Jewish Life Stories: Florida mourns a Jewish teen killed in a boating accident


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Ella Riley Adler, 15, an ambassador’s granddaughter and an accomplished dancer

The Miami Jewish community is in mourning for Ella Riley Adler, 15, who was killed in a hit-and-run boat crash off Key Biscayne, Florida, on Saturday, May 11.

Ella, a freshman at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, was the granddaughter of Michael Adler, the current U.S. ambassador to Belgium and former president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Among those paying a shiva call to her family was First Lady Jill Biden.

An accomplished dancer, Ella appeared frequently in the Miami City Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Hundreds attended her funeral service at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach.

“We must remember her as she would have wanted to be remembered, as a star, a force of nature, a glowing and gorgeous young woman who was loved, admired, cherished and adored by more people than anyone her age would normally be,” Rabbi Jonathan Berkun, the rabbi at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, said in a eulogy.

Judy Oppenheimer, 82, Jewish biographer of the writer Shirley Jackson

Judy Oppenheimer began her career at The Washington Post, her hometown newspaper. (Courtesy Baltimore Jewish Times)

Judy Oppenheimer, a former writer for the Baltimore Jewish Times who wrote an acclaimed biography of the writer Shirley Jackson, died May 1. She was 82.

Oppenheimer grew up in one of the few Jewish families in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., when it was still a redoubt of segregation and antisemitism.

As a journalist she wrote for The Washington Post, the Village Voice, Salon and the Forward. Her 1998 “Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson” was the first biography of the troubled author of “The Lottery”; the New York Times called it “lively but harrowing.”

“Judy was just a very vibrant, lively person who made our windowless little newsroom feel more alive,” Stephanie Shapiro, who met Oppenheimer 40 years ago while they were both writing for the Montgomery County Sentinel, told the Baltimore Jewish Times. “She embraced people. She was curious. She asked questions, and she was so confident.”

In 2012, Oppenheimer wrote about her diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease. “Some people prefer to keep medical information to themselves,” she wrote. “But when people ask how I’m doing, I tend to blurt out my diagnosis. I can’t stand the idea of someone treating this like a deeply unmentionable horror.”

Larry Bensky, 87, Brooklyn-born dean of progressive radio

Larry Bensky.

Larry Bensky was the national affairs correspondent for Pacifica Radio from 1987 to 1998. (Courtesy KPFA)

Born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1937, Larry Bensky said he was inspired to become a journalist and activist after reading news of the Holocaust in the clutch of newspapers that his father brought home every evening.

After graduating from Yale, he went on to a long career as a broadcaster at KPFA, the progressive station in California’s Bay Area, and as the national affairs correspondent for Pacifica Radio from 1987 to 1998, winning a George Polk Award for his coverage of the Iran-Contra affair.

Bensky also wrote for The Nation, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review and the East Bay Express.

As a political activist, he campaigned for nuclear disarmament and against the Vietnam War and capital punishment. In November he wrote critically both of Israel’s “cruelly disproportionate response to Hamas” and of protesters “who want Israel destroyed.”

Bensky died May 19 at the age of 87.

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