Shimon Erem, who fought for Israel in four wars and was recognized as the “patriarch” of the Israeli community in Los Angeles, died Sunday (May 27) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a prolonged struggle with cancer. He was 90 years old.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday (May 30) at 1 p.m. at Hillside Memorial Park.
Erem was born Shimon Kazarnofsky in Kaunus, Lithuania in 1922 and was three years old when his parents immigrated to Palestine.
Following his 1970 marriage to his second wife Danielle, a Los Angeles resident, Erem moved to this city and subsequently devoted most of his time and energy to developing Christian support for Israel in the United States and Europe.
Erem founded the Israel Christian Nexus/Alliance for Jerusalem and when the organization honored him on his birthday last year, a biographical sketch published in the program traced his career and service to the Jewish people.
During World War II, Erem joined the Jewish Brigade of the British army and was decorated four times for bravery under fire. Stationed in Italy at the end of the war, he took a leading role in underground operations, which included hunting down prominent Nazis and smuggling refugees and arms into Palestine.
With the outbreak of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion asked Erem to help organize the first Officers School for the nation’s armed forces.
He also fought as a battalion commander at Latrun to open the road to Jerusalem and against Egyptian forces in the south and was wounded on both fronts.
Subsequently, Erem led troops as brigade commander in the Sinai campaign of 1956, as commander of special forces in the Six Day War of 1967, and returned to Israel to serve in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
He received numerous citations and decorations throughout his military career and retired from the Israeli army with the rank of brigadier general.
In Los Angeles, Erem worked as an independent property manager, according to his wife, but spent the bulk of his time and energy as a volunteer advocate for Israel and the Jewish community.
Early on, he assumed leadership positions, on a local and national level, for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and served as head of the Center for Strategic Studies West.
Recognizing the vital role the Christian community, particularly evangelical Christians, could play in mobilizing support for Israel, Erem came to focus his major effort in serving as the unofficial Israeli ambassador to the Christian world.
He organized mass rallies of thousands of pro-Israel Christians, who signed pledges to oppose anti-Semitism, and huge receptions for visiting Israeli leaders.
He founded the Israel Christian Nexus (ICN) in 2002, which, in a mission statement, cited as a key goal to alert the democracies “to the worldwide threat posed by fundamentalist Islam to our shared Judeo-Christian values.”
A longtime friend, Haim Linder, recalled attending one meeting in which Erem stood up and declared, “Every morning when I get up, I ask myself, ‘What can I do to help Israel today?’ ”
In an appreciation of Erem’s contributions to Israel, Consul General David Siegel said, “The world lost a remarkable, irreplaceable human being. General Shimon Erem was truly one of a kind - a passionate visionary whose rich, booming voice was always filled with love and passion for Israel. He was a pioneer who built bridges of friendship and marshaled the forces of unity with the Christian community. Under his leadership, interfaith relations flourished and his courage serves as an example for future generations. Inspired by his vision, we are committed to continuing his legacy. General Erem never tired and was indefatigable in his mission. He was truly revered and loved by Christians, Jews, and people of all faiths. He will be deeply, sorely missed. The people of the State of Israel extend our deepest condolences to his wife and partner, Danielle, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Erem is survived by Danielle, his wife of 41 years, seven children from their previous marriages, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Services at Hillside Memorial Park will be followed by a reception at the Olympic Connection, hosted by Miri and Isaac Shepher.