Santa Cruz Renewal co-founder is murdered

The Santa Cruz Jewish Renewal community went into shock this week following the murder of one of its co-founders, attorney Jay BloomBecker.

BloomBecker, 61, was found shot to death in his office Wednesday, June 14 by his girlfriend, Lisa Gonzales.

BloomBecker, who often went by “Zalmo” in Jewish circles, was one of several co-founders of the Jewish Renewal community in Santa Cruz that later became known as Chadeish Yameinu. He also was a former member of Temple Beth El in Aptos.

A former client, Angus Macintyre, who also went by Jeffrey Murphy, has been charged with the crime. According to news accounts, Gonzales said that BloomBecker had successfully represented Macintyre in a lawsuit, but when the settlement money ran out, he began coming to BloomBecker’s office, demanding more.

Macintyre reportedly confessed to an acquaintance, who then convinced him to turn himself in. He was charged with murder Friday, June 16, and appeared in court on Monday, June 19, but did not enter a plea.

BloomBecker was born Jay Becker in the Bronx, N.Y. He graduated from City College of New York and Harvard Law School. He met Linda Bloom in 1977 and they soon married, living in Los Angeles, where he worked as an assistant district attorney.

He became an expert in computer security and traveled around the world speaking on the topic, as well as on television.

The couple moved to Santa Cruz in 1989, right after the Loma Prieta earthquake. He began a specialization in employment law, specifically disability and workers’ compensation.

But he was also an artist, dancer, performance artist and member of several alternative communities in the Santa Cruz area, and attended the Burning Man Arts Festival numerous times.

Rabbi Shalom Bochner, executive director of Santa Cruz Hillel, said he was struck by BloomBecker’s “spiritual intensity.” The fact that he was bald with “big bushy eyebrows” made him “a real presence,” said Bochner.

“He was not someone you would miss, both in terms of his appearance and his personality. He had a certain energetic charge to him that made him quite remarkable … He was crazy but in the best way possible.”

While BloomBecker had written several books in his area of legal expertise, he had begun a book he called “Newish Re-Jewal, Judaism as a Creative Path.”

A friend of his posted a section of it on a listserv for Jewish attendees of Burning Man.

“Throughout my life I’ve wondered about why I didn’t become a rabbi,” BloomBecker wrote. “… I assumed that rabbis came only from families of rabbis, that they all went to Yeshiva, and that they were fluent in Hebrew and Yiddish from age six. It’s not that I didn’t feel a calling. I just didn’t feel it strongly enough to listen. But that’s the intriguing thing … there was something calling … something that moved me to pray fervently, to dance wildly, to ponder Biblical questions, to sing and smile at services and to cherish every moment ever spent reading Abraham Joshua Heschel.”

According to Etiel Herring, another co-founder of Chadeish Yameinu, BloomBecker “was a clown, a prankster, a dancer, and a brilliant mind.”

BloomBecker remained on the board of the Renewal community, and oversaw the Hebrew school for several years. He was involved with Jewish Renewal on the national level as well, serving as treasurer of Aleph, the organization of Renewal communities, from 2003 to 2005, and also as a board member.

BloomBecker had recently separated from his wife, though they had not filed for divorce. He had just moved in with Gonzales and their 9-month-old son, Joshua. In addition to them, he is survived by his two teenage daughters, Mia and Genna BloomBecker; sister Renee Brimfield of Dayton, Md.; and mother Dorothy Becker of New York City.

Contributions may be made to Chadeish Yameinu, P.O. Box 3578, Santa Cruz, CA 95063-3578.

A memorial service will be held 4 p.m. Sunday, June 25 at the Pacific Cultural Center, 1307 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. Bright colors and silly hats are encouraged.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."