Over 1,000 civic leaders, friends and family members gathered at the historic Temple Israel of Hollywood to celebrate the life of Barbara Edelston Yaroslavsky, wife of former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Barbara Yaroslavsky, who passed away on December 26th, had contracted West Nile Virus and appeared to be recovering when she collapsed during a physical therapy session. Efforts to revive her failed, leaving her family shocked and heartbroken.
Rabbi John Rosove, a longtime friend of the Yaroslavsky’s and Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood, lead the funeral service. Rosove described Barbara’s tireless efforts with numerous organizations in service to the greater Los Angeles community, particularly focusing on children and families. He introduced seven speakers who lovingly eulogized Barbara, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, who attended along with First Lady Amy Elaine Wakeland and his parents, Gil and Sukey Garcetti.
Mayor Garcetti said he and his family were there to be with the Yaroslavsky family at their terrible time of shock and deep sorrow. He described Barbara as a “founding mother of the city” and said “the city feels incomplete with her laughter and her light and love that was so all encompassing.”
Garcetti also described Barbara as “tough, direct, resilient and stubborn, but also very kind,” noting that she genuinely loved people. He recalled how when Zev officiated at his marriage, in a very small ceremony in 2009, it was Barbara who thought to bring the champagne for the celebratory toast. He also joked about how she would relentlessly advocate for someone, getting into an email chain with a third of his staff…but he also spoke more seriously of how she ardently supported increasing the minimum wage in the city as an example of her passion for helping others. Several times the Mayor became emotional as he described the email correspondence between his wife and Barbara over the last few weeks.
“Our city has lost a guiding light,” said Garcetti, but he said that he knew that she is already at work in heaven, serving on a board that she’d soon chair. He urged everyone who knew her and loved her “to honor her life and get the work done like Barbara did.”
Barbara’s brother, daughter and son spoke movingly of their final weeks with her, and their appreciation to the staff at Cedars-Sinai for their loving care of their mother. They each singled out Dr. Shouri Lahiri, who helped awaken Barbara from the coma-like state caused by the disease, allowing them time to enjoy what would become her final weeks. Barbara’s daughter Mina described her mother’s life as “one big mitzvah,” the Hebrew word meaning good deed. She said her mother’s final weeks enabled her to fulfill the Jewish tradition of honoring her parents and taking care of the sick. She promised her children and her nephews that she would keep their grandmother’s memory alive for them. Barbara’s son David described how his mother was able to receive all the good wishes from family and friends and how his final memory of his mother cradling his young son mirrored his own first memory of his mother caring for him.
Zev Yaroslavsky concluded the service with his remembrance of the person with whom he’d spent the last 51 years of his life. He recalled that Rabbi Rosove asked the family about Barbara’s favorite pastime…and Zev replied that it was people.
“Barbara loved people; she loved taking care of people and she loved being with people,” said Zev. He said while he was known to a lot of people, Barbara knew more people. He said she seemed to have an unlimited capacity to bring people into her orbit. He said that it occurred to him that the more people she brought in her circle, the more her capacity expanded, making her the influential and powerful woman that she was…but he said she never used that power to seek any credit or title for herself.
“Barbara was the person who could take care of any problem, and she was also a matchmaker,” he said. “She was a woman of common sense. When she saw something that didn’t make sense, she did something about it. When she was on the California Medical Board, the first non-medical person to serve as chair, she created a program that fast-tracked licensing for immigrant physicians instead of requiring them to repeat medical school.”
Zev also told several charming anecdotes about his wife’s directness and her sense of humor. He said she was the “real deal; she was genuinely what you see is what you get, a quality that endeared her to everyone.”
In closing, Zev recalled the recent messages and condolence calls from civic leaders and friends. He listed all those who helped during the final six weeks, making sure Barbara was never alone in the hospital during her six week stay. He also thanked Dr. Shouri Lahiri for giving him the gift of more time with Barbara, who was seemed to be recovering when she inexplicably collapsed and subsequently died.
Barbara Yaroslavsky is survived by Zev, her husband husband of 47 years, daughter Mina and her husband Dan, and son David and his wife Kate, along with four grandchildren, her brother John Edelston and his wife Debbie and their two daughters, her sister-in-law Shimona Kushner and her husband Davy, and their three sons. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Barbara’s honor to the Saban Community Clinic.