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Betty Jane Weiss

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Betty Jane Weiss Obituary
Betty Jane Weiss, noted Santa Monica visionary, community leader, activist and artist has passed away

Betty Jane Weiss, a three time "Woman of the Year" and president of numerous charitable organizations, has passed away due to complications of stroke and Alzheimer's disease. She was renowned for five decades of commitment to local and national issues and her passion for the noblest of causes. Betty Jane Weiss was 91. She was born January 2, 1920 in Mount Carmel, PA, to Raytie and Bernard Strauss.

Betty Jane Weiss was married for 50 years to preeminent Santa Monica doctor, Benjamin James Weiss, a brilliant, philanthropic and gentle physician. She passed away peacefully at her Brentwood home on Sunday afternoon, July 31, surrounded by her family.

Betty was deeply involved in all aspects of her Santa Monica community. She moved to the coastal city 66 years ago and began her work founding and helping organizations whose purposes were to ease the plight of those in need. She was dedicated to improving the future for young people and students who could not do it for themselves.

Under her leadership as President of the National Council of Jewish Women and Santa Monica Jewish Family Services, these groups grew and thrived and became models for other local and national organizations. Betty's creative approach to championing rights was contagious and her enthusiasm and skill were acknowledged in the seventies and eighties when she was honored as "Woman of the Year" by both of these organizations. She was also named "Woman of the Year" in 1988 by the National Council of Christians and Jews.

In a speech she gave in 1960, Betty expressed her belief that "The miracle of change in America is within the power of the volunteer."

Shortly after that, in 1961, she was invited by newly elected President, John F. Kennedy, to a small White House meeting of women leaders to work on issues of civil rights. This meeting with JFK was one of her most treasured memories.

Over a half a century ago, Betty viewed "Civil Rights" as far more than race relations. She fought for the poor, the handicapped, the homeless, the elderly, abused children, and victims of domestic violence. Betty created seminars and conferences focused on Civil Rights. The results of many of the seeds she planted, the programs she started still flourish today.

Betty's interests and activities were eclectic. For close to a decade she served as editor-in-chief of the Bay Cities Star, and she dedicated Temple Beth Sholom of Santa Monica's first library in honor of her father. She cared deeply about education and was an active board member at Stephen's House, a UCLA home for international students, and at Santa Monica City College. She was a published poet and an artist. Her paintings were often shown in local exhibits in Santa Monica and, for the past five years, her work has been displayed in a yearly art show at Los Angeles City Hall. She was the first honorary female member of the Santa Monica Elks Club and an active member of the Santa Monica Navy League. Betty loved animals and provided a safe and loving refuge for the many homeless pets she eventually adopted.

Betty's multidimensional talents extended throughout her life, even during the slow eclipse of her mind. She created extraordinary paintings at OPICA, the adult day care and caregiver support center in West Los Angeles. In a profile last year, the OPICA newspaper described her as, "an amazing person who continues to shine, with her dazzling outfits, her Wizard of Oz shoes and her sparkly accessories. To look at Betty is like looking at one of her beautiful paintings, and she, like her canvasses, displays a unique creative piece of artwork everyday."

Betty Jane Weiss is survived by her two loving daughters: Juliellen Weiss, a film, television and theatre costume designer and teacher, and Jo Kaplan Feldman, a prominent Los Angeles attorney and long time advocate for juvenile justice. Betty is also survived by her son-in-law, Larry Feldman, whom she loved dearly; her three step-grandchildren, Paige, Stacie and Kevin, and her five step-great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at Hillside Cemetery on Wednesday, August 3rd, at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, tributes for Betty Weiss can be made to OPICA, 11759 Missouri Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90025.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 2, 2011
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