LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Shimon Erem, who fought for Israel in four wars and was recognized as the “patriarch” of the Israeli community in Los Angeles, has died.
Erem died May 27 in Los Angeles after a prolonged struggle with cancer. He was 90.
Born Shimon Kazarnofsky in Kaunus, Lithuania, he was 3 when his parents immigrated to Palestine.
Following his 1970 marriage to his second wife, Danielle, a Los Angeles resident, Erem moved to the United States and subsequently devoted most of his time and energy to developing Christian support for Israel in America and Europe. He founded the Israel Christian Nexus/Alliance for Jerusalem which honored him on his birthday last year.
During World War II, Erem joined the Jewish Brigade of the British army and was decorated four times for bravery under fire. Stationed in Italy at the end of the war, he took a leading role in underground operations, which included hunting down prominent Nazis and smuggling refugees and arms into Palestine.
With the outbreak of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked Erem to help organize the first officers’ school for the nation’s armed forces.
Erem also fought as a battalion commander at Latrun to open the road to Jerusalem and against Egyptian forces in the south. He was wounded on both fronts.
Subsequently, Erem led troops as brigade commander in the Sinai campaign of 1956 and as commander of Special Forces in the Six-Day War of 1967. He returned to Israel to serve in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Erem received numerous citations and decorations throughout his military career and retired from the Israeli army with the rank of brigadier general.
In Los Angeles, Erem worked as an independent property manager, according to his wife of 41 years, but spent the bulk of his time and energy as a volunteer advocate for Israel and the Jewish community.
Early on, he assumed leadership positions, on a local and national level, for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and served as head of the Center for Strategic Studies West.
Recognizing the vital role that the Christian community, particularly evangelicals, could play in mobilizing support for Israel, Erem came to focus his major effort in serving as the unofficial Israeli ambassador to the Christian world. He organized mass rallies of thousands of pro-Israel Christians, who signed pledges to oppose anti-Semitism, and huge receptions for visiting Israeli leaders.
He founded the Israel Christian Nexus in 2002, which in a mission statement,cited as a key goal to alert the democracies “to the worldwide threat posed by fundamentalist Islam to our shared Judeo-Christian values.”
A longtime friend, Haim Linder, recalled attending one meeting in which Erem stood up and declared, “Every morning when I get up, the first thing I ask myself is ‘What can I do to help Israel today?’ ”