Roy Millenson, buried his tefillin in Antarctica
Roy Millenson, of Rockville, died from cerebrovascular disease on April 9. He was 95.
He attended Wilson Teachers College in Washington. During World War II, he was trained in Arabic and North African studies by the Army at the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946, and was stationed in Cairo, Transjordan, Iraq and Bahrain. He visited Palestine three times. After the war, he finished his undergraduate degree at George Washington University in 1947. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1965 with the rank of captain.
Millenson served as a legislative assistant and press secretary for then-Rep. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) for several years. He also worked with the American Jewish Committee and National Civil Liberties Clearing House. He assisted with legislation that created the National Science Foundation and the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities.
During a 1974 Senate trip to the Antarctic to visit a National Science Foundation research site, Millenson performed a ritual burial of his tefillin that he received at his bar mitzvah at Adas Israel Congregation.
Millenson was member of Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County for nearly 50 years, and served on a variety of committees and boards.
Millenson was the son of Joseph Millenson and Helen Handen Millenson, who moved to Washington in 1915. He was predeceased by his wife, Charlotte Katz Millenson. He is survived by his children Janet Millenson (Herb Edelstein), Michael Millenson (Susan) and Elliott Millenson (Wendy Strongin); grandchildren David Edelstein, Daniel and Alissa Millenson and Carly Millenson.
Paul Stern, saved with other American Jewish soldiers
Stern graduated from the City College of New York. He went on to start a textile company in New York called Sterns & Sons, and was president of Wellington Textiles, also in New York.
During World War II, Stern was among 800 American soldiers captured by the Nazis on Jan. 27, 1945. Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds, who was posthumously honored by the Israeli Embassy in 2015, saved Stern and about 200 other American Jewish soldiers when he refused to comply with a Nazi commandant to order the Jewish soldiers to step forward.
“That one act of courage and bravery by [a] master sergeant saved my life, as well as all the Jewish prisoners at [the Nazi war camp] Ziegenhain,” Stern told Washington Jewish Week in 2015. By coincidence, Jan. 27, the day Edmonds saved Stern’s life, was also Stern’s birthday.
Stern was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service in World War II.
Stern was an officer at Temple Sholom in Westbury, N.Y., and an active member of Congregation Beth Emeth in Reston.
Stern was the son of Max and Jenny Stern of Bronx, N.Y. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Corinne Stern; son, Jeffrey (Jill) Stern of Washington; daughter, Joanne Stern (Tom) Fleeter of Reston; and grandchildren Allison and Emily Stern, and Daniel, Drew (Samantha) and Diana Fleeter.
Jesse Lurie, longtime Hadassah Magazine editor, dies at 103
Jesse Lurie, the longtime executive editor of Hadassah Magazine and a peace activist, has died at 103.
Lurie, an Israeli American, was the magazine’s founding executive editor in 1947 and held the post for 33 years. He professionalized a publication that had been run by volunteers since its launch in 1914.
Lurie also served as a correspondent for The Jerusalem Post covering the United States, according to a Post article about his passing published April 14. One of his six brothers, Ted, was among the founding journalists of The Palestine Post, which would become The Jerusalem Post and he would serve as editor-in-chief.
Lurie traveled extensively in the Jewish world, including Soviet Russia, writing about people he met, the political situations in those countries and how they affected the Jewish population. He was an ardent campaigner for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and was among those who supported the founding of Neve Shalom, the cooperative village cohabitated by Jews and Arabs.
As one who also supported and encouraged media diversity in Israel among Jews and Arabs, he created the Eliav-Sartawi Award for journalism in Israel through Common Ground, an organization with which he was closely associated in his efforts to encourage conflict resolution in the country.
As for Israel’s future, Lurie said in a 2014 interview while visiting the country that he was sure it would remain secure, but was not overly hopeful of great progress on the peace front.
“Israel has been living in a bubble for 20 years or more, and will continue to live in a bubble for some time,” he said. n
—JTA News and Features
Ted Cutler, Boston philanthropist, businessman, dies
Ted Cutler, a philanthropist, businessman and visionary arts patron whose charitable giving included Jewish causes, hospitals and feeding the hungry in Boston and Israel, has died.
Cutler died March 30 of complications from a lung disorder. He was 86.
Cutler, who served in the early 2000s as board chairman of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and also as a board member of AIPAC, is being remembered for his passion and devotion to the city where he rose from meager beginnings as the son of Jewish immigrants to become one of Boston’s most beloved and influential philanthropic leaders. Over the years he served on the board of a number of institutions, including Emerson College, his alma mater; Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, and the Boston Ballet.
