Obituaries for June 1, 2016

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Brazilian Jewish politician Gerson Bergher dies at 91

RIO DE JANEIRO — Gerson Bergher, one of Brazil’s most prominent Jewish activists, has died at 91.


A former president of the Brazilian Zionist Organization, Bergher, who has served as a politician in Brazil for many years, died Monday in Rio. He reportedly began his political career based on advice from Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

Bergher was first elected as lawmaker in the assembly of the Brazilian state of Rio in 1960. In 1962, Bergher was among the five Jews to be elected to high office.

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He had a longtime and openly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel political career as a member of both the Rio state Assembly and City Council. In the 1990s and 2000s, as council president, he served as acting mayor a few times.

In 2014, he assumed his latest term in the assembly.


“Bergher was the dean of politicians of the Jewish-Brazilian community and a loyal activist of the Zionist movement in Brazil,” Osias Wurman, Israel honorary consul and former president of the Rio Jewish federation, told JTA. “He idealized the Holocaust memorial to be built soon.”

In 2009, Bergher inaugurated the Yitzhak Rabin bust at a Rio park in the presence of his Rabin’s widow, Leah.
Bergher was a vocal critic of Brazil’s decision to allow then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit the South American country in 2009, noting Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust.

“This man represents the hatred, discrimination, prejudice, racism, intolerance and terror, independently of religion, faith and social class,” Bergher said at the time.

In 1985, Bergher welcomed then-Brazilian President Jose Sarney at a Jewish book fair in Rio. At that time he presided over the Bialik Library, a cultural center dedicated to the preservation of the Yiddish language.

In parallel to his Jewish activism, Bergher led social work in several low-income areas of the cities.

—JTA News and Features

Shirley ‘Gigi’ Gitelson

Shirley “Gigi” Gitelson died May 27 at the age of 103.

She was the beloved wife of the late Leon Gitelson; devoted mother of Marvin and Stanley Gitelson and Caren Mayerson; adored grandmother to Suzin (Larry) Wright, Jeff (Laura) Mayerson, Sherri (Michael) Malone, Rickey (Randi) Gitelson, Deborah (Tommy) Krauth, Angela (Duncan) Dixson, Mark (Valerie) Gitelson, Michael (Gayle) Fishman, Tod (Michelle) Fishman and the late Michael Gitelson and 16 dear great-grandchildren. Also survived by loving nieces, nephews and many friends. Contributions may be made to Michael Robert Gitelson Cancer Research Fund c/o Childrens Hospital in Washington.

Arrangements by Torchinsky Hebrew Funeral Home.

Harry Moskowitz

Harry Moskowitz, a founding board member and past president of B’nai B’rith Homecrest House, died May 18 of heart failure. The Silver Spring resident was 100.

He is survived by two daughters, Roslyn Preston (and husband Mark) of Baltimore, and Deborah Moskowitz of Sedro Wooley, Wash. Donations may be made to Homecrest House, 14508 Homecrest Road, Silver Spring, MD 20906 or JSSA Hospice, 6123 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD 20852.

Arrangements by Sagel Bloomfield Danzansky Goldberg Funeral Care.  

Miriam Rebecca Shanker

Miriam Rebecca Shanker died on May 5. She was 91.

She was married for 66 years to Melvin Shanker. She was an adored wife, mother, grandmother and aunt. Her children, Bruce and Rhona, daughter-in-law Linda and granddaughter Erin were all devoted to her. She was adored as an aunt, cousin, friend and neighbor.

Born in Wilmington, Del., to Bessie Yampolsky Golodner and Joseph D.S. Goldberg, she lived in Washington, and Sun City, Ariz., and finally Tampa, Fla. She was loved by her three siblings, Sylvia Platt, and the late Leah and Seymour (Sony), their children and the rest of her extended Yampolsky family.

She was an extensive traveler, loved to play bridge, usher at the theater and keep up with family and friends. Her love of life was matched only by her passion for watching the news, HGTV and the Food Network. She will be missed for her honesty, humor, sharp wit and her uncontrollable desire to give directions. Donations may be made to local theaters in Tampa, Washington and Phoenix, Ariz., and to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Arrangements by Segal Funeral Home.

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