Businesswoman and Philanthropist|
1944 – 2012
Barbara Kort passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends at her home in Beverly Hills, CA on October 20, 2012 after a long and courageous battle with breast cancer.
Born in Canton, China on December 21, 1944, Barbara grew up in Hong Kong¸ where she developed a natural entrepreneurial spirit and a generosity which made her happy to share her financial success with others less fortunate and with those institutions where she could make a meaningful difference.
Fred Kort, her beloved husband of thirty-five years, was a Holocaust survivor and one of nine survivors of the Treblinka Death Camp. They made a dynamic team, both in their business life and personal life, building one of the most successful toy companies in the nation, Imperial Toy Corporation with over 1000 employees and factories all over the world. Fred was known as the "Bubble King" named after Imperial's signature toy. Through their own experiences and developing their own resilience, they chose a life that focused on philanthropy. For Barbara and Fred, helping others was not just an empty statement, but a way of life. When they first met, Barbara had already been to Israel and fallen in love with the similarities in the cultural heritage of the ancient nations, Israel and China. This was, as they say, a match made in heaven.
In 1997, Barbara and Fred established a program at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, aimed at building bridges between Israel and China. The Fred and Barbara Kort Sino-Israel Post Doctoral Program was designed to bring Chinese post-doctoral students to conduct research at Bar-Ilan, and helps to strengthen the infrastructures of both respective nations. The program continues to this day. Over 100 post-docs have completed their work at Bar-Ilan University and returned to China, thanks to their generosity.
Understanding the importance of language as the means to building bridges, the Korts went on to build the Language Studies Building at Bar-Ilan University.
Close to their heart was the support of Holocaust Education. Fred and Barbara were founders of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, and Barbara was very active in the Museum of the Holocaust in Los Angeles.
Fred's passing was a monumental blow to Barbara, but in her elegant and dignified manner, Barbara took charge, furthering her love and support for the continuity of Jewish Life, both here and in Israel, with her involvement in the Tel Aviv Foundation for whom she built two schools and through the Jewish Federation as well as her support for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, CA. When diagnosed with breast cancer, Barbara immediately took action and became an active supporter in the search for a cure to this lethal disease, naming the Barbara Kort Women's Imaging Center at UCLA-Santa Monica and funding extensive research at the institution.
Barbara is survived by her daughter, Susie Kort-Wasserman, her granddaughter, Liana, her brothers Martin Cheung, M.D. and Wai Cheung, sisters Lan Sing Young and Helena Lee, and sister-in-law Lucia Cheung, and her twelve nieces and nephews.
Barbara was a loyal friend and nurtured her relationships with her many friends all over the world.
In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the UCLA Foundation c/o Dr. Helena Chang Breast Cancer Research, 10920 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA 90024 or to American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, 8730 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 550, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Services will take place at Hillside Memorial Park Mortuary, 6001 W. Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 2p.m. Hillside Mortuary (800) 576-1994.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 23, 2012