Over 25 years, Cutler and his late wife, Joan, donated tens of millions of dollars to human services, education, the arts and health care. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told the Boston Globe, “It’s a shame his very gentlemanly and old-fashioned manner and kindness won’t be with us anymore.”
Cutler led a $35 million campaign for a new building for the Greater Boston Food Bank that opened in 2009.
“Ted clearly articulated the moral imperative of Jews to give back, to make sure that the Jewish community would be there for those in need,” according to Steve Grossman, former Massachusetts state treasurer and a longtime leader and philanthropist in Jewish institutions.
As a teen, Cutler, who played bass in a cowboy band, worked his way through Emerson College, graduating in 1951, and entered the world of business by booking bands. He branched out to the wider world of charter tours, entertainment, hospitality and conventions, where he earned his wealth. Among his business partners over the years was his childhood friend Sheldon Adelson; their joint ventures, with others, included the purchase of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
—JTA News and Features
Masha Leon, longtime Forward columnist, dies at 86
Masha Leon, the society columnist first for the Yiddish Forverts and then for the Daily Forward for nearly 30 years, has died.
Leon, a Holocaust survivor whose weekly column “On the Go” covered Jewish events and charity galas, died April 4. She was 86.
In February, she joined the staff of the Jewish news magazine Tablet after leaving the Forward at the end of 2016.
Leon, a native of Poland, and her mother were hidden by a Catholic woman in Warsaw during World War II. Her father, the journalist Matvey Bernstein, was arrested and imprisoned for his anti-communist sympathies.
Leon and her mother later escaped to Lithuania, where they were issued transit visas to Japan — among the 6,000 written by Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara. After World War II they immigrated to the United States.
In 2011, Poland honored Leon with the Knight’s Cross Order of Merit, an honor granted to Polish citizens who live abroad for great service to the country. Leon was honored for helping to further the understanding of Polish-Jewish lives, history and culture through her writing.
She is survived by three daughters.
—JTA News and Features
‘Babi Yar’ poet Yevtushenko dies
Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, best known for his poem commemorating the slaughter of Jews by the Nazis at the Ukrainian ravine known as Babi Yar, has died at 84.
Yevtushenko died April 1 in Tulsa, Okla., where he had been a faculty member at the University of Tulsa since the mid-1990s.
“Babi Yar,” written in 1961 about the September 1941 massacre near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev that killed some 34,000 Jews, exposed the anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union by authorities who refused to recognize the Jewish victims of the Nazis. The poem was set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich in his Symphony No. 13.
Yevtushenko told The Associated Press in 2007 that he wrote “Babi Yar” after visiting the site of the mass killings and not finding anything to memorialize the tragedy that occurred there. An official memorial to Soviet citizens shot at Babi Yar was erected in 1976, and in 1991 the Ukrainian government allowed the establishment of a separate memorial specifically identifying the Jewish victims.
The poem begins:
No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.
The poem was a sensation in the Soviet Union, where Yevtushenko’s readings drew the kind of frenzied audiences re served for rock stars in the West.
—JTA News and Features
NEW YORK — Don Rickles, the bullet-headed comedian and actor whose pioneering brand of insult comedy earned him the nickname “Mr. Warmth,” has died at 90.
Rickles died Thursday morning at his home in Los Angeles from kidney failure, according to his publicist. He would have turned 91 on May 8.
Bald and squat, Rickles would pace the stages of nightclubs and late night talk shows seeking out “victims” in the audience, riffing on their weight, ethnicity and dress, calling them “hockey puck,” but usually pulling back from the edge of causing any real offense by offering a wide smile and an intentionally unctuous declaration of universal fraternity. His targets included fellow comedian Jerry Lewis (“You annoy me”), Frank Sinatra (“Make yourself comfortable, Frank — hit somebody”) and an Asian man sitting in the front row of one of his shows (“There are 40 million Jews here in Los Angeles; how did you get such a good seat?” ).
But Rickles also was a serious actor who trained at the famed American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and he had supporting roles in a number of memorable films including “Kelly’s Heroes,” with Clint Eastwood; “Run Silent, Run Deep,” with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, and “Casino,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert DeNiro.
Younger audiences would recognize his voice as that of Mr. Potato Head in the Pixar film “Toy Story” and its sequels. He appeared in countless television shows.
An auxiliary member of the “Rat Pack,” a loose fraternity of entertainers led by Sinatra, Rickles kept on performing nearly to the end of his life and outlived most of the entertainers of his era.
