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Mass-media communicator, Phil Blazer, built L.A. Jewish newspaper and national Jewish TV channel, JLTV

Phil Blazer hosting show on his founded JLTV
Los Angeles media publisher, Phil Blazer,  died yesterday at 76 following a long struggle with Parkinson's. He parlayed his Israel Today newspaper into a weekly local TV show, and parlayed that into the Jewish Life TV (J.L.T.V.) channel, one of America's two, Jewish cultural cable/sat channels (along with Jewish Broadcasting Service / J.B.S. - originally Shalom TV). 

Phil Blazer's broadcasting career began at the age of 21 when legendary disc jockey Wolfman Jack gave him a chance to host a show about Jewish culture and music at KULX in Minneapolis. Over the next five decades, Phil continued as a radio host while building a media empire that included a nationally syndicated television show and a national newspaper, Israel Today.  His lifelong dream of creating a TV network dedicated to Jewish life and culture was achieved in 2006 with the creation of JLTV.  

Phil was an early activist and visionary community leader who thrived on bringing together people of all faiths to battle hate, racism and anti-Semitism. His own career as an activist was born in 1973 when he urged his listeners to cut up an oil company's credit cards to protest its anti-Israel stance. Thousands responded, mailing enough cards to fill numerous trash bags, which Phil then deposited at the company's headquarters. The dramatic stunt made the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite, impressing upon Phil the powerful impact of activism. 

An inveterate risk taker, he relished his role in helping a rabbi smuggle a Torah into Leningrad under the noses of the KGB. Later, he organized the Skokie Skytrain to bring counter-protesters from California to confront neo-Nazis threatening the safety of Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois in 1978.

Phil considered "Operation Joshua" the highlight of his advocacy to "make a difference." In 1985, he personally appealed to Vice President George H. Bush to rescue 1,000 Ethiopian Jews starving in Sudanese refugee camps after fleeing a genocidal dictator amidst one of the worst famines of the 20th Century.  To bolster his case, Phil did something unthinkable by today’s standards. He leveraged his relationships with politicians and brokered a bipartisan appeal to the Reagan administration.  Within 38 hours, all 100 U.S. Senators had signed a letter urging a U.S. airlift. The secret mission was carried out by the CIA and U.S. Air Force on March 22, 1985.

Not all of Phil's activism involved such derring-do. But all were straight-from-the-heart.  Among them was Phil's arranging for his close friend Oscar® winning producer Branko Lustig to become a Bar Mitzvah at Auschwitz, the concentration camp where he was held during the Holocaust. Phil also worked tirelessly with legislators in several states to include Holocaust education in schools. And when elderly Jews in Los Angeles, many of whom were Holocaust survivors, were subjected to anti-Semitic attacks, Phil established the volunteer Peace Force to patrol their neighborhoods.

With a flair for show business and an innate understanding of what made a good story, he organized celebrity visits to Israel, acting as something between a media fixer and informal tour guide to such luminaries as Ben Kingsley, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Strauss, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.

Former United States Congressman Henry Waxman, who became acquainted with Phil while serving in Washington, said Phil served as an example of how one person can make a difference. "He made a difference in lives of people he didn't know, whether they were Ethiopian Jews, Russian Soviet Jews, Israelis, or people here in the United States who were standing up against anti-Semitism," Waxman said. "And he didn't look at these tasks as overwhelming. He saw them as important issues that he wanted to be involved in, to see change and to make that difference that was so important. There are so many people who don't know about him, and may never know about him, but who owe him a great deal of gratitude for all the work he has done.”

Phil Blazer is survived by his wife, Kathy; daughter Alyssa (Charles) Peretz; sons Mark (Tracy), Adam and David; 6 grandchildren; and sisters Candace (Robert) Fagan and Glorianne (Richard) Letterman.

A family service is planned for Aug. 27 and a memorial minyan will be held on Zoom at 7 p.m. from Aug. 27-Sept. 1, each night except Friday.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8317484176 • Meeting ID: 831 748 4176 • Mobile: +14086380968,,8317484176#

In this episode of Main Street, Phil interviewed Tom Tugend, who volunteered in Israel's war effort, later becoming a well-respected journalist in Los Angeles.