Obituaries for August 18, 2016

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Fyvush Finkel, actor with roots in Yiddish theater, dies at 93

Fyvush Finkel, an Emmy Award-winning actor who began his career performing in the Yiddish theater, has died at 93.


Finkel, who played in the 1990s CBS drama series “Picket Fences” and Fox’s “Boston Public,” died Aug. 14, in his Manhattan home of heart failure, The New York Times reported.

Finkel, who spent most of his early career on the Lower East Side of New York City performing in the Yiddish theater, was popular in his niche stage community when he broke into the mainstream in 1964 with the national production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” playing Mordcha the innkeeper.

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In 1981 he took on the lead “Fiddler” role of Tevye the Milkman in a national touring production. Soon thereafter he landed a part in “Little Shop of Horrors” off-Broadway and won an Obie Award for his work in the New York Shakespeare Festival revival of “Cafe Crown.”

On the big screen, Finkel had a breakout performance in the 1990 Sidney Lumet pic “Q&A” as a corrupt attorney. He also appeared in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “For Love or Money” and “Nixon.”


In 2009 Finkel appeared in the opening scene of Academy Award best picture nominee “A Serious Man” playing a Treitle Groshkover, known as a dybbuk in Jewish lore, the wandering soul of a dead person that enters the body of a living person and controls his or her behavior.

Two years later he starred in Philip R. Garrett’s film “The Other Men in Black,” playing a grandfather who recounts stories of Hasidic life.

On television, Finkel played public defender Douglas Wambaugh in “Picket Fences,” for which he was twice Emmy nominated, winning in 1994. He soon became a favorite of “Fences” creator David Kelley, who also cast him in “Boston Public” as an eccentric high school teacher.

Two years after “Picket Fences” ended its run, Finkel was cast in a remake of the ABC series “Fantasy Island,” but the show was canceled after 13 episodes, according to Variety.

—JTA News and Features

Fred ‘the Furrier’ Schwartz, driver of Auschwitz shul restoration, dies at 83

Fred Schwartz, a New York-area philanthropist and businessman who marketed affordable mink, sable and fox under the name “Fred the Furrier,” has died at 83.

Schwartz, of Great Neck, N.Y., died Aug. 7 after an illness.

Schwartz operated fur vaults at three Alexander’s department stores, earning praise and scorn for opening up a once-exclusive industry through discounted prices and heavy advertising on local television through the 1970s and ’80s.

“We established a concept that furs do not have to be sold in a forbidding environment,” Schwartz told The New York Times in 1981.

A significant supporter of Jewish institutions, Schwartz retired from the fur industry in 1989. In 1995 he founded the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation, which conceived and sponsored a $10 million project that restored the only surviving synagogue in Oswiecim, the town in southern Poland near the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp.

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Peace Policy, recalled that Schwartz, a longtime member of its board of directors and board of trustees, and his wife, Allyne, were “fixtures” at events run by the think tank.

“He projected a constant stream of bold ideas to keep the institute fresh, alert and ahead of the curve,” said Satloff.

—JTA News and Features

Marianne Minkoff Lerner

Marianne Minkoff Lerner (nee Sternberg) died in her sleep on Aug. 9. Her almost 87 years were filled with happiness from her nearly 50 years of marriage to Leon Minkoff and 12 years of marriage to Howard Lerner, both of whom preceded her in death. Born in New York, N.Y., and having raised her family in Chevy Chase, Md., she lived most of her past 20 years in Boca Raton, Fla.

She will be remembered as a fun-loving friend to many, a lover of music and an avid card player, a woman who lived life to the fullest with dignity, gratitude and style, and a generous supporter of Jewish charities. She leaves behind a legacy of generosity of spirit, of bringing family and friends together, and of deep responsibility for helping to make the world a better place.

She was the beloved daughter of Samuel Sternberg and Naomi Silberberg and sister of the late Lawrence (Harriet) Sternberg. She is survived by her daughter Gail (Paul) Chod and sons Robert Minkoff and Jay (Sara) Minkoff and her cherished grandchildren Daniel (Jessica) Minkoff, Bradley (Lauren) Chod, Rachel (Benjamin) Loving, Andrew (Jessica) Chod, Jeffrey (Lauren) Chod, Hannah Minkoff and Naomi Minkoff and the proud great-grandmother of Leah, Noah, Zoe and Yossi Minkoff, Rebecca and Nathan Loving and Karina and Adam Chod. Interment at Garden of Remembrance Memorial Park in Clarksburg, Md. Contributions may be made to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Arrangements by Torchinsky Hebrew Funeral Home

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