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Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
2007-2008
Annual Report
J
ewish survival is not an abstraction to Leona
Aronoff-Sadacca. Her parents and 18-month-old
brother fled Nazi Germany in 1933 when warned
of impending arrest by the Nazis and settled in France,
where she was born in Tours in 1937. When the
Nazis invaded France, her father joined the French
Resistance, and she and her mother and brother
were rescued by a Catholic farmer, who hid them
on his farm in the countryside near Bellac.
In her memoir, Leona Aronoff-Sadacca recalls
the extraordinary effort her religiously obser-
vant parents made for her brother, Lou, to
become a
bar mitzvah
.
Her father smuggled
a small Torah from Limoges back to Bellac,
where a young, frightened rabbi tutored Lou.
The service took place in a bombed-out bak-
ery. “Although we could have been discovered
and perhaps killed for being Jewish, the
bar
mitzvah
was an important part of our heritage and
one that we felt compelled to acknowledge.”
She considers her family “lucky and grateful” to
have survived and to have been able to build a new
life in the United States. They settled in Los Angeles
where Leona met and married Jack Aronoff, with
whom she spent forty blessed years. They raised two
sons, Barry, who is now involved in the family busi-
ness of philanthropy, and Randy, who died of a
congenital heart condition as a teenager. After Jack
died, Leona successfully took over the family busi-
ness, Gate City Beverage, where her strategic vision
and winning leadership style achieved record-high
growth in revenues, facilities, and employees.
In 2002 Leona married Joe Sadacca, a business
mentor who had been a prisoner of war in Germany
during World War II. Today, she is the proud
grandmother of three grandchildren and approaches
life with energy and optimism. Her commitment
to ensuring the Jewish future, shared by Joe, is a
source of inspiration.
She was first introduced to HUC-JIR by Rabbi Hillel
Cohn, her spiritual leader for over thirty years at
Temple Emanu-El of San Bernardino. She honored
Rabbi Cohn with an endowed rabbinical student
scholarship at the College-Institute as part of a
group gift of which she was the major donor. “As
we raised our children, everything in our communi-
ty revolved around the temple,” she recalls. “Today,
I see Judaism at risk due to the things that are hap-
pening in the world. During difficult times, people
gravitate back to their synagogues and rabbis. I want
to make sure that rabbis are well prepared to further
the Jewish religion. By supporting the teaching of
Judaism’s values, traditions, and beliefs, I hope
I can make a difference.”
To that end, she has donated $1 million to endow
the Leona Aronoff Rabbinic Mentoring Program at
HUC-JIR, where she is a member of the Los Angeles
Board of Overseers. As a highly accomplished busi-
ness woman in an industry historically dominated
by men, she understands the challenges of entering
a new professional field and pursuing excellence –
as well as the need for expert guidance to attain
success. The Leona Aronoff Rabbinic Mentoring
Program will convene faculty and rabbinical men-
tors to develop an interactive training program for
rabbis serving as mentors. This program will focus
on mentoring skills, professional development,
supervision of field placements, and coaching – all
linked to the rabbinical core curriculum, and inte-
grate the benefits of technology in providing video
demonstrations, reporting and evaluation, and other
A Modern Approach to Mentorship
(
From left) Rabbi Ellenson;
Barbara Friedman, Chair,
Board of Governors; Leona
Aronoff-Sadacca; Dr. Dvora
Weisberg, incoming Director
of the School of Rabbinical
Studies; Rabbi Richard Levy,
current Director of the School
of Rabbinical Studies; and
Dr. Steven Windmueller,
Dean, HUC-JIR/Los Angeles.