The Eulogizer: Judge in Crown Heights murder case, mystery novel editor


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 Read previous columns here

Judge in Yankel Rosenbaum case

David Trager, a veteran federal judge perhaps best known for presiding over the racially charged case that saw two black men convicted in the 1991 killing of Yankel Rosenbaum in Crown Heights, died Jan. 5 at 73.

The convictions of Lemrick Nelson Jr. and Charles Price were overturned by a federal appeals court, which said that Trager had improperly manipulated the jury’s composition in trying to seat a racially and religiously balanced jury. In the end, Nelson was retried and again convicted; Price entered a guilty plea.

In another prominent and controversial case, Trager dismissed a suit for damages from a Syria-born Canadian suspected of being a terrorist. The man was held in solitary confinement and interrogated without legal counsel, and under the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” policy, he was sent to Syria without trial or charges, where he was imprisoned and tortured before being released. Trager’s ruling was upheld in that case.

Trager was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., graduated from Columbia University and received his law degree from Harvard University. He spent 30 years as a lawyer, state investigation commissioner, federal prosecutor, and law school professor and dean. In that time, Trager pursued organized crime and political corruption in New York. A Republican, he was named to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1993.

Editor of mysteries

Ruth Cavin, a longtime editor who worked on hundreds of mystery novels and became known as the "First Lady of Mysteries," died Jan. 9 at 92.

Cavin worked in her field until one year before her death.

"What would I do if I retire?" Cavin said in 2001. "I can write very fluently, but I don’t have much to say. I can’t afford to travel as much as I like and I don’t want to garden. I can’t garden. I kill plants."

Authors she worked with included Laurie R. King, Charles Todd, Steve Hamilton and Sue Grafton, who once called Cavin a "soul mother to mystery writers."

King said Cavin’s help with her novel "With Child" included "five suggestions that were precisely what the book needed. It’s precisely what you wanted an editor to do — not to go in and change your concept but to see where you’re going and help you get there."

Cavin, the daughter of Jewish immigrants to Pittsburgh, graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and worked in public relations before entering publishing at age 60. She wrote more than a dozen books.

Updates on previous items: Debbie Friedman, halachic death and Yosef Shiloach

Read the JTA’s coverage of Debbie Friedman’s funeral. Watch a video of the funeral, which was streamed live online and viewed by thousands. The Forward’s Sisterhood blog addresses issues of Friedman’s personal life.

The Los Angeles Times offers a thorough summary of the halachic death and organ transplant debate in Israel and among Orthodox rabbis issued in the wake of former Israeli soccer star Avi Cohen’s death.

Tablet delves into the legacy of Israeli actor Yosef Shiloach, asserting that his films, despite superficial stereotyping, helped Israel deal with its challenging ethnic divide.

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