Ameinu Mourns Passing of LA Activist Bea Chankin

Categories: Letters From Leadership, Zionism

Bea Chankin Weisberg z”l

Bea Chankin Weisberg, who passed away last week at the age of 90, was a pillar of the Los Angeles Jewish community, recognized for her leadership role in the Early Jewish Education field. She served as a teacher, a director, a consultant University instructor and mentor to countleBea Seated Picss teachers. As a result of this career of contributions to Jewish education, she received numerous awards from local and national Jewish organizations.

Bea was also a life-long Labor Zionist, growing up in Habonim in Chicago and sending her five children, Deborah, David, Miriam, Aaron and Benjie to Camp Gilboa once she had moved to Los Angeles. This evolved into a long term “love affair” between Bea and the camp, with generations of parents, counselors and campers remembering the relationship Bea played in their lives as registrar and in an unofficial capacity throughout the years.

Upon retirement, Bea volunteered to take on the role of Executive Director of the Labor Zionist Alliance and then Ameinu in Los Angeles. In this way, together with others, she ensured that there was an active progressive Zionist voice in the community.

Ethel Taft, a long time national and local Ameinu leader, read the eulogy below, from Kenneth Bob, national President of Ameinu, at Bea’s funeral.

Eulogy for Bea

I first met Bea when Nancy and I were sent by the Kibbutz movement as shlichim in 1982 to Los Angeles Habonim and Camp Gilboa. Bea was part welcoming committee, part institutional knowledge center and always all about the movement’s success. In the one year that I spent in LA, I learned a great deal from her and gained a deep sense of appreciation for Bea. Little did I know that this was the beginning of what would become a long relationship.

Fast forward to 2004, and the decision was made to transition from the Labor Zionist Alliance to Ameinu. While all parts of the movement on a national and local level supported the move, it was understandable that for some of the more veteran members, it was a difficult transition.  Bea, who was already been serving as the volunteer LA Executive Director, really got it. She immediately integrated national Ameinu messaging into her beloved Western Frontier newsletter and insisted that I attend the major events held by the local movement in order to strengthen the tie.  While she shared her opinion freely and didn’t hold back when she had constructive criticism, she was the same Bea that I had met over 20 years earlier; she was all about the movement’s success. I was thus pleased that I was invited in 2008 to speak at the annual Los Angeles Ameinu Awards Dinner when Bea herself was given the much deserved Hemshech Award.

I know that her loss will be felt most greatly here, where she was literally an institution in the LA Jewish community. Whenever I would hear mention of Bea nationally in the context of Jewish Early Childhood Education, I would always make sure people knew that “she is one of ours.” I was extremely proud of my personal and organizational relationship with Bea.

To the Los Angeles Ameinu and Habonim Dror family, I share my condolences with all of you. Knowing what Bea truly has meant to you in all of her roles, I hope that as you carry forward and confront challenges, you will be asking yourselves , “what would Bea do?”

And a few words to Bea’s family. Beginning with David, with whom I made Aliyah over 40 years ago, I have had the true pleasure to get to know the entire gang, some better than others. I thank you for sharing your mother with us, whose memory will most certainly serve as a blessing and inspiration for all who have known her.

 

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