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TV producer keeping it all in the family

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NEW YORK (JTA) – The man who can claim some credit for having Sammy Davis Jr. kiss Archie Bunker on television is going to leave most of his fortune to Jewish causes.

Michael “Mickey” Ross, a former producer of and writer for the iconic American sitcoms “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Three’s Company,” in recent months has given some $14 million to create Jewish studies programs at UCLA and the City College of New York.

Ross gave $4 million to endow a Yiddish chair at the University of California, Los Angeles, the university announced earlier this month.

In April, he donated $10 million to City College, from where he graduated in 1939, to establish the Michael and Irene Ross Center for Jewish Studies and to endow a Yiddish chair there.

And the 89-year-old Ross will leave most of the rest of his fortune to other Jewish- and Yiddish-related causes, according to a longtime friend and legal consultant who spoke with JTA but asked not to be identified.

Ross has no heirs and his wife, Irene, died several years ago.

His friend said Ross intends to “leave more than 90 percent of his assets to Jewish charities.” He said much of the remaining gifts could go to Yiddish projects.

Ross produced the classic 1972 episode of “All in the Family” in which the lovable racist Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, finds the briefcase of the African-American and Jewish entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., who plays himself.

Bunker is excited to have the celebrity in his home, but has trouble keeping his prejudices in check – a fact hammered home by the look on his face as he receives a parting fat one on the cheek from Davis.

Born Isidore Rovinsky, Ross grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home he has said was permeated by “the essence of Yiddishkeit,” according to a news release from City College announcing his gift.

Ross was never particularly religious, the friend said, but “he loves to speak Yiddish.”

According to the friend, Ross is unable to give interviews because of declining health; he has suffered several strokes in recent years. The friend said Ross is still lucid and making his own decisions.

 

 

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