[UPDATED: Wednesday, 9:35 p.m.]
On Tuesday morning, Nov. 22, 88-year-old Berish Landau lost his life while crossing the same street in the same way he did every morning—on his way to pray and study at a Chasidic Yeshiva in Hancock Park. A car was coming too fast, didn’t see him and ran him over.
An active member of the Orthodox community, Berish was walking to Kollel Yechiel Yehuda when he was struck by a 1999 Plymouth Voyager. The car also hit a second pedestrian, Rabbi Shmuel Jacobs. Like Berish, Jacobs is an active member of the Hancock Park community, and he was trying to help the slow-moving Berish across the street when the car struck them both.
Landau’s funeral was held on Tuesday night at Kollel. Landau is being buried in New York, however, where his wife is buried.
Jacobs, a teacher at Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn Toras Emes, is in critical condition at Cedars Sinai, according to the Los Angeles Times. The driver was not arrested, according to a report by the Journal and JTA.
The accident took place at 6 a.m., at the intersection of La Brea Boulevard and Oakwood Avenue.
Rabbi Yochonon Henig of Kollel and Rabbi Yonah Landau, Berish’s son, delivered eulogies at Landau’s funeral.
Jacobs condition has improved somewhat from yesterday to today, according to a 17-year-old who studies at Kollel who asked to be called simply, Mordechai. One of Jacobs’ former students, Mordechai couldn’t offer specific details about Jacobs’ medical circumstances.
Landau was crossing in a pedestrian zone, using his walker and moving slowly, when Jacobs came over to help him cross the street. The light had turned from green to red while Landau was still in the street, and the car hit both men.
For months, Jacobs has helped Landau cross the street every morning. Jacobs prays at Bais Yehuda, a synagogue adjacent to Kollel, and he would always watch from the window of Bais Yehuda, waiting for Landau. Upon seeing Landau, Jacobs would leave in the middle of services with his phylacteries still on to help Landau cross the road, Mordechai said.
“He would always run down, in the middle of whatever he was [doing], one hand over the shoulder [of Berish] and the other hand he would direct traffic,” Mordechai said. “Because he was scared for him.”
Hatzolah of Los Angeles was among those called to the scene in the immediate aftermath of the car accident.
The media has reported that Landau was a Jewish activist, but that’s inaccurate. His son, Rabbi Yonah Landau’s Touch of Kindness, a social services agency, facilitates food distribution to the needy. Yonah Landau also “maintains a few apartments for people to stay in when they come through Los Angeles on missions to collect charity,” Journal reporter Julie Fax wrote. The younger Laundau was highlighted in the Jewish Journal’s 2010 Mensch issue.
Berish Landau was originally from Galicia, an Eastern European region divided by Poland and Ukraine. He was said to have lived in Sibera for some time, against his will, after the Russians invaded Poland during World War II. He later lived in New York, until his wife died, and he has been living in Los Angeles with his son since his wife’s passing.
“He had a lot to tell, he had a lot to say, because he went through the war, he was in Siberia…he had a lot of interesting things to say, said a man who identified himself as Shlomo, who frequents Kollel.
Those who knew Landau said he spent every day at Kollel Yechiel Yehudah, and they remembered him as a quiet man with a big heart.
“He was a very very nice man. A big tzadik,” said a member of Bais Yehuda who asked to be called Rabbi Moshe.
“He was a holy Jew,” Mordechay said. “He was devoted to his creator all day.”
“I was very close to him, he was a special guy, Shlomo said.
Shlomo said Landau’s death has shocked the neighborhood, “the heart of the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community,” according to yourjewishnews.
“It was a terrible tragedy, ” Shlomo said, “for the whole community.”
Sgt. Smith, watch commander at the LAPD West Traffic Division, provided the following press release over the phone, regarding the car accident on Tuesday that took the life of Jewish community member Berish Landau, 88, and left Rabbi Samuel Jacobs, 59, critically injured:
On Tuesday, November, 22 2011 at approximately 0615 hours a fatal traffic collision, vehicle versus pedestrian, occurred on La Brea Ave. and Oakwood Ave. The vehicle was a 99 Plymouth Voyager ... [vehicle] was northbound on La Brea when he struck two pedestrians who were walking in the crosswalk. Party 2, which is Samuel Jacobs, 59-years-old, Valley Village, CA, resident, was transported to Cedars Sinai, where he was in critical condition. Party 3, an 88-year-old resident, [Berish Landau] was transported to Cedars Sinai, Mr. Landau, succumbed to his injuries. His next of kin was notified.