Nira Kozak Roston
Of the thousand or so people who attended the funeral of Nira Kozak Roston, most could not even remember where they met her. Nira seemed to be everywhere – a true matriarch of the Orange County Jewish community, a woman who was deeply connected to almost every Orange County Jewish communal organization and many non-Jewish ones as well.
Nira was a force of nature — a woman who was an active member of several Orange County synagogues spanning the denominational spectrum. She touched countless people, young and old, with her elegance, her warmth, generosity and passionate spirit.
Nira dressed elegantly – with a strand of opera length pearls, a stunning opal and a playful pin – even when she came over to help unpack boxes. She conveyed warmth that came from an open, curious heart. Friends said of her that she was a close friend and close friends said she was family; and nieces and nephews that she was a surrogate mother.
Her parents were Zionists who came separately from Poland to Palestine in the 1930s. Nira had an identical twin Rina, who would later live her life in Melbourne, Australia, and a sister, Varda, born when Nira was twelve, the same year the State of Israel was declared. She taught other children when the schools were closed. During her army service she served as a secretary to a Commander of an Army base and at night attended the Levinsky Teaching Seminary earning a teaching credential.
After her Army Service, she came to the US to attend Queens College and then transferred to UCLA, where she earned a degree in psychology and supported herself as a Hebrew teacher at Temple Adat Ariel, the University of Judaism and the Valley Jewish Community Center. She then met Max Roston, a young physician living in Orange County, and it was love at first sight. There were three children: Daniel, Elana and the late Michael, who passed in 1976 from a brain tumor. Max died in 1984.
Nira was a founder of Jewish Federation of Orange County, now Jewish Federation & Family Services. She was active in Women’s Division of Orange County (now Women’s Philanthropy), Heritage Pointe, the Community Scholar Program, Israel Bonds, the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Hadassah, Tarbut v’Torah, Jewish Family Service, UCI Jewish Studies, the Jewish Community Center and the American Jewish Committee. As one of the first woman board members of Beth Emet, she pushed to allow girls to have aliyot as Bnot Mitzvah. She was a member of Congregation B’nai Israel, Temple Beth Emet, Shir Ha-Ma’alot and Temple Bat Yahm and an annual contributor to University Synagogue.
In the larger community Nira was a member of the UCI Chancellor’s Club Leadership Council and the UCI Advisory Council for Jewish Studies. She established the Maxwell Roston Memorial Lectureship for the MD-PhD program at UCI Medical School and a writing competition of the Anaheim School District in honor of Michael Roston.
Nira is survived by her children Elana and Daniel and her sister Varda as well as her children in law and her grandchildren.
Muriel (Cookie) Stern
Muriel (Cookie) Stern passed away on October 31. She touched the lives of many people at Temple Beth Sholom — from her chavurah, to the Sisterhood, the Brotherhood, the worship committee, the social action committee, the preschool and religious school committees, generations of parents and children, the staff at TBS and her canasta group. She reached many generations of children and adults through her teaching and singing and the way she lived Jewishly.
Cookie was the first person most people met when they came to Temple Beth Sholom. She came in 1971 as a rebbetzin with her then husband, Rabbi Frank Stern, and she took that role very seriously and to heart. Cookie was woven into the fabric of the congregation. She knew everyone; their stories, their background, every detail about their lives. She loved everyone’s stories and loved being involved in every aspect of a person’s life.
Cookie was there for weddings, when a child entered the world, when boys and girls were called to Torah as Bar and Bat Mitzvah to give them the Kiddush cup from Sisterhood and her special blessing. She was there when someone passed, attending shiva minyanim, calling loved ones and being the stable, constant presence when life seemed to be turned on its head. She was the rock and strength, there to help anyone through life’s challenging times.
She not only taught the children but she especially taught the adults. She made it very clear that our children learn from their parents’ actions and that parents needed to lead by example. She was the force behind Temple Beth Sholom’s Mitzvah Day, she was the inspiration for many community service projects, she was a true SHAYNAH (Sisterhood Has All Your Needs at Heart) through Sisterhood, and she made it clear that if the congregation is to succeed, if it is to ensure that the Jewish people, the Jewish community and the congregation were going to be here for our children and their children, then it is imperative for each person to live our Jewish values, support the synagogue and teach ourselves and our children.
