Marin County park director dies at 82

Pierre Joske, who led efforts to create an open-space district in Marin County and created regional parks during his term as the county’s parks director, died May 8. He was 82.

When Joske became Marin County parks director in 1966, he promptly scrapped a plan that failed to provide for recreation along Highway 101. He also launched numerous parks, urged the purchase of 6,000 acres on Mount Tamalpais, expanded bicycle, riding and hiking trails, and helped preserve Bolinas Lagoon, a 1,000-acre tidal estuary that includes rare habitats.

Joske was born in Germany, the son of a Jewish lawyer, and fled to France with his family to avoid Nazi persecution. After World War II he was a refugee, and later worked as a gardener and fruit farm manager. Joske served in the French and U.S. armies and attended college in France, New York and California. In 1983 he started an eyeglass business.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, he lived in Novato for many years, then moved to Sonoma some 20 years ago.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Maryse, of Sonoma; two sons, Mark, of Davis, and Alain, of Rohnert Park; a daughter, Marianne, of Sonoma; five grandchildren and a great grandchild. — jta

Jewish philanthropist Jack Mandel dies

Jack Mandel, a leader in Jewish philanthropy in the United States and Israel, died May 12 in Cleveland. He was 99.

He and his brothers, Morton and Joseph, started Premier Automotive Supply in a small storefront in Cleveland and built the business into one of the largest distributors of auto parts and electronic components in the United States.

The Mandel brothers are known for their donations to support Jewish causes. Their Mandel Foundation is among the largest founded by Jews in the United States.

Active in many organizations, Mandel served on the national board of directors of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and on the board of the Negev Foundation. After visiting the Negev Desert, he became very knowledgeable about the Negev and brackish water farming, and he provided support for the Israelis’ agricultural efforts in that region.

In a 2010 interview, Morton Mandel said of his brother, “Jack is the wisest person I’ve ever met in my life. I define wisdom as intelligent people learning from their experience. I would go see him and say, ‘You know, we’ve got this problem over here,’ and he would say, ‘Well, why don’t you do such and such?’ And, I’m not kidding you, that would be the answer.” — jta

L.A. political activist dies at 100

Vivian Myerson, a political activist in Los Angeles and later a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission, died May 13. She was 100.

Myerson was active in circulating the Stockholm Appeal to ban nuclear weapons in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In the 1970s, she and her husband, Seymour, sued the Los Angeles Police Department for spying on and harrasing them. They received a landmark out-of-court settlement.

Myerson was born in Cleveland attended the University of Michigan. After moving to Los Angeles after World War II, she worked as a stenographer. Her husband was a Hollywood set designer who was blacklisted,  and they associated with other blacklisted professionals, including many Jews. — jta


Mass graves database to go online

Information gleaned from Father Patrick Desbois’ years-long search for mass Jewish graves in Eastern Europe will be made available on a database.

Desbois’ organization, Yahad–In Unum, has joined with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Jewish Committee to set up an online database of his findings since 2004 of mass graves in more than 600 towns and villages in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Poland.

The database, known as Traces, will be available by midsummer on Yahad–In Unum’s website ( or at the museum’s website (

Each village report will include summaries and extracts of videotaped testimony by eyewitnesses to the mass shootings of Jews, Roma and Soviet prisoners in the East by the Nazis and their allies.

The database joins a number of other Holocaust-era online information search sites that have been made available recently through the U.S. Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, the U.S. National Archives and other institutions.

Desbois focuses on the first phase of the Holocaust in which German troops murdered an estimated 1 million people in mass shootings; he says his work is only half done.

Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department envoy in charge of combating anti-Semitism, said she hopes to help Desbois continue his research by “twinning” American Jewish communities with possible gravesites. — jta