be called ‘The House that Ruth Built.’ Sinai Temple could be called the same — the house that Ruth built. She and Allen gave an immeasurable amount to our community. …  Ruth Ziegler loved dogs, the writer Brian Morton, the actress Frances McDormand, the theater, social justice, Judaism, her family and friends. She hated self-righteousness, unkindness and hypocrisy. … She gave so much to so many; she was
indeed a great lady with a great heart. May her memory be a blessing.”

Friends wishing to honor her memory through a donation to Sinai Temple
are asked to email www.member.sinaitemple.org/donate.

Spokesman Timothy Smith noted that “Ruth Ziegler was a central figure in the history of the Venice Family Clinic [VFC]. For more than 30 years, she expressed her love of helping people by saying ‘yes’ to nearly every request VFC made of her.

“This included funding for the clinic’s pediatric services, support for its Common Ground program for people living with HIV, and the Ruth Ziegler and Jack Skirball Dental Clinic, which has provided the first affordable dental service for many local families.”

Bailey London, the Allen & Ruth Ziegler Executive Director of the USC Hillel Foundation, wrote that “Ruth Ziegler’s impact on Jewish campus life … has touched thousands of students’ lives and will do so for generations to come.

“Her investment in the strengthening of our organization has resulted in the growth and flourishing community for Jewish students on our campus. Mrs. Ziegler stands as a model for community engagement and leaves a lasting impact on our Jewish Trojan community.

Rabbi Grossman Killed in Accident

Rabbi Grossman, 71

Rabbi David Grossman, one of the Los Angeles Jewish community’s best-known and longest-serving Torah teachers, was killed in an auto accident Monday morning in Staten Island in New York City.

According to preliminary information from New York police investigators, the crash was reported about 4 a.m. Rabbi Grossman was driving northbound on the West Shore Expressway near Victory Boulevard when he stopped in the roadway for reasons still unknown. His car was rear ended by another vehicle that remained on the scene. He was transported to Richmond University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

With a career spanning more than 40 years in Los Angeles, Rabbi Grossman was leading a variety of classes at LINK, in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, at the time of his death.

His funeral was scheduled for Monday evening in Lakewood, NJ.

A founding member of the Lakewood Kollel branch in Los Angeles in 1975, under the late Rabbi Chaim Fasman, Rabbi Grossman helped start Yeshiva Gedolah in LaBrea in 1981. He served as the 12th grade lecturer in advanced Talmudic studies until 2008.

Concurrently, he opened a Torah program for working young adults and college students, independent of the yeshiva.

Rabbi Grossman recently opened up a morning yeshiva for young men who are working or going to college part-time. He recorded thousands of tapes and CDs on every page of the oral Torah and many areas of Torah.

Recently, he started teaching the second half of Rabbi Asher Brander’s late Thursday night class on the Torah portion of the week.

A LINK spokesperson said that in his classes, Rabbi Grossman “exuded his customary warmth and love for every talmid (student). The loss to his family and to our community is incalculable.”

While learning in Israel in his earlier years, the rabbi met his wife, Rachel. She was the principal of Valley Torah High School’s girls division in Valley Village for many years.

Rabbi Grossman’s survivors include his children, Mrs. Sara Fisher, Mrs. Tzippy Rokowsky, Mrs. Efrat Privalsky, Meir, Avi, Binyomin, Moshe and Chaim.

Remembering Mr. Benscher

Two years ago I was standing in synagogue, saying the Shacharit Amidah, when I saw an old man being wheeled in on the other side of the mechitza. He didn’t look familiar, but it was refreshing to see an older person coming to our shul.

I’m a shy person, so it took me a few months to say more than “Shabbat Shalom” and start up a conversation with this man. One day, my husband Danny Lobell and I walked over to the man, who was sitting at a table in the corner at Kiddush, sipping on a glass of water, and introduced ourselves.

“Hi, we’re the Lobells,” we said. The man didn’t respond. I was sure he didn’t hear us. We sat down anyway.

Then, after a moment, the man looked up at us. “Jerry Benscher, nice to meet you. Would you mind, please, to get me a real drink?” he said, eyeing the bottle of Jack Daniel’s on the next table. Danny laughed. “Sure.”

On Feb. 1, Jerry – or Mr. Benscher as the community called him – passed away at the age of 85. Though he’d been in poor health ever since I first saw him in shul, he never seemed to let it catch up to him. Sometimes he would have uncontrollable bouts of coughing, or he’d need to be wheeled around with an oxygen tank. I would get worried when I’d hear him coughing on the men’s side of the mechitza that he wasn’t doing well that day. I’d have the incorrect assumption that if his physical health was going downhill, so was his mental health.

By the time we made it to Kiddush again every week, though, Mr. Benscher, a Holocaust survivor, would be cracking jokes, giving sweets out to all the little children and sipping on some whiskey.

Overtime, Danny and I came to know Mr. Benscher outside of shul too. Our friend and his friend, Eva Becker, would take him around town for fun, always posting pictures of him at the Santa Monica Pier or hanging out with his family. A few times, he came to Danny’s monthly comedy show at the Hollywood Improv, Bookshelf. He said, after the first show, “The other comedians were too filthy! But I loved you, Danny.”

Mr. Benscher and Eva were there to support Danny at his one-man show in the Hollywood Fringe last year. They came to a 10 p.m. show on a Thursday night, when many of our younger friends said they couldn’t make it, sat in the front row and laughed audibly throughout the evening. Mr. Benscher said he had the greatest time.

Mr. Benscher always livened up a Shabbat meal, too. When we’d have Friday night dinner with him and Eva at Rabbi Elchanan Shoff’s home, he’d never fail to get the whole table cracking up. One time, Danny said, “Mr. Benscher, you are pretty much my best friend.” There was a long pause. Then: “Pretty much, Danny? Just pretty much?”

Five days before Mr. Benscher passed, Eva held an 85th birthday party for him at the rehabilitation facility where he lived. I didn’t know what to expect before we went. Would it be a sweet little gathering? Would it be kind of depressing, simply because nursing homes always are?

When Danny and I walked into the communal eating area, it was filled with people. There were at least 60 men, women and children chatting, munching on pizza and birthday cake and giving Mr. Benscher well wishes. He was at the front of the room, wearing an oxygen mask and unable to talk. But balloons surrounded him, and a violinist, pianist and guitar player sang Jewish melodies for him. Danny approached him to tell him a few jokes, and he grabbed onto Danny’s arm in acknowledgment that he was pleased.

The nursing home had come alive for Mr. Benscher. Danny and I and everyone else there had a blast. You could tell he was loved.

This Shabbat, I plan to drink a little bit of whiskey in honor of Mr. Benscher. I’ll toast to his joyous attitude, his zest for life, his sense of humor and his unwillingness to let sickness stop him. Even though he’s gone, I know he’s up there, somewhere in the sky, cracking jokes with the angels and bringing a bright, happy light with him wherever he goes.

Joe Frank, Radio Host and Producer, 79

Joe Frank, the acclaimed radio host and producer who created darkly comedic and philosophical narratives, died on Jan. 15 in Beverly Hills. He was 79.

Frank explored existential, spiritual and sexual themes in scripted monologues — delivered in a resonant monotone over hypnotic repeating music loops — and improvised dramatic scenes with actors.

He recorded more than 230 hours of programs for National Public Radio (NPR) and Santa Monica public radio station KCRW, and earned Peabody and Emmy awards. Stations around the country aired his boundary-pushing work. Public radio’s biggest producers, including Ira Glass, creator and host of “This American Life,” cite him as a major influence.

“He would give the actors plot points and then they would perform it over and over with him directing them,” said Glass, who worked as a production assistant for Frank in the early 1980s. “And then he himself would sit in the edit room and edit the reel-to-reel tape … and what came out of it was something that didn’t feel like radio drama but felt way more cinematic and way more alive.”

Frank was born Joseph Langermann in Strasbourg, France, in 1938. He was 1 year old when his Polish father and Austrian mother fled Nazi Germany and moved to New York. His father, a successful shoe manufacturer, died when Joe was 5.

Death was a regular theme in Frank’s work (he once called it “the shadow that hangs over me”) because he was seriously ill for much of his life. He was born with clubbed feet, for which he underwent a number of corrective surgeries and wore leg braces as a child. He was treated for severe scoliosis and kidney failure, and survived cancer three times.

“It made him more ferocious to get his work done,” said Ariana Morgenstern, a longtime KCRW staffer who had a close relationship with Frank. “His body didn’t matter to him. It was his mind that was really important to him.”

Frank died from complications after surgery for colon cancer. Michal Story, Frank’s wife and only surviving family member, chronicled Frank’s final two years of illness on a GoFundMe page that raised more than $124,000 for his medical expenses.

Jewish themes also were prevalent in his work, and his darkly absurd scenes evoked a particularly Jewish form of gallows humor.

In 1995’s “Prayer,” Frank attends the funeral of his Uncle Murray. A rabbi delivers a grandiose eulogy, while Frank remembers the man’s many flaws (“He had breath that could peel paint and pants that he would belt under the armpits.”) We later hear Murray’s wife interrupt the service to berate her dead husband and engage in a screaming match with the rabbi.

In 2000’s “Bad Karma,” Frank attends a dinner party with famous mass murderers, among them Adolf Hitler, who becomes emotional as he describes his favorite book, “Goodnight Moon.”

The spellbinding 2012 program “Dreamers” unfolds through the surreal nightmares of a young Arab suicide bomber, an ultra-Orthodox American who joined the Israeli army and renounced God, and a Christian pastor on his first trip to the Holy Land.

And in 2013’s “A Hollywood True Story,” a screenwriter finds himself at a Buddhist meditation retreat at Auschwitz in an attempt to advance his career in Hollywood.

While radio was his storytelling medium of choice, Frank had a literary pedigree. He studied at the Iowa Writers Workshop and taught literature and philosophy at Dalton, an elite Manhattan day school, for a decade.

He began his radio career in 1976 at WBAI in New York with experimental, free-form stories. Two years later, he was hired to co-host “Weekend All Things Considered” at NPR, and ended each hour with a provocative five-minute monologue that humorist and former KCRW host Harry Shearer described as “like a fist coming out of your radio.” Only three months later, Frank switched to producing radio dramas for NPR.

In 1986, Ruth Seymour, KCRW’s then-general manager, offered him a Saturday night radio show and he relocated to Los Angeles, quickly earning a cult following among listeners.

In an interview with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” in 1989, Frank explained that creating radio programs helped him transcend his fears and insecurities.

“Whatever tragedies might befall you, you can always right away think, well, that would make a great story for radio … so that it was easier to experience whatever suffering that came my way,” he said.

Rabbi Neil Gillman, Theologian and Teacher

Screenshot from Twitter.

Two generations of students at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) are mourning the passing on Nov. 24 of a challenging and beloved teacher, Rabbi Neil Gillman.

Beginning with his arrival from Montreal in the mid-1950s, Gillman was a commanding presence in the seminary community for over half a century. He was ordained by JTS in 1960 and earned his doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University in 1975.

He served as dean of the JTS Rabbinical School in the 1970s, during a period of transition when JTS debated women’s ordination, which it initiated in 1985. He was an early advocate for egalitarianism, and continued to teach and model an inclusive vision of Jewish thought and practice throughout his life.

Gillman also was a historian of JTS and Conservative Judaism, publishing a volume on the topic in 1993 and working with a committee to articulate the philosophy of Conservative Judaism in the 1988 volume “Emet V’Emunah.” He also wrote several volumes on how to define and justify belief in God through radical questions and sound philosophical considerations. His 1997 book, “The Death of Death,” examined Jewish beliefs about life after death.

You did not have to be an academic to understand his books. Gillman was forever the teacher in his writing, explaining difficult concepts in clear, down-to-earth language.