Cookie knew that people could never say, “oh, someone else will take care of it, or, I know it will be here when I need it.” She knew that life was precious and each moment was a gift, often being there to try to motivate others to live and live fully. Nobody told a story like Cookie, captivated a class like Cookie or made a kugel like Cookie. She had time and love for everybody, even when she suffered so much for so long with a lengthy illness.
Cookie is survived by her children, Debbie Zalmonowitz and David Stern; her grandchildren, Josh and Becca Zalmonowitz; her brother, Ken Bernstein (Joanie); her sister: Lenore (Richard); her nieces, Allison and Julie; her nephew, Brian; her Aunt Ceil; her cousin, Leonard Bernstein; and her former husband, Rabbi Frank Stern.
Sol Chase passed away on October 28. He was born in Lodz, Poland, to a very religious and wealthy family. When the war broke out, he insisted that the family should go to Russia. Three brothers found their way to Palestine. The older three brothers insisted that they should wait for the Moshiach to deliver them and did not survive.
Sol barely escaped from the Lodz ghetto in April 1940. Turned into the Germans and sent to the ghetto in Krakow, he was saved by a German soldier who liked his work ethic and put him on a train with a bag of food the day before everyone in the ghetto was sent to the death chambers.
Sol briefly joined the Partisans in the mountains, eventually going into hiding with two sisters. Within a Catholic community he met a young priest who later would become Pope John Paul II. Although righteous gentiles watched over Sol, he was taken captive and sent on a train to Buchenwald where he narrowly escaped death. He was liberated by American soldiers in April 1945.
Sol returned to Lodz and met Fay, who would eventually become his wife. In 1948, Truman authorized the entrance of 300,000 European refugees. Fay’s aunt lived in Santa Monica and was willing to sponsor the young couple. After a difficult journey, Sol and Fay began a new life in a new country and in a new home with jobs as a presser and a seamstress, eventually owning a liquor store. Within six months, Sol taught himself to read, write and speak English. He was finally home.
Sol and others are the last of a generation who we cannot allow to ever be forgotten. While there were those who sought to destroy Sol, his family and the Jewish people, from two – from Sol and Fay, there are 20 new souls and that number continues to grow.
Sol is survived by his wife, Fay Chase; his son, Irving (Nancy); his daughters, Felicia (Mike) Zeff, and Rosalind (David) Shapiro; his grandchildren Ryan and Brooke Chase, Catie Chase, Brandon and Becca Zeff, Rebecca Zeff and Howard Luck, Matt and Amy Shapiro, and Blair and Michael Murav; and his great grandchildren, Vivienne Shapiro and Max Benjamin Murav.
Scott Rowen, M.D., passed away on October 20. He attended UCLA, where he met his wife, Rana, whom he married in 1980. They came to UCI as he began his medical school training and their lives together in Orange County.
Sports was one of his great passions. From the time his grandmother took Scott to Sandy Koufax’s no hitter at Wrigley Field in Chicago, to going with his brother Mark to the baseball games when he was 10, Scott loved a great game of baseball. Scott followed his sons, Steven, Matthew and Kevin, in all of their sports, and they played every sport – except golf. He lived through them and all of their accomplishments. He loved to watch the games with each of them, talk stats, and celebrate, especially when the Angels won the World Series.
He dreamed of playing baseball professionally but decided to become a doctor. While he carefully studied all his medical books, Scott still found time to read his baseball books.
Scott’s family also included his medical family. He loved being a doctor and he was very good at it. He was so proud of the work he did, yet he was quiet and unassuming. He shared the joy and credit of what he did with his partners and knew that the greatest acknowledgement he could receive was knowing that he saved lives every day. Even when he was not able to go into the office, his partners would call him and ask him to review cases in hopes that he might find something they were missing.
Scott was a man who so many looked up to and so many admired. He had a generous spirit and wanted and loved to take care of people. He was brilliant and had an amazing sense of humor. He loved growing up in Orange County and especially his friends he made at Temple Beth Sholom. Scott always saw the best in everyone. Even when others gave up on someone, he always believed that there was so much good within each individual. Scott was a man of great integrity and a true moral compass.
He is survived by his parents, Marshall and Helen Rowen; his wife, Rana Rowen; his children: Steven, Matthew and Kevin; his brothers, Mark (Julie) and Eric (Elizabeth); his nephews Luke and Brian; his niece, Alaina; and his uncle, Albert.