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Maurice Weiss, Philanthropist Who Fought Hunger, Dies at 81

May 10, 1996
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Maurice Weiss, a hands-on philanthropist best known for his fight against hunger and his support for the Weizmann Institute of Science, has died. He was 81 years old.

Weiss, addressed by everyone as Mickey, started selling fruits from his father’s truck at age 12, and over 40 years built up a successful wholesale produce business, which earned him the title of “Mushroom King of California.”

His most lasting monument is the Charitable Distribution Facility, through which millions of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, previously wasted at wholesale food markets, are saved and distributed to the hungry and needy.

Started in 1987 in Los Angeles and nurtured and financed by Weiss and his wife Edna, the concept has spread to 30 American cities and to Australia. A total of 100 million pounds of produce is now distributed each year.

For his efforts, both Presidents Reagan and Bush received Weiss in the Oval Office and cited him for his “vision, initiative and leadership” to achieve a world without hunger.

In the late 1970s, he became involved with the Weiz-mann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. He was the founding chairman of the Institute’s Los Angeles support group. He served as national president of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute in the mid-1980s. He and his wife endowed a $500,000 Chair in Interferon Studies.

Dr. Haim Harari, president of the Institute, described Weiss as “an unforgettable source of strength – unfailingly enthusiastic, energetic, and warm-hearted. He was a visionary, who expressed his concern for the future of humankind and his love for Israel by unremitting support for scientific research.”

Weiss also held leadership positions in the Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles, Israel Bonds, National Conference of Christians and Jews, American Friends of Tel Aviv University, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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