BURT SHAVITZ, (born Ingram Berg Shavitz of Great Neck, Long Island, NY), 80, passed away. Shavitz became famous three decades ago when his beeswax and other Burt’s Bees natural products became household staples. A reclusive beekeeper in Maine, Shavitz, in his yellow Datsun pick-up truck, picked-up a hitchhiker in 1984 near Lake Wassookeag. She became his romantic partner and business partner, and they created lip balm from his beeswax. 23 years later, their firm, Burt’s Bees, was sold to Clorox for a little more than $900 million. A decade prior to the sale, the firm had actually moved from Maine to North Carolina for better tax breaks. Shavitz received about $4 million from the sale (he had sold his interest in the firm years earlier after a splitup with his girlfriend/partner). Shavitz was not a Down East (Maine ) native. He was raised on Long Island and in Queens, NY. His father (Edward Shavitz) was a thespian and his mother (Nathalie Berg) was an artist. In recent years, Shavitz’s two of his golden retrievers were listed by name in the local Maine telephone directory, but Burt was not. In an 2014 interview, Shavitz said, “I’ve got 40 acres [in Maine]… and it’s good and sufficient and it takes good care of me. There’s no noise. There’s no children screaming. There’s no people getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and trying to start their car and raising hell. Everybody has their own idea of what a good place to be is, and this is mine.”
Comedian and actor JACK CARTER passed away last week at the age of 93. He kept working in stand-up to the very end. His act was old school: impressions, broads, songs, sexist jokes, Jewish mother jokes, sarcasm…. COMEDY. He wanted to sing opera. Comedy was easier. In recent years he found a niche among retirement communities. In 2000, he toured in the comedy showcase “Legends of the Catskills” with fellow comics Freddie Roman and Gabe Kaplan. On Broadway, in 1951, he replaced Phil Silvers during the 1951-52 Broadway run of the musical comedy “Top Banana;” and in 1956, he appeared with Sammy Davis Jr. in “Mr. Wonderful.” In the early days of television, Carter filled in for Milton Berle, appeared a lot on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and hosted the “Cavalcade of Stars” comedy-variety show.
Save a life, Save a world. Save 650 lives… and live to 106. SIR NICHOLAS WINTON passed away last week at the age of 106. he is credited with organizing the effort to save more than 650 Jewish children from the Holocaust, Known as “Britain’s Schindler,” Winton arranged a Kindertransport, trains to carry children from Nazi-occupied Prague to Britain. As a a 29-year-old stockbroker in London, Winton was in Prague in 1938. Groups were saving intellectuals, but not children. Inspired by the Kindertransport, a rescue operation then in place for children in Germany and Nazi-occupied Austria, Winton started an effort in Prague. It saved at least 669 boys and girls.
And for many decades… no one knew.. .and he never spoke of it. The were no charity dinners for him.
Winton (born Nicholas Wertheimer or Wertheim… the family was of Jewish heritage, but baptized him Anglican) was planning to ski when he received a call from his travel companion, Martin Blake, in 1938. Blake was off to save people in Prague. The trip was off. Blake asked Winton to help. Winton did not take his skis. His efforts placed children in Britain and Sweden. The US rejected his requests. The host families came from Jewish, Christian and other religious backgrounds. Decades after the war, Winton told the story of some resistance he encountered from British rabbis, who he felt did not realize the degree of danger facing the Jews of Europe. “One day, a couple of rabbis arrived at my home and said that they understood that some of the good Jewish children whom I was bringing over to this country were going to Christian homes,” he told the London Daily Telegraph. “And that must stop, they told me. And I said: ‘Well, it won’t stop. If you prefer a dead Jew in Prague to a live one who is being brought up in a Christian home, that is your problem, not mine.‘ “
BONNA DEVORA HABERMAN, one of the founders of the Women of the Wall movement, passed away in June. The movement advocated for female prayer at the Kotel, and the end to gender-based restrictions. An author and well loved professor at Harvard, Brandeis and Hebrew University, she moved from Canada to Israel in 1988, but returned to the US to teach until 2004. At Brandeis, Haberman founded and directed the Mistabra Institute for Jewish Textual Activism – addressing difficult texts and social problems using performance arts. She also co-directed, with the Palestinian actor-director Kader Herini, an Israeli-Palestinian community theater project in Jerusalem called YTheater.
JANE AARON, brought letters and numbers to the children of the world, through her art and films on “Sesame Street.” She passed away in Manhattan last month at 67. Her works mixed live action, sometimes with muppets, with animation. She created over 200 shorts just for “Sesame Street.” Many starred Elmo. The daughter of Florence Goldberg and Sam Aaron (the founder of Sherry-Lehmann, the New York wine merchant), Aaron graduated from the High School of Music and Art (famous for the movie and TV series, FAME) and attended Boston University.
JERRY WEINTRAUB, a Hollywood biz leader and “hurricane,” stopped talking and passed away at 77 in Santa Barbara. He was the author (written with Jewish tough guy author, Rich Cohen) of “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man.” Mr. Weintraub was known for organizing and appearing on annual telethons for Chabad. A son of Brooklyn and the Bronx, Weintraub, a top salesman and spinner of “facts or non-facts,” gave us such films as The Karate Kid; Nashville; Oh, God!; Ocean’s Eleven; HBO’s Behind the Candelabra about Liberace; and Diner. He also gave us several flops, but some carers are like waves. If I remember correctly from his memoir, he sold suits on the side while in the Air Force, and then made it to Los Angeles to work for the famed Lew Wasserman at MCA. From there he started his own management company; worked for Elvis and Sinatra, spun facts and stories, and became a force in Los Angeles.