Si Frumkin, Soviet Jewry activist

Si Frumkin, who founded the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews in 1968 and helped make it a mainstream American cause, died May 15 after battling cancer. He was 78.

At a packed funeral service May 18, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky eulogized his close friend and fellow activist as “a one-man rapid response force for Jews in trouble.”

Born Simas Frumkinas in Lithuania, Frumkin was 11 when he was sent to the Kovno ghetto and 14 when he was liberated from Dachau.

He arrived in New York in 1949 and after moving to Los Angeles became the owner of a successful downtown textile company. When news of the plight of Jews trapped in the Soviet Union trickled out in 1968, Frumkin turned to full-time advocacy for their cause. In the following decade he was instrumental in moving the issue from a fringe movement to a mainstream American cause.

Later, he took up the causes of Ethiopian Jewry, insurance payment for impoverished Holocaust survivors and the fight against neo-Nazis. — jta