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Memorial for Cantor Julius Blackman

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Graveside: 11:00 AM Thursday, April 25th, 2019
Hills of Eternity Memorial Park
1301 El Camino Real
Colma, CA 94014
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Memorial Contribution: Hebrew Free Loan Association
131 Steuart St. #520
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 546-9902
Memorial Contribution: Jewish Family and Children’s Services
P.O. Box 159004
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 449-1200
Memorial Contribution: Peninsula Health Care District, for the Trousdale Wellness Center
1819 Trousdale Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 697-6900

Cantor Julius (Julie) Blackman died in his San Francisco apartment, on April 22, 2019; he was 105 ½.

Julie was born in Chicago on October 7, 1913, the second of five children. Growing up, he pursued both music and athletics. Rogers Hornsby offered him a spot on a Cubs farm team, but he had to decline so that he could continue his education. As a young man, Julie was active in social justice causes, singing for groups raising money for Spanish Loyalists fighting Franco, doing community organizing at Hull House, and labor organizing while working at a war plant during World War II.

In 1939, he married Phyllis, to whom he was married for sixty-seven years, and in 1945 he and his growing family moved to Los Angeles.

During their years in Southern California, Julie served as cantor for four congregations: Valley Jewish Community Center (VJCC, now Adat Ari El), Temple Beth Zion, Valley Beth Shalom, all in Los Angeles, and Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs. In 1960, he moved to San Francisco to become cantor at Congregation Ner Tamid. Three years later he was appointed executive director of the Hebrew Free Loan. During his years with Hebrew Free Loan, he continued providing services as a cantor on weekends and holidays, helping lead High Holiday Services at Temple Beth El in Salinas and later at the Jewish Home in San Francisco; he also substituted for other cantors throughout the year, trained b’nai mitzvah students, and served as interim clergy at congregations which were just starting. (After retiring at the age of 77, Julie was active as a volunteer in many other organizations, including B’nai B’rith and San Francisco Humanities.)

Among his many contributions in these professions, Julie should be recognized for these achievements:

- At VJCC he organized a Jewish Music Council which developed programs including concerts, and presented a Jewish Music Month celebration.

- He was founding president of the Cantors Assembly West Coast Region, serving as president for six years.

- In the 1950s, he was founding chair of the University of Judaism’s Music Advisory Council.

- He greatly expanded the work of the Hebrew Free Loan during his 27 years as Executive Director, increasing assets from $350,000 to $5 million.

- In 1964 he instituted a separate student loan program at Hebrew Free Loan, with a maximum loan amount of $500; today, student loans make up sixty-five percent of the agency’s loans, and students may borrow from $6,000 to $10,000 per academic year.

- In the early 1970s he played a pivotal role in helping found San Francisco’s Jewish Vocational Service.

- Initiated outreach to other free loan agencies, fulfilling his dream of founding an Association of Hebrew Free Loans in 1981.

- In 2002 he was the first cantor from the western half of the United States to be honored with an honorary doctorate of music by the Jewish Theological Seminary.

He is survived by his children (Ellen, Paul [Susan], and Beth), his sister and brother-in-law Eve and Eli Catran, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was predeceased by his wife, Phyllis, in 2007.

The family thanks his long-time doctors who enabled him to reach 105 ½ in reasonably good health: Dr. Lester Jacobson and Dr. Lawrence Shore.

There will be a celebration of his life in early June. Email the family at ellen.blackman@aol.com for information.

Contributions in his memory may be made to: Hebrew Free Loan (131 Steuart St. #520, San Francisco 94105); Jewish Family and Children’s Services (P.O. Box 159004, San Francisco 94115); and Peninsula Health Care District, for the Trousdale Wellness Center (1819 Trousdale Drive, Burlingame, CA 94010); or a charity of your choice.