The Eulogizer: Haifa police chief, ‘Oh Calcutta!’ producer and Brooke Shields photographer


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.

First woman to head a city police department in Israel
Israel is in mourning for Ahuva Tomer, 52, the path-breaking Haifa police chief who perished in the disastrous Carmel Mountains fire last weekend. 

At her funeral, Haifa Mayor Yahav said, "I can hardly imagine that the ball of energy you so aptly symbolized will no longer walk amongst us in the Haifa community. You were the quintessence and embodiment of the police."

Tomer was grievously burned while following the doomed bus of Israeli Prison Service cadets, in which more than 30 died, into the blaze on Dec. 2. She succumbed to her injuries on Dec. 5.

Tomer was born in the Soviet Union and came to Israel at the age of 2 on a plane that also carried then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. She became the first woman to head a city police department in Israel’s unified national police structure in 1998, and was named head of Haifa’s 500-person department in 2009.

At her funeral, Israeli President Shimon Peres described Tomer as “the best of the best” and “a symbol of courage.”

Israeli feminist Channa Pinchasi likened Tomer to other heroes of Chanukah and celebrated the "tenderness and responsibility" of her ride into the flames as another expression of her commitment to her duty.

Broadway and Hollywood producer who gained notoriety for ‘Oh! Calcutta!’
Hillard "Hilly" Elkins, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who went on to success on Broadway and Hollywood, and who championed civil rights and freedom of expression, died Dec. 1 at 81.

"Oh! Calcutta!," which featured graphic nudity and simulated sex acts in skits written by John Lennon, Samuel Beckett and others, received terrible reviews when it opened off-Broadway in 1969, but became a big hit that ran on Broadway for years and helped break down stage taboos, including a then-unthinkable top ticket price of $25.

Despite the notorious production, perhaps fueled by Elkins’ private life, which included a brief marriage to actress Claire Bloom, who left her husband, Rod Steiger, to marry Elkins, his work also included more serious productions. They included "A Doll’s House" and "Hedda Gabler," starring vehicles for Bloom, the film "Alice’s Restaurant," and the Clifford Odets musical "Golden Boy." Elkins changed the lead character of the play from an Italian to an African American (Sammy Davis Jr.), and later brought a reluctant Davis to Selma, Ala., for a civil rights protest at the behest of Harry Belafonte and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Elkins also produced 1970’s "The Rothschilds," the last by the team that wrote "Fiddler on the Roof" and which suffered by comparison to that blockbuster.

Philip Roth, another of Bloom’s husbands, described Elkins in a 1988 memoir as one of his "fellow Jewish mischief-makers of the sixties."

Photographer of nude, 10-year-old Brooke Shields
Photographer Garry Gross, whose pictures of a nude 10-year-old Brooke Shields for Playboy’s "Sugar and Spice" in 1975 have caused controversies for more than 30 years, died Nov. 30 at 73.

Gross studied with noted photographers Richard Avedon and Francesco Scavullo, and shot rock album cover and fashion images for decades. But his career was defined by the photos of Shields in a bathtub, which were set up by her mother, Teri. Click here to read a good summary of the legal fight surrounding the photos, which ended with Gross retaining his right to sell them.

The Guardian newspaper did an extensive piece about the photos when they again became controversial as versions were shown at London’s Tate Gallery.

Shields has carried a grudge against Gross for decades. In a particularly ungracious comment in 2010, she said that her "favorite part" of the story was that British artist Richard Prince, who used the pictures at the Tate, "made millions of dollars, and the guy that tried to screw me to begin with is a dog walker and has no money. That’s justice in a really weird way."

Gross, a Bronx, N.Y., native whose father was a furrier, went on to train and photograph dogs in his later years.

(Click here to read yesterday’s debut post from The Eulogizer.)

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