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The Eulogizer: Carole King’s mother, famous Israeli actor, Ethiopian aliyah pioneer

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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.

Mother of Carole King

Eugenia Gingold may have been best known as the mother of legendary songwriter and performer Carole King, but she also left her own legacy as a writer and performer in South Florida community theater. Gingold died Dec. 22 at 94.

King recalled that Gingold produced and directed school and neighborhood plays and musicals.

"She brought out the best in all the neighborhood actors, including me as a bratty little 8-year-old,” King told the Miami Herald. "She had a lovely voice. She exposed me to music from the time I was in the womb."

Gingold attended shows by King and James Taylor on their recent tour, and often was introduced to the large crowds. At one show, Gingold waved her arms triumphantly as her image flashed on the overhead monitors.

Gingold, who was born in Brooklyn, graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in English and drama and later worked as a speech therapist in New York City public schools.

Granddaughter Louise Goffin, also a singer and songwriter, told the Herald that her mother ran a theater in Greenwich Village that became the inspiration for Gingold’s play-with-music "Nine Years on O.O.B."

She moved to Florida in the 1970s and acted and directed in community theater, eventually becoming a regional critic. South Florida writer Lee Zimmerman described Gingold as "very sweet," adding that "it’s not uncommon for parents — even those of the rich and famous — to retire in South Florida."

Prominent Israeli actor

Yosef Shiloach, an Israeli actor who had major roles in classic Israeli comedies such as "Alex Holeh Ahava" ("Alex is Lovesick," see this video clip) and "Hagiga B’Snuker" ("Snooker"), died Jan. 2 at 69 following a long battle with cancer.

Shiloach’s place in Israeli cinema was cemented in 2009 when he received a lifetime achievement award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Shiloach was born in Kurdistan in 1941 and moved to Israel at the age of 9. He was among the first graduates of the Beit Zvi acting school. He appeared in his first film, "Mishpachat Simchon," in 1964. The school’s executive director said Shiloach became a symbol of Israeli culture.

Shiloach described his cancer battle in an extensive interview in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, but said he did not want pity.

Israeli filmmaker Menahem Golan said Shiloach was one of Israel’s biggest stars. Golan and his partner, Yoram Globus, featured Shiloach, usually as an Arab, in low-budget adventure films and thrillers they made in Israel with international casts in the 1990s, including, "Chain of Command," "American Cyborg: Steel Warrior,"
"The Mummy Lives" featuringTony Curtis, and Tobe Hooper’s "Night Terrors."

Shiloach also had small roles in Hollywood’s "Iron Eagle," "Rambo III" (as the charachter Khalid) and "Not Without My Daughter," which starred Sally Field.

Shiloach frequently portrayed comic characters, among them caricatures of a Mizrahi man with a heavy accent, which was ironic as he was an activist for Mizrahi Israelis and a noted leftist.

Ethiopian aliyah pioneer

Baruch Tagnene, one of the first Ethiopiam olim and later a key player in bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel, died Dec. 28 at 65.

Tagnene, who first visited Israel from Ethiopia in 1955,  was remembered as a hero and leader by Ethiopian Israelis, American Jews and government officials who worked with him over the years.

"Baruch had every right to feel the fullness of achievement in having such a significant role in saving and then improving so many lives," former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota said in an ad placed in the American Jewish World of Minneapolis. "There are few such stories of accomplishment."

Tagnene studied agriculture in Kfar Batya before returning to Ethiopia, where he put the agricultural skills he obtained in Israel to use by building a modern farm. He fled Ethiopia on foot in 1974 after a communist faction that had come to power accused him of being an Israeli agent.

Simcha Jacobovici, who made the 1983 film "Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews," said about Tagnene, "It is no exaggeration to state that he was the one individual most responsible for the fact that there are over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel today. Everyone who met him knows that Baruch was a sweet human being and a true Jewish hero."

David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that "History will remember Baruch Tagnene as someone who was key in the ingathering of an exiled people."

The Eulogizer gives a hat tip to Shmarya Rosenberg, who wrote that Tagnene "will live on in his daughter, Yaffa, whom he loved so much, and in the lives and journeys of the 100,000 Ethiopian Jews who now call Israel home, largely because of him."
 

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