Patriarch of Israeli community in L.A.

Shimon Erem, who fought for Israel in four wars and was recognized as the “patriarch” of the Israeli community in Los Angeles, died May 27 in Los Angeles after a prolonged struggle with cancer. He was 90.

Born Shimon Kazarnofsky in Kaunus, Lithuania, he was 3 when his parents immigrated to Palestine.

Following his 1970 marriage to his second wife, Danielle, an L.A. resident, Erem moved to the United States and devoted most of his time and energy to developing Christian support for Israel in the U.S. and Europe. He founded the Israel Christian Nexus/Alliance for Jerusalem, which honored him on his birthday last year.

During World War II, Erem joined the Jewish Brigade of the British army and was decorated four times for bravery under fire. Stationed in Italy at the end of the war, he took a leading role in underground operations, which included hunting down prominent Nazis and smuggling refugees and arms into Palestine.

With the outbreak of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked Erem to help organize the first officers’ school for the nation’s armed forces.

In Los Angeles, Erem spent the bulk of his time as a volunteer advocate for Israel and the Jewish community. Recognizing the vital role that the Christian community could play in mobilizing support for Israel, Erem came to focus his effort in serving as the unofficial Israeli ambassador to the Christian world. — jta