January 25, 2011
Willard Chotiner, a Jewish Journal Founder, 94
Willard Chotiner, co-founder of the construction firm Chotiner & Gumbiner and a longtime Jewish Journal board member, died on Jan. 21. He was 94.
Chotiner was among the original guarantors who helped secure a loan to establish The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles as an independent community newspaper. He remained an active board member with The Journal’s parent company, Los Angeles Jewish Publications (now TRIBE Media Corp.), until 2005.
Born Nov. 24, 1916, in Pittsburgh, Penn., Chotiner moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1918. He studied at Los Angeles High School and University of Southern California before serving four years in the Army Signal Corps Photographic Center during World War II.
Following his military service, Chotiner co-founded the construction firm Chotiner & Gumbiner with his childhood friend, James Gumbiner. During Chotiner’s 45-year career, the firm worked on more than 300 structures, including the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion near USC as well as buildings at Universal Studios and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Several buildings constructed by Chotiner & Gumbiner went on to win architectural awards.
Active with Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI) since the early 1950s, Chotiner served as the organization’s board chair in 1976. In the 1970s, his firm constructed BBI’s House of the Book, a synagogue designed by architect Sidney Eisenshtat. The iconic futuristic structure has appeared as a location in several film and television projects.
In addition to serving on the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Chotiner was also involved with Israel’s Project Renewal, Temple Israel of Hollywood and the Soviet Jewry movement.
Chotiner is survived by wife Rita; son Harry; daughter Renee; and grandchildren Isaac, Hannah, Sam, Miriam, Ali and Natalie.
Services were held Jan. 25 at Hillside Memorial Mortuary Park Chapel.