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Elissa Czuker, donor to Jewish and political causes, dies at 53

A mother of nine, she was a prominent figure in the Beverly Hills Orthodox community

Elissa Czuker, a prominent philanthropist in the Los Angeles area who supported many Jewish and political causes, died last Friday in Los Angeles. She was 53. 

Czuker, a mother of nine, was an active member of Beverly Hills Synagogue (Young Israel of North Beverly Hills) and a well-known figure in the local Orthodox community. Together with her husband, Edward, Czuker supported a variety of organizations including the American Society for Yad Vashem, ArtScroll, Israel Bonds, Chabad, Grass Roots Neighbors and Early Alert Canines.

“Elissa Czuker was a powerhouse in leading the community at a crucial turning point in the life of our synagogue,” Rabbi Pini Dunner, who leads Beverly Hills Synagogue, told eJewishPhilanthropy on Wednesday.

“Elissa’s enthusiasm for community affairs, and her generosity in every sphere of community life, will be remembered for generations. May Edward and their children find comfort in the wonderful memories of a very special woman, whose kindness and lively spirit continue to be felt even after her passing,” Dunner said. 

Czuker was also involved in GOP politics, serving as a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition and donating to Republican presidential campaigns, but in recent years shifted to support progressive causes and Democratic candidates, a family spokesperson said.

“Elissa devoted herself to her family, her community, and the charitable causes that were meaningful to her,” the RJC’s CEO, Matt Brooks, told eJP in a statement. “Together with Edward, she gave strength and vibrancy to many communal organizations. We will miss her voice and counsel on the RJC Board of Directors and our thoughts are with her husband Edward and their children: Sarah, Elana, Abraham, Mimi, Ephraim, Isaac, Rivka, Yossi, and Chavi, in this difficult time. May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Last year, Czuker contributed $25,000 to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign. Politico reported that she gave $50,000 to elect Donald Trump in the final days of his first presidential campaign. The Czukers initially supported the 2016 presidential campaign of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), serving as members of his “Jewish Leadership Coalition.”

More recently, Czuker’s donations shifted to “far more progressive causes,” a representative of the family said. “She felt that the Democratic Party was in line with her social values, particularly with reproductive rights. As the mother of five daughters (and four sons) Elissa and her elder children understood the impact to their lives.”

Czuker supported Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest campaign, as well as the campaigns of Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Calif. State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, L.A. Country Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, and other Democratic candidates.  

Czuker was also an advocate for Holocaust education. In 2016, the Czuker family chaired the American Society for Yad Vashem gala, honoring two survivors, and hascontinued to be involved with the organization. 

A spokesperson for ASYV told eJP, “Elissa played a critical role, together with her husband Edward, in the establishment of the Western Region Office of the American Society for Yad Vashem. Thanks to their collective foresight and leadership, ASYV was able to expand beyond the L.A. community and today is active in several western states. Elissa felt strongly about the importance of students having a better understanding of what transpired during the Shoah and how that could impact students to have a stronger and more positive sense of Jewish identity.” 

A number of ArtScroll sefarim, religious books, have been dedicated to the Czuker family in recognition of their significant contributions to the publisher, which prints Orthodox Jewish prayer books, religious texts, interpretations and commentaries. 

The Czukers were named co-chairs for Israel Bonds’ Western Region in 2020. They said in a joint statement at the time, “It is with a sense of duty to do our utmost [to] support investment in and support for the Jewish state, that we assume the campaign co-chairmanship of Bonds’ Western Region, and we couldn’t think of a more worthwhile organization to devote ourselves to. This is a calling for which we have both held a lifelong passion, and we look forward to continuing to apply our efforts to help enhance Bonds’ role in supporting the Jewish nation.”

In addition to Judaism and politics, Czuker was passionate about nature and animals. 

Together with Edward, she owned Laurel Springs Farms, an organic farm of fruits, vegetables and animals in the Santa Barbara mountains. 

Czuker was a client and board member of Early Alert Canines (EAC), a nonprofit that provides alert dogs for people with insulin-dependent diabetes. 

“She offered a logical, down-to-earth perspective during EAC board meetings and her point of view was greatly valued,” EAC wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “Leading by example, she demonstrated her belief in the importance of granting all individuals access to a life of dignity and well-being.” 

Czuker is survived by her husband, Edward, chief executive of real estate developer Legado Companies, and their children.

Ed. note: This article has been updated to include additional information about Czuker’s political support in recent years, specifically her shift to backing Democratic candidates and causes.