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Helen B. Aaron

AARON, Helen B. Helen B. Aaron, recognized by many as "the Matriarch" of the Orange County Jewish community, passed away Thursday morning (April 10) at her home in Laguna Woods. She was 96. Services will be held Sunday, April 13 at 1:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Sholom, 2625 North Tustin Avenue, Santa Ana. Interment will follow at Harbor Lawn-Mount Olive Memorial Park in Costa Mesa at 3:30 p.m. followed by a gathering of family and friends at a location to be announced at the service. Even before she married the late Robert Aaron (who passed away three years ago) and they became founders and leaders of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Helen Gerber was one of the first organizers of the Jewish community in Orange County. When she started her work with her late husband Harry Gerber in 1948, there was one synagogue in the entire county. Today there are 34. When she was honored as "Woman of the Year" in 1999 by the Women's Division of the Federation (which she helped create) the Orange County Register called her "a trailblazer" of the Jewish community. "She was a pioneer," said Beverly Singer, past president of that first synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom, and a longtime friend. "We wanted to teach our children tzedakah, or social justice," Mrs. Aaron said in her acceptance speech. "We wanted to reach out to the community, to be teachers." For their distinguished leadership, Bob and Helen Aaron received the Lifetime Community Service Award from the Jewish Federation. They were active fundraisers for Jewish causes, including the State of Israel. Among their legacy, they were founders of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society, and active in B'nai B'rith, Hadassah, the Jeremiah Society, Jewish Family Service, and Temple Beth Sholom Sisterhood. "For the last half century, Helen Aaron has been instrumental in the founding of every Jewish organization in Orange County," said Rabbi Haim Asa, the dean of county rabbis. "She will be missed by all of us as we continue to invoke her memory as a blessing to us and our Jewish future." As recently as 2006, the Jewish Federation of Orange County created the "Bob and Helen Aaron Legacy of Leadership Awards," and is launching a leadership training program in their names for Jewish lay and professional leadership. At that time, Shalom Elcott, Chief Executive Officer of the Federation, called the program "an outstanding way to honor the Aarons' legacy of leadership and service to Jewish Orange County." Born in Pittsburgh, PA on September 13, 1911, the second of eight children of Barnett and Cora Garey, Helen Gerber Aaron moved to Orange County in 1948, with her husband Harry and their four children. She is survived by a large and loving family, including her children Leah Gerber Sklar of Los Angeles, Michael Gerber of San Marcos, CA, Paul Gerber of San Francisco, Marsha Gerber Remas of Larkspur, CA and Larry Aaron, also of San Marcos; three sisters, including Shirley Rubenstein of Buffalo, NY, Doris Shaw of Garrison, NY and Rosalie Zwain of Rancho Mirage, CA; 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Helen Aaron's name be made to the Bob and Helen Aaron Leadership Fund, c/o Jewish Federation of Orange County, 1 Federation Way, Suite 210, Irvine, CA 92603 or Temple Beth Sholom, 2625 North Tustin Avenue, Santa Ana, 92705.

Published in the Los Angeles Times from Apr. 11 to Apr. 12, 2008
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