The Eulogizer: TV actor, French classics scholar, Yale student
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The Eulogizer: TV actor, French classics scholar, Yale student

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories, and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

TV actor, comedian

Actor Steve Landesberg, probably best known for his role as Det. Sgt. Arthur P. Dietrich on the 1970s sitcom "Barney Miller," died Dec. 20.

The New York Times reported Landesberg as being 65, but the Los Angeles Times obituary said he was 74 and cited a comment Landesberg once made about his age: "It hurts you with casting directors … If you tell them your age — let’s say you’re middle-aged — and they’ve never heard of you, they figure you’re no good, or else they would’ve heard of you already."

Landesberg began his career in New York comedy clubs and appeared on “The Tonight Show” for the first time in 1971.

"Before that I worked in a lot of hotels as an assistant credit manager," he told the Detroit Free Press in 1997. "That’s part clerk, cop and manager. To check out scam artists and bad credit cards, that was my early police training to train for playing a fictional cop."

Along with his recurring character on “Barney Miller,” Landesberg, who often portrayed Jewish characters, appeared in “The Golden Girls,” as Dr. Rosenbaum in the film “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and as Dr. Myron Finkelstein, a Freudian therapist, in “Head Case.”

On "Miller," Landesberg’s character was "an intellectual detective with a quiet manner who seemed to have an unrivaled knowledge of practically any topic that arose, much to the bemusement of his fellow detectives."

French classics scholar

Jacqueline de Romilly, a French classics scholar who had to go into hiding during World War II because of harassment from France’s pro-Nazi Vichy regime, but later became one of the first women to join the prestigious Academie Francaise, died Dec. 18 at 97.

Romilly was born Jacqueline David in Chartres, southwest of Paris, in 1913. Her father, Maxime David, was killed during World War I, but she was forced to stop teaching during World War II because he was Jewish.

Her works on ancient Greek literature, tragedy and thought were so highly regarded that Greek Prime Minister Papandreou honored her passing.

"Her incessant contribution to Greek letters was recognized with her election at the Athens Academy, as well as with her naturalization as a Greek," he noted.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Romilly "a great humanist whose voice we will miss." When she joined the Academie Francaise in 1988, which protects the French language, she became only its second female member.

Yale student, martial arts instructor, 22

Daniel Siegel, a graduate of Baltimore Jewish day schools, a martial arts instructor and a junior at Yale, died Nov. 27 after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

At his funeral, and in media interviews, friends, family members and the physicians who treated him lauded Siegel’s honesty, character and intelligence.

The administrator of Siegel’s residential college at Yale, Jonathan Holloway, asked Yale students to remember the “profound bravery” Siegel demonstrated during his illness. Student Josh Esquivel called Siegel “the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known.”

Teachers at  Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, where Siegel attended high school, spoke of his compassion and humility.

“Your courage and unshakable strength has been an inspiration, and it is humbling to watch you face your challenges with such vitality and good grace,” Steve Friedman said.

Siegel left Yale after being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009. Dr. Charles Wiener of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and a family friend, said Siegel "reminded doctors why they wanted to be doctors."

Wiener said his biggest regret is that Siegel "would have touched many lives. This was a kid who was going to do something important. He was a mensch."

One friend, Alexander Greenberg, recalled that Siegel always reported his basketball practice free throw tallies accurately.

“Dan, I swear to God, your honesty in that little drill is something I think about all the time,” Greenberg said. “In so many instances in life can you easily lie and not think twice about it, but that’s not something you would ever do.”

His father, Dr. Everett Siegel, a psychiatrist and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said his son instructed students at Yale in Tien Shan Pai, a form of kung fu.

His mother, Janet Berg, said her son learned before his death of the impact he had made on others’ lives.

"People started sending him letters and e-mails," she said. "We have them from teachers and friends."

The Siegel family is starting a foundation called The Daniel Joseph Siegel Fund to provide financial support to “people and ideas that help keep Dan’s core values alive.”