Barbara Alpert, a leading supporter for the Long Beach Jewish community through educational and cultural programs, especially for children, died Sunday, Nov. 24, according to her family. She was 88.
She died from complications from pneumonia at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, surrounded by her family, her daughter, Nancy Alpert, said on Monday, Nov. 25.
Zachary Benjamin, CEO of Jewish Long Beach, called Alpert “the matriarch of the Jewish community center, whose impact will be felt not just in the next generation but for generations to come. She was a philanthropist in the purest sense of the word, helping others.”
Barbara Alpert and her late husband, Ray Alpert, were known throughout Long Beach for their commitment and generosity to countless organizations, including the Alpert Jewish Community Center, named in their honor. They were longtime champions of the California Conference for Equality and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) and were honored in 1998 as the organization’s Humanitarians of the Year.
“Barbara was truly the life of the party and brought joy and laughter to any room she was in,” Jessy Needham and Daniel Solis, CCEJ interim co-directors, said in a joint statement. “All of us at CCEJ are honored to have been in a relationship with her and her family.”
Barbara Alpert was born on Dec. 4, 1930, in Chicago, but her family moved to Van Nuys in 1953. In 1963, the family moved to Long Beach, where her husband started a business, Alpert & Alpert Iron & Metal Inc.; the company grew and now operates internationally. The Alperts raised three children and joined Temple Israel, where their children attended Torah Center.
“My mom just fell in love with Long Beach and the people here,” Nancy Alpert said. “She felt she was so fortunate herself and she should give back, that it was the right thing to do.
“Together, dad and mom became strong supporters of the Long Beach community,” she added, “giving both time and financial resources to causes dear to them.”
When the new Jewish Community Center building was proposed in the 1990s, the Alperts felt it would be wrong if it were named after out-of-towners, so they stepped up with a large donation and the center was named after them, Nancy Alpert said.
“More than anything, mom used to love walking into the center and seeing the children pulling their rolling backpacks and looking so happy,” Barbara Alpert’s daughter said. “You could say the center was the center of her life.”
Ray Alpert, to whom Barbara Alpert had been married for 61 years, died in 2014.
Nancy Alpert said her mother was so full of energy that she “could run circles around most people.”
Although pneumonia was the cause of death, Barbara Alpert fought various health battles — cancer, among others — and was in and out of the hospital in recent years.
“She was an amazingly strong woman,” her daughter said.
Earlier this month, on Nov. 2, Barbara Alpert was honored on the 20th anniversary of the opening of the new Alpert Jewish Community Center.
“She looked absolutely radiant,” Benjamin of Jewish Long Beach said.
Sarah Berry sang some of Alpert’s favorite Broadway show tunes, including “Somewhere Over theRainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
“I think she knew something was going on with her health, but she was hiding it a little,” Nancy Alpert said.
In a text sent to her friends on Sunday, Nancy Alpert said family members held her hand and told her how much they loved her.
“She had soldiered on for so long in so much pain and through so many comebacks,” she said. “I expect she and my dear daddio are having a wonderful reunion.”
In addition to being a fighter, Barbara Alpert also was an optimistic person.
A few months ago, she received an award from the Long Beach Cancer League. During her speech, Alpert sounded resolute in the fight against her ailments.
“I admit at times I’ve felt like throwing in the towel, but throughout my life,” she said, “I’ve always tried to stay optimistic, do for others, and not dwell on the bad.
“After all, it could always be worse, and I am a fighter,” she added. “I feel lucky to be here and to be honored.”
Barbara Alpert is survived by her three children Teri, Alan and Nancy; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life is set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, at the Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St.