Gillman’s students will remember him most for the way he challenged them to think deeply about Jewish beliefs and practices and to create a Jewish theology of their own. They didn’t mind when he pointed out weaknesses in the way they were thinking because they knew that he cared deeply for them.

They also will remember lovingly the shock that Gillman evinced when a student said something that he found questionable or downright wrong — and how he would then prod the student into defending his or her particular belief rather than abandoning it. Gillman single-handedly transformed the education of future rabbis, educators and lay leaders from a passive study of other people’s thought into an exciting and significant struggle with one’s own. He did so with warmth, humor, wide erudition, analytic precision and genuine concern for his students.

I first met Neil Gillman at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, where he taught me how to chant Eikhah, the Book of Lamentations, when I was 13. A year later, his wife, Sarah, taught me the first midrashic texts that I had ever seen.

Gillman later played a critical role in my life, persuading me to accept a fellowship and study for a doctorate in philosophy at Columbia while I was in rabbinical school at JTS.

He challenged them to think deeply about Jewish beliefs.

Subsequently, because we shared a deep love of both Judaism and of the philosophical questions that could either undermine it entirely or strengthen it significantly, we became frequent intellectual sparring partners, and I shall miss that immensely. One example: When I was working on the second edition of my book “Conservative Judaism: Our Ancestors to Our Descendants,” he and I spent many long-distance phone calls debating Abraham Joshua Heschel’s theology of revelation. As a result, I changed the way I categorized Heschel’s approach in the book — although, to this day, I’m not sure that Gillman was right about that!

We both wrote books on religious epistemology — the question of how we can know that our religious beliefs are true. Mine emerged directly from the world of analytic philosophy, while his included the insights of scholars of religious anthropology. It is through him that all of his readers, including me, learned to appreciate the role of religious stories (“myths”) and ritual practices in shaping what one believes and trusts.

We loved critiquing each other’s work, often with playful expressions of surprise that the other person could say or write such a thing.

We all will make Rabbi Gillman’s memory a blessing if we follow his lead in so deeply caring for one another and for our Jewish heritage that we are not afraid to question both, thus making our relationships and our Judaism truly matters of all our heart, all our soul and all our might.


Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff is rector and Sol & Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy at American Jewish University.

Marilyn Hall, actress, writer, producer, philanthropist and wife of Monty Hall, dies at 90

Marilyn Hall. Photo courtesy of the Hall family.

Marilyn Hall, an actress, writer, producer, philanthropist and wife of producer and game show host Monty Hall, died June 5 at age 90.

Hall was born Marilyn Plottel on May 17, 1927, in Winnipeg, Canada. She began her career as a writer and radio ingénue for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., writing radio dramas, as well. Hall also taught writing focused on children’s programming at Queen’s University at Kingston in Ontario.

After moving to New York with her husband, she became a published songwriter. Her song “Is It Possible That I’ve Been Gone So Long,” co-written with Helen Bilby, was recorded by famed cabaret singer Hildegarde.

Hall supported Brandeis University, the United Jewish Welfare Fund and Tel Aviv University, for which she made several documentary films. In 1972, she won an award for best documentary campaign film for “A Fragile Sleep.” Hall volunteered to write for several charities and developed programs for the Julia Ann Singer Child Care Center, Guardians of Courage, Israel Bonds, Tel Aviv University, the Jewish Home for the Aging, and particularly for Variety Clubs International, where she served as a board member while also writing and producing its International Humanitarian Award event.

Her television writing credits included “Love, American Style” and the ABC special “Lights, Camera, Monty.”

She was the executive producer of the four-part miniseries for PBS/NHK titled “The Ginger Tree”(1989), written by Christopher Hampton; associate producer of the Emmy-winning TV movie “A Woman Called Golda,” starring Ingrid Bergman and Leonard Nimoy (1982); co-executive producer of “Do You Remember Love?” an Emmy-winning TV movie starring Joanne Woodward and Richard Kiley; and associate producer of “Nadia,” a TV movie about Olympic gymnastics champion Nadia Comaneci (1984). She executive produced the 2007 feature film “The Little Traitor,” starring Alfred Molina, based on the novel “Panther in the Basement” by Amos Oz.

