The day after the Rodney King verdict twenty years ago I received a call from long-time Temple Israel members, Lillian and Marty Epstein, that their son Howard (who was about my age) was missing. As soon as the rioting began, Howard flew from Oakland Airport near his family home in Orinda to attend to his business located in South-Central Los Angeles. He had owned and operated a factory there for a number of years and employed 20 workers. These were people he knew and about whom he cared. He knew all their families, and so, when the riots erupted Howard felt it his duty to be with them.
He landed at LAX in the late afternoon, rented a car, and commenced his 15-minute drive to his place of business. Along the way, somewhere, he vanished. By evening no one had heard from him. Given the tumult in the city, his wife Stephanie and parents were worried.
The following day, exactly 20 years ago today, the police contacted Lillian and Marty with the news. At a stop-light Howard was approached by two men who murdered him at point blank range and took everything of value in his car. The police were able to identify Howard only by tracing the car to the rental agency.
Howard deliberately moved a couple of years earlier with Stephanie and their two small children out of Los Angeles because he felt the city was no longer safe and he did not want to raise his children in this environment.
When the rioting stopped, we honored Howard’s memory in a memorial service in our synagogue Sanctuary where he became bar mitzvah. His family and friends described Howard as among the most kind, community conscious and caring of men, a true rachaman ben rachmanim, a compassionate son of compassionate parents.
I remember Howard every year at this time, and especially today, 20 years and a day after his tragic death.
Zichrono livracha. May his memory be a blessing.