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Jack J. Spitzer, 86; Financial Executive, B'nai B'rith Leader

August 07, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Jack J. Spitzer, a founder of several leading savings and loan firms in Southern California and the Seattle area and a leading figure in B'nai B'rith for several decades, has died. He was 86.

A longtime resident of Seattle, Spitzer died July 31 at a hospital of complications from a heart attack.

Before moving to Seattle in 1972, the New York-born Spitzer lived in the Los Angeles area for several decades. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 and received his degree from UCLA, where he was president of the UCLA Council of Jewish Students, a predecessor to the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundations.

After graduating, he worked as a field director for B'nai B'rith before serving in the Army during World War II in the China-Burma-India theater. After the war, he was associate director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and was later executive director of the community relations committee of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Council.

By 1950, Spitzer went into the mortgage banking business. He organized several savings and loan associations in Southern California, including Brentwood Savings and Loan in Los Angeles and Sterling Savings and Loan in Riverside.

During the late 1940s and 1950s, he was active in Democratic Party politics, serving as first vice chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee. He founded the Westwood Democratic Club and 16th Congressional District Democratic Council.

Spitzer moved to Seattle in 1972 to become chief executive of the Security Savings and Loan Assn. He later served as president of the Seattle Savings and Loan League, retiring from the industry in 1978 when he was elected president of B'nai B'rith International. He was elected honorary president for life in 1982.

Over the years, Spitzer was involved in a number of prestigious international events. He was appointed by President Carter to be a member of the U.S. delegation to the installation of Pope John Paul II in 1978.

After witnessing the signing of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978, he led the first delegation of American Jewish leaders to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

A strong supporter of Israel, Spitzer was at one time the vice chairman of the board of governors of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and was a major benefactor. The school's department of social work is named for him.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte; a son, Rob; a daughter, Jil Spitzer-Fox; and several grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle.

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