Rickles was born and raised in Queens, New York. His father, Max, immigrated to the United States as a child from Kaunas, Lithuania. His mother, born in New York, also was the daughter of Jewish immigrants.
Rickles served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and after his service honed his act at small and often seedy nightclubs.
“I had a tough time – I had no other jobs – so I reached out to comedy,” he said in an interview with the Jewish Standard of New Jersey in 2013. Sinatra spotted Rickles at a Miami club, and the famed singer helped make him a headliner in Las Vegas. Rickles first appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1965, and would return as a guest at least 100 times.
In 2012, Jon Stewart presented Rickles with the “Johnny Carson Award For Comedic Excellence” at the Comedy Awards run by the Comedy Central cable network.
In his 2007 memoir, “Rickles’ Book,” he recalled a visit to his father’s grave on Long Island along with the cantor who would perform his wedding to Barbara Sklar.
“The cantor put on his white robe and prayer shawl,” Rickles recalled. “In the still of the morning, standing over my dear father’s grave, he sang the Hebrew prayer for the dead. He wailed; he sang with such tender feeling and heartfelt anguish that I felt the presence of God Almighty in every fiber of my being. Afterward, we recited the Kaddish, the Jewish mourners’ prayer, our words melting the morning fog to tears.
“Before we left, the cantor sang a prayer in Hebrew, inviting Dad to my wedding. Then he finished by saying, ‘May your soul be with us forever.’”
Barbara Rickles survives her husband, as does their daughter, Mindy. Their son, Larry, an Emmy Award-winning producer, died at 41 in 2011 of respiratory failure.
Rickles often tried to distinguish between the “character” he played on stage and his real-life persona.
“I don’t care if the average guy on the street really knows what I’m like, as long as he knows I’m not really a mean, vicious guy,” he said. “My friends and family know what I’m really like. That’s what’s important.”
–JTA News and Features
Rabbi Amnon Haramati, Jewish scholar and teacher, dies at 86
Rabbi Amnon Haramati died on March 30. He was 86.
Haramati was born in Jerusalem in 1930, son of Shmuel and Sarah (nee Mirkin) Haramati. As a teenager, he was recognized as an exceptional student and began a teaching career before his 16th birthday.
During the War for Israel’s Independence in 1948, he was severely injured and declared dead, before being saved by an observant nurse. Following his recuperation, he began teaching in the Israeli educational system, while continuing his academic studies in pedagogy and Jewish education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Haramati and his wife, Dinah, were recruited by Joel Braverman to teach at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., and relocated there in 1956. Over the next 45 years, Haramati led the Bible department and taught thousands of students, while also leading classes in the wider community.
Haramati spent many summers as a leader in Camp Massad, a pioneering Jewish camp immersed in Hebrew language, Jewish tradition and Zionism.
In 1994, he received the prestigious Covenant Award in Jewish Education, during which time he expressed his life’s mission: “I strongly believe that my calling is to guide our young people in their formative years… As our sages said: ‘One who teaches Torah to another person’s child, it is as if that person gave birth to that child.’ With these strong motivational words in mind, I have dedicated myself to my chosen profession: the education of Jewish youth.”
In 2001, he and his wife retired from full-time teaching and relocated to Silver Spring, where they resumed teaching evening classes to the community.
He was buried in Jerusalem. In addition to his wife of 64 years, he is survived by three sons, Aviad (Claire) Haramati of Silver Spring, Nogah (Linda) Haramati of New Rochelle, N.Y., and Raz (Debra) Haramati of Englewood, N.J.; 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. n
Max Klein died in his home on March 2 at the age of 92.
His childhood years were spent in New Bedford, Mass., surrounded by many relatives with whom he kept in touch until his final day.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts and serving in the Navy, Klein went on to Columbia University to study for his master’s degree. Before completing his master’s, he moved to Washington and began working as a physicist for the government. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland.
In 1954, Klein married Ruhama Dmiel, who was born in Israel and was working for the Israeli Embassy.
In 1963, with their two young children, and with Klein hardly speaking any Hebrew, they moved to Rehovot, Israel. Klein began working for the Weizmann Institute.
They returned to the Washington area in 1965 and eventually settled in the Kemp Mill area of Silver Spring.
Most of Klein’s career as a physicist was spent at the National Bureau of Standards (later NIST) in the area of thermodynamics. After his retirement from the government, he went to work at the Gas Research Institute in Chicago.
In 1976, Ruhama died at the age of 45. After Klein’s daughter graduated from high school, he moved to Chicago where he spent the next 10 years. During that period, in 1985, he married Suzette Alden Pollak, also widowed, who had two children.
