The Eulogizer: Young transplant patient, Israeli soccer star, prominent economist

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.

Transplant patient at 27

Alexis Wronzberg, who received a costly bone marrow and stem cell transplant from her mother last November in Israel after raising $300,000 in a public effort that received widespread attention in Canada and on Facebook, died in late December.

Wronzberg, of Toronto, suffered a recurrence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in September and traveled to Israel for the Haploidentical stem cell transplant at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital.

Rabbi Philip Scheim of Toronto’s Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am, the family synagogue, called Wronzberg a courageous young woman “who had energy and life. She fought many battles and was filled with vitality until the last moment. The family was encouraged and strengthened by the outpouring of the community.”

Former Israeli soccer star

Avi Cohen, 54, one of Israel’s best-known soccer players ever and the first Israeli to play for a major British team, died Dec. 29, eight days after a motorcycle accident.

Israeli media described Cohen as a soccer "giant," "icon" and "legend."

Cohen, a Cairo native, began his career with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1975. He was named to Israel’s national team a year later, and in 1979 joined England’s Liverpool Football Club, one of the country’s top teams. The Liverpool club recognized Cohen with applause prior to a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the day of his death, and both teams wore black armbands.

In later years, after brief playing stints in Scotland and back in Israel, Cohen coached six teams and was chairman of the Israel Professional Footballers Association.

His son, Tamir Cohen, has maintained the family tradition and plays soccer for England’s Bolton Wanderers. A few days before Avi Cohen died, Bolton striker Johan Elmander dedicated a goal he scored to his teammate’s dad, holding up a T-shirt with a handwritten message wishing him well.

Economist and airline deregulator

Alfred E. Kahn, an economist and professor who was credited with spearheading the deregulation of the U.S. airline industry in the late 1970s when he was chairman of the now defunct Civial Aeronautics Board, died Dec. 27 at 93.

When Aviation Week and Space Technology gave him an award in 1997, the influential publication said Kahn’s "vision and actions resulted in a profound transformation of the U.S. airline industry and strongly influenced international air transportation."

Kahn’s disruptive deregulation efforts led to lower fares and the rise of budget airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest, but also bankruptcies and mergers among other carriers. An extensive PBS interview with Kahn allowed him to expound upon the reasons for and virtues of deregulation.

Kahn was a colorful presence in the often gray world of government and economics. As "inflation czar" for two years during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, he angered Carter by stating that there was a possibility of a deep depression if inflation continued to soar, so Kahn ceased using the word and infamously substituted "banana."

"We’re now in danger of having the worst banana in 45 years," he said.

His plain and often colorful speech even while he was in government and academia led to his appointment to the Usage Panel of The American Heritage Dictionary.

Kahn, a native of Paterson, N.J., earned his master’s degree from New York University at the age of 19 and a doctorate from Yale University. During World War II he worked at think tanks and government agencies, including the Commission on Palestine Surveys, which proposed "investing approximately $200 million in irrigation facilities and hydroelectric power development in the Jordan Valley" to improve agriculture and develop the region’s economy.

Kahn joined Cornell’s faculty in 1947 and was the Robert Julius Thorne professor emeritus of political economy Emeritus at the time of his death.

Notable deaths of 2010: The readers respond

The Eulogizer received a significant amount of mail from readers regarding the list of notable Jewish deaths of 2010. One took issue with including John F. Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen. Here’s what Sorensen himself once said in response to a question on the subject of his Jewishness from The New York Times: "Your Jewish mother would note that under Jewish law I am Jewish, but I consider myself Unitarian."

Another reader pointed out probably the biggest celebrity "miss" of the list, Academy Award nominee Jill Clayburgh, who died Nov. 5 at 66.

The JTA’s Ruth Ellen Gruber pointed out several individuals whose passing she covered, including Dutch novelist Harry Mulisch; Daniela Di Castro, the director of the Jewish Museum in Rome; and author Robert Katz.

Chicago Jewish News editor Joseph Aaron, whose prompting led to the 2010 list, said longtime NBC correspondent Edwin Newman, who died Aug. 13 at 91, should have been included, and then sent an additional e-mail with more than 20 other names.

One reader did not want The Eulogizer to ignore Jews in Israel killed in political or terror attacks. Israel’s Shin Bet said that 2010 saw the lowest number of terror attacks and terror victims in a decade, with nine civilians and soldiers killed.

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