Stanley Sheinbaum, who for nearly 70 years promoted and defended liberal causes in the United States and beyond, died of heart disease Sept. 12 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 96.
A Stanford University graduate with high honors in economics, Sheinbaum won a Fulbright fellowship to study international monetary affairs in Paris. He became an economics professor and then gave it up to focus on his pursuit for peace in the Middle East, which had him mingling with presidents, royalty and movie stars.
Sheinbaum was perhaps most known for leading a controversial delegation of American Jews in the late 1980s to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Stockholm. The aim was to convince him to publicly renounce terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
When a photo of Sheinbaum with his arm around Arafat appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, it set off a firestorm of protest within the Jewish community and in Israel. He was booed when he spoke at synagogues. But he continued his mission, meeting with Arafat several more times and trying to negotiate peace with Israel.
Sheinbaum served as acting Los Angeles police commissioner in the early 1990s, leading the successful fight to oust former police chief Daryl Gates over the police beating of Rodney King, the Jewish Journal reported. He also fought for divestment from South Africa as a University of California regent, and raised nearly $1 million for the successful defense of Pentagon Papers principal Daniel Ellsberg.
Sheinbaum was born in New York City, the son of a leather-goods manufacturer who went bankrupt during the Depression. As a boy, he tried to help the family by selling magazines, working as a delivery boy and clerking in a department store. He spent six years in the army during World War II, mainly making maps.
After his visit with Arafat and the ensuing photo, Jewish leaders and large segments of the Jewish community labeled him as a traitor; a dead pig was deposited on his driveway.
Questioned about the backlash, Sheinbaum was quoted in the L.A. Jewish Journal as saying, “These are my people and I’m not going to walk away.”
Sheinbaum and his wife, Betty, also were known for the salons held in their spacious Los Angeles home. The events were gathering places for aspiring presidents, Middle East royalty, Hollywood stars, civil rights leaders and politicians. — jta