The couple moved to Washington and became active members of Kesher Israel Congregation. After Suzette died in 2015, Klein moved to Ring House but spent Shabbatot with his son and daughter in Potomac.
Klein was a board member of the Berman Hebrew Academy; Kesher Israel Congregation, where one of his tasks was to run the Hospitality Committee; and the National Capital Mikvah. He was also an active member of many professional societies and a volunteer for many chesed organizations.
Klein is survived by his three children, Nehemiah (Rina), David (Michele), and Sara (Paul); Suzette’s children Molly (Phil) and Danny (Esther Goldie); 20 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Other survivors include his sister Beverly Zuller, and many nieces and nephews.
Donations can be made to Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, Berman Hebrew Academy or Kesher Israel Congregation. n
Woman who earned doctorate 80 years after Nazis’ denial, dies at 104
Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport, a German neonatologist who passed her doctoral defense exam nearly eight decades after she was denied the opportunity by the Nazis, has died at 104.
She reportedly died March 23 in Berlin. A funeral will be held in the German capital in May, her son told The Associated Press.
Syllm-Rapoport, a former professor of pediatrics and head of the neonatology department at Berlin’s prominent Charite
Hospital who retired in 1973, passed the exam on May 13, 2015, at the University of Hamburg.
She completed her thesis on diphtheria in 1938, but was refused entrance to the oral exam by the Nazi authorities because her mother was Jewish.
Syllm-Rapoport immigrated to the United States in 1938 and was required to study for two additional years to be certified as a doctor, although she had graduated from a German medical school. She married in 1946, and the couple returned to Germany in 1952 after her husband was persecuted by anti-communist efforts during the McCarthy era.
She is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
—JTA News and Features
Chuck Barris, creator and host of ‘The Gong Show,’ dies
Chuck Barris, best known as creator of “The Gong Show,” “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game,” — TV hit game shows that put the spotlight on contestants — died March 21 at his home in Palisades, N.Y., according to The New York Times. He was 87.
In the 1960s, he came up with “The Dating Game,” in which bachelor and bachelorette contestants expressed their romantic desires, and “The Newlywed Game,” which highlighted contestants’ honeymoon happiness and adjustments. In the 1970s, he was the creator and host of “The Gong Show,” which gave contestants who were generally short on talent their moment in the spotlight until one of the celebrity judges couldn’t take it anymore and hit the gong to terminate the performance. Previously, he wrote the pop song “Palisades Park,” a rock ’n’ roll hit for Freddy Cannon in 1962, according to the Times.
Writing for The Forward, Ben Ivry said that Barris “proved that one Jewish man’s inner conflicts could entertain America in a series of game shows,” and also said: “A sense of humor fixed at the level of an overstressed bar mitzvah boy in desperate need of Ritalin was a trademark of Barris’ successful career.”
He noted that Barris was considered everything from a king of trashy shows to someone who helped struggling artists to a man whose funny shows celebrated the variety of human beings. He quoted critic Tom Shales’ 1977 comments on “The Gong Show,” in which Shales said: “People make fools of themselves, but not for Amana freezers. They do it for the incomparable thrill of fleeting fame.” Shales also called the show “human comedy” and said it was “life itself.”
Barris was born in 1929 in Philadelphia to Nathaniel Barris, a dentist, and the former Edith Cohen, and graduated from Drexel University in 1953, the Times said.
He started in a management training program at NBC in 1955, but the department he was in was eliminated. In 1959 he was ABC’s chief of West Coast daytime programming, though he yearned to make his own shows, the Times said. “The Dating Game” — in which a contestant quizzed three unseen others of the opposite sex and then chose one for a date — was the first hit.
He tried his hand in the movies with “The Gong Show Movie” in 1980. He directed it and wrote it with Robert Downey Sr.; it flopped, according to the Times.
He had also turned to writing. In his alleged 1984 autobiography “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” he asserted that he’d been a CIA assassin while working in TV in the 1960s. A film version was produced, and both drew the question of whether that was true. The CIA said no, the Times wrote.
He continued writing, including the 2010 book “Della: A Memoir of My Daughter,” about his only child, who died of a drug overdose in 1998, at 36, according to the Times.
Two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former Mary Clagett, the Times said.
The Times noted that during a 2007 appearance at the Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera, Calif., he spoke about how he probably would remembered:
“I would love to be known as an author, but I don’t think it’s written that that’s the way it’s going to be. I think on my tombstone it’s just going to say, ‘Gonged at last,’ and I’m stuck with that.” n