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Former CSULB professor leaves behind a mourning community

Longtime professor and central figure in Jewish Studies program passes away.

Former+Long+Beach+professor+and+creator+of+the+Jewish+studies+program+Arlene+Lazarowitz+died+Tuesday+morning.
Former Long Beach professor and creator of the Jewish studies program Arlene Lazarowitz died Tuesday morning.

Former Long Beach professor and creator of the Jewish studies program Arlene Lazarowitz died Tuesday morning.

Courtesy of CSULB

Courtesy of CSULB

Former Long Beach professor and creator of the Jewish studies program Arlene Lazarowitz died Tuesday morning.

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Cal State University faculty and students were saddened to learn retired professor and founder of the school’s Jewish Studies speakers series Arlene Lazarowitz died Tuesday morning after a difficult battle with dementia.

She is survived by her partner Jerry Colnic, sister Beverly, and an extended family of cousins in Canada and California.

“Arlene was a remarkable person who overcame enormous physical obstacles to triumph in life,” Jeffrey Blutinger, director of Jewish studies, wrote in an email to College of Liberal Arts faculty members.

A funeral will be held Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Home of Peace Memorial in Los Angeles to commemorate her life and accomplishments, which include a number of published scientific articles in “Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies,” and a lifelong career in teaching.

Blutinger recalls seeing his colleague back in March, where the two caught up for a few hours.

“She seemed coherent,” he said. “We talked about politics and the university.”

But just months later in August, his one-time co-director in the Jewish Studies Program couldn’t recognize him.

“Dementia is different in that it is very hard on the friends and family of those affected,” Blutinger said.

Originally born in Winnipeg, Canada, Lazarowitz moved to Long Beach in her teens, eventually attending the university. She earned her degree while battling a lifelong spinal condition. Though doctors would advise the use of a wheelchair almost immediately, Blutinger said “through sheer force of will” she was able to walk all the way until her final years.

After earning her doctorate from UCLA in 1982, Lazarowitz came back to teach at the Beach where she graduated, and eventually helped create the Jewish Studies Program, where she served as director alongside Blutinger.

Colleagues and friends describe her as a no-nonsense kind of woman, someone who cared about the people around her. After Lazarowitz’s own health struggles, she became a vocal advocate for the disabled at Cal State Long Beach, and was a major force in making the campus more accessible throughout the years.

“The CSULB Jewish Studies Program extends its deepest condolences to Arlene’s beloved companion, Jerry, and to her family, friends, and colleagues,” Blutinger wrote.

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