September 3, 2008
Rhonda Lee Abrams, Community Advocate, Dies at 56|
Killed in an automobile accident on Interstate 5 in west Fresno County on Aug. 21, Abrams, 56, would not want to be remembered for the tragedy, her husband, Greg, 53, told the overflow crowd, but rather for the large and small joys she brought to people.
Family was the center of Abrams' life, including sons Zachary, 22, and Jeffrey, 18. So was the Jewish community. A Woodland Hills resident, Abrams had been an active member of Jewish Federation's Valley Alliance since 1985 and was slated to serve on the Women's Department Campaign Board for 2009. She was also a Lion of Judah member since 2002.
"She was a great presence and will be sorely missed," said Rhonda Seaton, Valley Alliance spokesperson.
Abrams' commitment to the Jewish community can be traced back to the late 1970s, when, as a young woman living in Buffalo, N.Y., an early first marriage began unraveling. Feeling isolated, and having little money, she reached out to Jewish Family Service for professional help.
"The Jewish community was there for her," her husband said. "It helped her regain her sense of self and sense of adventure."
That sense of adventure led to California, which she had once visited and which remained a childhood dream. Without telling her parents, she drove across the country on her own in 1980. When she reached Los Angeles, she headed straight for the beach where she picked up a handful of sand and shouted in celebration.
Rhonda and Greg met in September 1981, at a social hosted by Beverly Hills residents Janet and Max Salter, providing opportunities for young Jewish professionals to meet and marry. The couple, who wed on April 28, 1983, were their first successful match. The Salters subsequently became godparents of the Abrams' sons.
Rhonda Abrams grew up in Milton, Mass., and trained as a dental assistant. She later moved into marketing, working at Hospital Satellite Network in Los Angeles, but she always regretted not receiving a formal education. Believing that she would make an effective therapist, she participated in the Wagner Program at American Jewish University, a two-year course to train people to work as volunteers in social service capacities. She later studied hynotherapy at the Hypnosis Motivational Institute.
In addition to Valley Alliance, she was active at Temple Judea in Tarzana and Heschel Day School in Northridge.
"She touched the community," Rabbi Don Goor said. "I never saw Rhonda when she wasn't smiling."
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in Rhonda Abrams' memory be sent to the Howard Rubenstein Memorial Trust of the Julia Ann Singer Center, an outpatient service of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, or to the Alzheimer's Association, in honor of Rhonda's mother.
-- Jane Ulman, Contributing Editor
Rhonda Abrams died Aug. 21 at 56. She is survived by her husband, Gregory; sons, Zachary and Jeffrey; brother, Steve Karoul; aunt, Marilyn Mohr; and cousin, Jeffrey Mohr. Hillside
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