Hall co-wrote “The Celebrity Kosher Cookbook,” and her book reviews appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and a master’s of fine arts from UCLA, at age 50.

She is survived by her husband of 70 years, Monty; children Joanna Gleason (Chris Sarandon), Richard Hall and Sharon Hall (Todd Ellis Kessler); five grandchildren; and sister Peggy Cooper.

In lieu of flowers, donations in her honor can be made to the Los Angeles Jewish Home (lajh.org) or Variety Clubs International, a children’s charity.

 

 

 

Curt Lowens, Holocaust survivor, actor, 91

Photo from Pexels

Curt Lowens. Photo by David Miller

In the final days of his life, Curt Lowens, Sharon Farber and I sang a song that Curt recalled often during his hospital stay. His voice became a soft melodic whisper, sharing a fragment of a song that held the three of us close to heart. From the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel,” he sang gently :

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark….walk on, walk on….”

Now, more than a week since Curt’s passing on May 8 at age 91, these words remind me of the strength and courage with which he lived his life and faced its ending. 

Born in what is now Olsztyn, Poland, in 1925 as Kurt Loewenstein, he was an actor, Holocaust survivor, hero, resistance man on the ground when only a boy, British officer, son, husband, brother, uncle, friend, artist, and man of culture and the arts. 

I met Curt in late 2011 at the start of  The Righteous Conversations Project, which connects teens and young adults to Holocaust survivors through oral histories that inspire collaborative art projects, photography and filmmaking. Marie Kaufman, then-president of the Child Survivors of the Holocaust, made the shidduch, saying he was a special person with an adventurous spirit who would contribute to our nascent venture. It was our hope to build community between the rising generation of young women and men and our elders who had survived the Shoah and had so much to teach.

Curt was open from the start and participated in our filmmaking programs with a zest that grew from his lifetime in film, television and theater. He was beloved by his teachers and students, and he brought a wry wit, grace and elegance to every interaction.

He eschewed modern technology in favor of conversation and engagement, sharing his stories of a childhood in Germany interrupted by the Nazi reign, the serendipity that led him to hiding, his efforts with three resistance workers tending more than 100 children in hiding across the Netherlands, and his saving two American servicemen whose plane was shot down.

Curt was beloved in the community of organizations dedicated to preserving Holocaust memory and he contributed to all of them, with a special connection to the Rodgers Center at Chapman University, to which he entrusted  precious artifacts of his history. His voice and presence animated the work at the USC Shoah Foundation, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Remember Us, the Righteous Conversations Project and Yad Vashem. The history he shared stands as a testament to a life of sacrifice, risk, ingenuity and, above all, moral clarity.

But it was his life in the arts that captured his heart, the life he chose after he left business school, much to his father’s chagrin. As a student in New York City, Curt met his wife, actress Katherine Guilford, and they spent almost 50 years together until her death last December.

He made his acting debut in 1951, in a Broadway performance of “Stalag 17,” in which he played a Nazi guard. In the 1963 Broadway version of “The Deputy,” he played Dr. Josef Mengele. He has 125 movie and television acting credits, according to IMDb.

Curt was a graceful man who lived modestly and with dignity in an apartment that evoked the contours of a cultured European life. He is survived by his older brother Henry, as well as an extended family of nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and nephews.

A private funeral service will be held in early June in accordance with Curt’s wishes. A public memorial service is being planned under the direction of Sharon Farber. The family is requesting donations in his memory be sent to Remember Us, 1112 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, Calif., 90403. 


SAMARA HUTMAN is co-founder and director of The Righteous Conversations Project.

Trish Vradenburg, TV writer who put spotlight on Alzheimer’s, 70

Trish Vradenburg. Photo courtesy of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Trish Vradenburg. Photo courtesy of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Trish Vradenburg, a television writer and advocate to end Alzheimer’s disease, died on April 17. She was 70.

