Jewish Journal


May 2, 2012

Miriam Rochlin, 92


Miriam Rochlin, long active and prominent in L.A.’s Jewish cultural scene, died April 18 at the age of 92.

Rochlin was a passionate dancer, actress, teacher of dance and activist. Her extraordinary vibrancy was a mix of realism and optimism, determination and joy. Her heritage and legacy is a wealth of Jewish religious and cultural knowledge.

Born Feb. 26, 1920, Rochlin was raised amid the artistic, Orthodox Jewish, Zionist ferment of Berlin and dreamed of a performing career. Undeterred by Nazi restrictions, she became credentialed to teach dance and drama before fleeing to Amsterdam in 1937, then England. She arrived in San Francisco in 1941 and taught exercise until meeting her beloved husband, Sidney Rochlin (z’l).

Rochlin was president of a Los Angeles Hadassah chapter in 1945. In 1948, she studied with the internationally noted theater director and choreographer Benjamin Zemach at the former University of Judaism (now American Jewish University). Her 20 years as his valued assistant included dancing his choreography and acting in plays from classic Yiddish to modern Israeli. She played the title role in Goldfaden’s operetta “The Witch” for six weeks in Hollywood.

Always, she taught dance. At the Los Feliz JCC, for the Bureau of Jewish Education (now BJE), LAUSD Adult Schools, at HUC, exercise for seniors and, finally, for fellow Parkinson’s sufferers.

She produced the 30-minute 1967 film “The Art of Benjamin Zemach.” Shown on KCET in 1970, at New York’s 92nd Street Y and at the 2004 Yiddishkayt Los Angeles Festival, it won Kodak Film’s Shoestring Award in 1971 and is currently in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library. She is the deeply insightful teacher in the 2002 Yiddish dance documentary that she inspired and named, “Come Let Us Dance.” She was a treasure for dance scholars and for the Jewish collective memory. 

Rochlin is survived by her daughter Naomi Roosevelt; son Joel (Alice) Rochlin; 4 grandchildren; and 3 great-grandchildren.

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