Jewish Journal

The Da Vinci of La Cienega

Jacob Pressman, the Renaissance Man Who Helped Build L.A.Jewry, Turns 80

by Julie G Fax

October 21, 1999 | 8:00 pm

"Have you ever seen a melodeon?"

Rabbi Jacob Pressman starts to get up from his recliner, but Marjorie, his wife of 57 years, beats him to it, getting the long black case from behind a guitar and accordion leaning against a well-stocked bookshelf.

"It's a mixture of a piano and a harmonica," he explains, extricating the instrument in the soft light of a lamp that looks like a brass samovar.

He plays a few bars of Blue Moon -- his signature song -- and continues with the thought that brought him to the melodeon.

"My congregation utilized and gave me the freedom to utilize any talent or capability I had, and there are not many callings where you can say that," he says. "My experience has not been a frustrating one, but a very fulfilling one."

Pressman is in a reflective mood as he approaches his 80th birthday, which will be celebrated this weekend with a music/variety show in the Gindi Auditorium at the University of Judaism. Pressman will perform with family and friends who work in show business.

It is the type of celebration he wanted and one that reflects the aspect of Pressman that everyone who talks about him inevitably comes to: He is a Renaissance man. According to the people who know him, there is nothing he can't do.

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