A spokesperson for the family declined to disclose the cause of death, but in a phone interview, her husband, George, chairman and founding board member of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, described his wife’s death as “sudden.”

Vradenburg and her husband co-founded UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which aims to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research and discover a cure by 2020 for the progressive disease, a type of dementia, after her mother, Bea Lerner, died of Alzheimer’s in 1992. Vradenburg wrote a semi-autobiographical play about her mother, “Surviving Grace,” about a sitcom writer and her mom battling Alzheimer’s together.

Vradenburg was born Patricia Ann Lerner on May 9, 1946, in Newark, N.J. She began her career as a speechwriter in the U.S. Senate after graduating from Boston University, where she studied political science, in 1986. She was a television writer for “Designing Women,” “Family Ties” and “Kate & Allie”; published the novel “Liberated Lady”; and wrote for the New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal and Woman’s Day.

Judaism was important to Vradenburg, though she was a secular Jew. “She identified deeply with being Jewish and [I] converted to Judaism because she felt so deeply about her religion,” George, a former AOL executive, said. “I found this great depth in this community and purposefulness in the community.”

The couple resided in Washington, D.C., at the time of her death. They lived in Los Angeles and moved to Washington after George was offered a job with AOL. The two were married for 48 years at the time of Vradenburg’s death.

“A piece of light in the universe has gone out,” George said. “There is a brightness that will be dimmed.”

Her survivors include her husband, George; daughter Alissa Vradenburg and son-in-law Michael Sheresky; son Tyler Vradenburg and daughter-in-law Jeannine Cacioppe Vradenburg; brother Rabbi Michael Lerner and sister-in-law Cat Zavis; and four grandchildren.

A private funeral service was held April 20 in Los Angeles at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary. Lerner and Temple Israel of Hollywood Rabbi John Rosove led the service. A public memorial service in Washington is scheduled for May 9.

Obituaries, March 10-March 23

Daniel Aflalo died March 10 at 73. Survived by wife Nivia; daughter Sabrina (Juan Morales); sisters Paulette Green, Alyse (Jay) Roen; brothers Sidney (Marcel), Gabriel (Chantal); sister-in-law Nelda (Sheldon) Arak. Mount Sinai

Doris Frackman died March 23 at 97. Survived by daughter Susan (Janis Eells); son Russell (Myrna Morganstern); 3 grandchildren; brother Irving Wasserberg. Pacific View

Patricia Haley died March 23 at 75. Survived by daughter Barbara Hibbits; 2 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Beverly June Rubin died March 18 at 87. Survived by husband Saul; sons Michael, Donn; 2 grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Ida Selko died March 20 at 106. Survived by 6 grandchildren; 6 great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Bernard Vallens died March 22 at 92. Survived by wife Shirley; daughters Nita, Terry (Dave) Norton, Melinda; son Michael; 3 grandchildren; 1 great-grandchild; sister Ida Mays; brother David (Harriet). Mount Sinai

Arline Zuckerman died March 15 at 76. Survived by brother Ira (Marion) Rosenberg. Mount Sinai 

Adam Krief, whose battle with cancer united community and attracted celebrities, dies at 32

Adam Krief with his wife, Lia Mantel Krief. Photo courtesy of Hope4Adam/Facebook.

Adam Krief, the cancer-stricken Jewish man from West Los Angeles whose search for a bone marrow transplant rallied the community and gained the notice of international celebrities, died on March 14. He was 32.

Donor drives to find a match for the father of three young children were held all over the United States and in France, Israel and Mexico. Several matches resulted and Krief underwent a bone marrow transplant in December. But in a tragic turn of events, his body rejected the transplant and his condition deteriorated quickly, according to Jeremy Braun, a family friend.

Braun, who went to college with Krief’s wife, Lia, said he grew much closer to Adam over the last year. He said that even in his dying days, Adam was focused on the impact his story could have on others.

“He said that Hashem gave him this to save other people’s lives,” Braun said. “That was consistent throughout. He never wanted people to be in the [national bone marrow] registry just of his sake. The drives organized for him have found matches for at least 13 others and has saved lives.”

