Simha Lainer, a diminutive centenarian who cut a towering figure in Jewish education in Los Angeles, died Tuesday, Aug. 8. He was 100.
"He was a giant," said Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) Executive Director Gil Graff. "What he did was singularly remarkable: he established scholarships for children to attend Jewish schools, he created a program fund to recognize excellence in Jewish education. The Bureau of Jewish Education sits on the Sara and Simha Lainer floor of the Jewish Federation building, and it couldn't be more fitting than that. Everything you envision in Jewish education, this is what Sara and Simha Lainer were all about."
Lainer was born in Ukraine in the town of Bar in 1906. He moved from Ukraine to Palestine in 1925, then to South America and to Mexico until settling in Los Angeles with his wife Sara and three children in 1951.
In Los Angeles, Lainer founded Lainer Development, specializing in industrial warehouse type properties in the San Fernando Valley. Lainer's sons Mark, Nahum and Luis joined him in business.
"Simha once told me his three rules for business success," Graff recounted. "His first rule was, 'Treat your workers like family.'"
From establishing funds through the Jewish Community Foundation in Los Angeles to starting the Simha and Sara Lainer Fund for Jewish Education through the BJE of Greater Los Angeles to supporting Israel, Lainer and Sara were key supporters of the Jewish community.
The Simha and Sara Lainer Fund for Jewish Education, which Simha and Sara Lainer established in 1989, has awarded close to $1 million in scholarships to more than 1,000 children at 37 Jewish day schools of all denominations across the city.
"When you do something for Jewish life, you do it for the good of the Jewish people," Lainer told The Journal in a 2003 interview. "For 3,000 years the Jews have lived. Other people have disappeared in that 3,000 years, but we Jews have continued to survive primarily because of Jewish education. We need to continue our existence. Not that many Jewish families understand that Jewish education is critical for the continued existence of the Jewish people."
Lainer is survived by his sons, Mark, Nahum and Luis; daughters-in-law, Ellie, Alice and Lee; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. at Mt. Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries.