Obituary: Jake Joseph Farber

LA's "Tzedaka Hero" who rose from poverty to business success


His unstinting dedication to a wide range of Jewish and Israeli causes, earned Jake Joseph Farber –along with his wife Janet – the soubriquet “Tzedaka Heroes.” Born into a poor Orthodox family in Los Angeles, his father died when he was eight and his mother worked as a seamstress to support Jake and his baby sister. Later, as a successful businessman, Farber , who has died in Los Angeles aged 94, would recall: “I know what it means not to have anything  – I was hoping for the day that I would be able to help someone else.”

During the Second World War he was drafted into the US  Army a few days after graduating from Roosevelt High School. On discharge, he enrolled at the University of Southern California and gained a BA in Accounting.

He married Janet Alpert  in 1950 and started working in her father’s scrap metal business, Alpert & Alpert Iron and Metal. Together with his brother-in-law Raymond, Farber grew the company to become one of the premier metal and recycling businesses in the world.

As his wealth and position in the community grew, Farber dedicated himself to a large number of Jewish causes, always in partnership with his wife Janet.

The couple were active and generous supporters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Camp Ramah, American Jewish University, Adat Ari El Synagogue, Jewish Home for the Aging, Builders of Jewish Education, Toledo High School, AIPAC and the Pico-Union Project, among others.

The Farbers were ardent supporters of Israel and Israeli causes and travelled to the Jewish state more than 50 times.

In 1948, as the dream of a reborn Jewish state was nearing reality, the couple went door to door to raise funds for the emerging nation’s support.
“If I saw a mezuzah on the front door, we knocked on it,” Janet Farber recalled.

Among the Israeli projects which benefitted from the Farbers’ involvement was the Yemin Orde Youth Village for at-risk young people, and at its 2017 banquet the Farbers were lauded for their nearly  70 years of passion for Israel. 

“Their generosity, leadership and dedication have helped to build a strong and cohesive community in Los Angeles and a secure State of Israel for today and generations to come,” the scroll read.

The  couple were honoured at the 2013 gala of the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education, and highly praised for their deep ties to the Jewish community and Israel, strongly embodied in thier work.

The Farbers passed on their values to their three children and eight grandchildren who, with Janet, survive him. One grandson Max Farber observed, “My grandparents exemplify what it is to take an active role in one’s education –  to seek out education, rather than let it find me.”

Tom Tugend

Jake Joseph Farber: born December  19, 1924. Died March  29, 2019

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