Last summer, Krief began chemotherapy to treat a rare form of blood cancer called primary myelofibrosis. To save his life, he needed a bone marrow transplant but there wasn’t a single match in the national bone marrow registry’s 13-million person database.

A “Hope4Adam” Instagram account and Facebook page with more than 13,000 “likes” documenting his story got the word out. “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik and reality television star Kim Kardashian West were among those who helped publicize a search for a matching donor, encouraging people on their social media accounts to join the registry and become donors.

Braun, his wife Michal and other community members rallied behind the Krief family as well. Many relatives, friends and neighbors signed up to become bone marrow donors and created a “hot meal train,” signing up and taking shifts to deliver food to the Krief household. Late night prayer sessions were arranged at the Krief’s Fairfax-area synagogue, Baba Sale Congregation.

Bikur Cholim, a Jewish medical charity organization, provided platelet donors for Adam when his hospital ran low. Platelets are tiny cells in blood that form clots and stop bleeding, and they’re often critical to fighting cancer.

People dropped by the hospital to visit Adam to play guitar and sing Havdalah songs after Shabbat. Jews from around the globe captivated by Adam’s story flooded the Kriefs with pictures, prayers and videos with words of encouragement.

“It’s been really special and takes away from feelings of isolation and aloneness,” Adam’s wife Lia said for a December story in the Journal. She also called those who helped out in any way her family’s “vigilantes” and “knights in shining armor.”

Braun said he told Adam how much his courage has meant to the community when he visited the hospital on Sunday to say goodbye to his friend.

“I told him, on behalf of entire world, I want to say thank you for inspiring us and making us better people,” he said. “Thank you for making us do good for other people. Thank you for changing the world. I told him you have my commitment that this isn’t over. We’ll continue to do blood drives for people who need it.”

Braun said so far donor drives held on behalf of Adam — an avid basketball fan, skateboarder and snowboarder—have resulted in more than 60,000 new bone marrow donors to the national registry.

“He was this young, vibrant guy and his life was turned around and taken from him in one quick year,” he said.

Krief is survived by his wife, Lia, and their three children, Lev, Joel and Luca. Services were scheduled to be held March 15.

Harriet Rochlin, noted historian, 92

rochelinHarriet Rochlin, a noted writer and historian sometimes called the “Mother of Western Jewish History,” died Feb. 6 at her home in Westwood. She was 92.

The youngest of three children, she was born Nov. 4, 1924, and raised in the diverse East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. During the first 20 years of her life, she was immersed in its foods, languages and multicultural social character.

Without a scholarship or financial assistance from her parents, she left home at age 20 and put herself through college at UC Berkeley, earning a bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Studies. It was there she met Fred Rochlin, her future husband.

Between raising their four children, Harriet Rochlin began a career as a journalist and novelist. She spoke four languages: Spanish, Portuguese, English and Yiddish.

In the early 1960s, inspired by the emerging ethnic history movement, she delved into her past as a woman, Jew and Westerner. Her pursuit soon launched a quest for Jewish roots in the Spanish, Mexican and American West, and ultimately resulted in “Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West,” a landmark social history co-authored with Fred, first published in 1984, reprinted more than a dozen times and frequently used as source material, notably by David Milch in creating his HBO series “Deadwood.”

Rochlin next wrote the fictional “Desert Dwellers Trilogy”: “The Reformer’s Apprentice: A Novel of Old San Francisco,” “The First Lady of Dos Cacahuates” and “On Her Way Home.”

She also amassed two Western Jewish collections — one historical, the other photographic — both now housed at UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library.

She then instituted the first comprehensive guide to Western Jewish historical societies, museums and archives, The Rochlin Guide, which can be found online at rochlin-roots-west.com. She was 90 when she completed her final book, “A Mixed Chorus: Jewish Women in the American West, 1849 to 1924.”

Rochlin is survived by daughters Judith (Mitch Fink), Davida (Fred Marcus) and Margy Rochlin (Robert Abele); son Michael J. Rochlin; three grandchildren; and sister Charlotte Ginne.

