Friends and Colleagues of Elka Klein Mourn Her Loss and Celebrate her Life

In Jewish tradition, eight values are focused on regarding death: 1) the reality of death, 2) respect for the dead, 3) equality, 4) simplicity, 5) the venting of emotions openly and fully, 6) communal responsibility and support, 7) affirmation of life and 8) remembrance. At the memorial service, Gisela Escoe, associate dean in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, reflected on Klein’s life — not as a college representative, but as a friend.

 

 

Arts & Sciences Associate Dean Gigi Escoe reflects on Klein's life.

Arts & Sciences Associate Dean Gigi Escoe reflects on Klein's life.

“When you lose someone like Elka, a brilliant promising 39-year-old scholar, a loving wife, daughter, sister and mother of two very small children (Dina and Shaulie), it seems almost trivial to talk about her teaching,” says Escoe. “Yet from the college’s standpoint, this memorial gives us the opportunity to recognize Elka’s excellence in something that she cared deeply about and to reflect on one of her many gifts that will have a lasting mark on us: her sharing of knowledge with others.”

 

Judaic Studies Professor Gila Safran Naveh concurred with Escoe's remarks. "Much has been said about Professor Elka Klein the scholar and the award-winning teacher," says Naveh. "I wish to talk about Elka the inspiring colleague and 'Eshet Hayil,' the Woman of Valor, who taught us all how to live a full life and be productive despite a devastating deadly illness. I remember how only two weeks before she passed away, when I came to see her and share some Jewish humor from my humor course, I found her hospital bed covered with student papers, books she was reviewing, course lists she was scrutinizing for approval, syllabi she was modifying."

Elka Klein specialized in the social history of medieval Spanish Jewry. At the time of her death on March 28, 2005, she was working on a book titled Community and King: Jews and Christian Society in Medieval Barcelona, which traces the impact of royal involvement on the development of Barcelona’s Jewish community as well as relations between Jews and Christians in Barcelona. Klein was a post-doctoral Dorot Fellow in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University before coming to UC in 2001. This spring Klein was presented posthumously with the Edith C. Alexander Award for Distinguished Teaching, which was given to her parents, Professors Suzanne and Martin Klein.

Judaic Studies Professor Gila Naveh.

Judaic Studies Professor Gila Naveh.

"Our colleague lost her battle with cancer," says Naveh. "And when she passed away, pillars did not fall, mountains did not crumble, and waters did not part as in Talmudic times. But something extraordinary did happen. Our hearts and minds opened up. UC split open and let her life story in and made it part of its own story. Elka may have lost her battle with cancer but she did not lose her battle for survival. She will live in our memory."

Read the April edition of McMicken Monthly, dedicated to Elka Klein by Dean Karen Gould

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