She was predeceased by husband Fred in 2002. They were married for 55 years.

Donations in Harriet’s memory can be made to the Harriet Rochlin Memorial Education Scholarship at lightbringerproject.org. The annual scholarship will benefit a graduating senior from her alma mater, Roosevelt High School.

‘People’s Court’ star Judge Joseph Wapner, 97

Judge Joseph A. Wapner, former host of the television series "The People's Court" poses with Graumans Chinese theater in background before ceremonies unveiling his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Nov. 12, 2009. Photo by Fred Prouser/REUTERS.

Joseph Albert Wapner, star of “The People’s Court” and the man who many would judge to be television’s first reality star, died Feb. 26 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97.

His son David told The Associated Press that the retired Los Angeles judge died in his sleep after being hospitalized a week earlier with breathing problems and that he had been under hospice care at home.

Wapner was born in Los Angeles in 1919 into an Orthodox family, the son of immigrants from Eastern Europe; graduated from Hollywood High School (where he dated future movie star Lana Turner) in 1937; and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from USC in 1941.

During World War II, he served in the Army in the Pacific theater and was wounded by sniper fire in the Philippines. He later received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

In 1948, he earned a law degree from USC and during a break in his studies, met petite Mickey Nebenzahl, a Texas native, on a blind date. Abandoning his usual sober deliberations, Wapner became engaged and married Mickey within two months of their first meeting.

Professionally, he went on to private practice until being appointed by California Gov. Edmund G. Brown as an L.A. municipal court judge in 1959. In 1961, he was selected to preside over the Superior Court system. He served for 18 years and retired in 1979.

Among the Jewish causes closest to the hearts of Joe and Mickey Wapner was the Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI) in Simi Valley. The couple was among the institute’s founding members and made a large donation to renovate and expand its library.

In 1992, Wapner was elected as BBI’s president and in 2007 initiated its merger with the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University). His involvement with BBI could be found in his childhood roots, or, as he put it, “Since I was a little kid, Judaism has meant a great deal to me and I am very proud to be a Jew.”

Colleagues who knew Wapner as judge and fellow officers at BBI used almost identical words to describe the character of the man: judicious, steady, fair, penetrating, principled, humane. Also, when the occasion warranted it, tough, demanding, a mite testy in the face of bootless arguments and, at times, intimidating. These characteristics carried over into his tennis game, in which he was a ranked senior player.

One of his most famous cases took place during his final year on the bench, when he presided over the divorce trial of Jack Kent Cooke, former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and other sports franchises, and Cooke’s first wife, Jeannie Carnegie. The $49 million settlement set a world record.

Wapner didn’t settle into a leisurely retirement. In 1981, according to The New York Times, television producer Ralph Edwards (of “This Is Your Life” and “Truth or Consequences” fame) approached him to wield the gavel on a new show inspired by “Divorce Court” but involving real-life litigants and actual cases. This he did until 1993, handing down small claims rulings on 2,484 cases involving issues as varied as female oil wrestlers who didn’t follow the rules to siding with a defendant who refused to pay a reward offered for return of her dog when the missing pet’s remains were delivered.

“Everything on the show is real,” Wapner said in an interview with The Associated Press in 1986. “There’s no script, no rehearsal, no retakes. Everything from beginning to end is like a real courtroom, and I personally consider each case as a trial.”

He was memorialized in the 1988 film “Rain Man” by Dustin Hoffman’s character counting down the “minutes to Wapner” to ensure that Tom Cruise’s character would get him to a TV in time to watch the show. He wrote a popular memoir filled with anecdotes, titled “A View From the Bench,” that was published in 1987. And in 2009, Wapner even got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The true measure of his popularity was probably best captured in a 1989 poll by The Washington Post that found two-thirds of people surveyed could not name any of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, but 54 percent knew that Wapner was the man in charge on “The People’s Court.”

In addition to his son David, Wapner is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mickey; another son, Frederick, a judge on the L.A. Superior Court; two daughters-in-law; four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. A daughter, Sarah, died in 2005.