Friday, January 31, 2014

Remembering Paula Siegel

From San Diego Jewish World
By Donald H. Harrison

Paula Siegel
Paula Siegel
Paula Siegel, who brought a Jewish passion for tikkun olam to Democratic party politics in California, died at 4 a.m. Wednesday, January 30,  in her Banker’s Hill home in San Diego.   She was  82.
Siegel worked as a volunteer or as a consultant in numerous local, state and national political campaigns, including those for every Democratic presidential candidate from John F. Kennedy in 1960 to Hillary Clinton in 2008.  She also was a member of the Democratic National Committee, and was a delegate from California favoring George McGovern at the 1972 Democratic Convention.
At the same time, she was active in San Diego’s Jewish community, both as a member of  the former Congregation Beth Tefilah and Congregation Beth Israel.
Paula Siegel was renowned in San Diego political circles for her biting wit.   In one widely quoted incident, when she met an oft-time Democratic candidate who introduced herself as Mary Christian Heising, she promptly responded, “And I’m Paula Jewish Siegel.”
She believed strongly in the progressive politics of the Democratic party, and rallied behind party nominees.  Similarly, the Queens-born, New York City-raised Siegel became involved in numerous civic causes benefiting the city.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, upon hearing news of Siegel’s death, said: “Paula was incredibly active in civic affairs and extraordinarily dedicated to the public weal.”
Congresswoman Susan Davis commented:  ”You could always count on Paula to go out of her way to support the people and causes she cared about.  And she never shied away from letting you know what she felt about issues. She strongly lived a life of tikkun olum.”
“Paula Siegel was a bright force for good,” said State Sen. Marty Block. “She was a real leader in the San Diego Jewish community and a committed fighter for Democratic principles.”
“Very sad,” San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald said in reaction.  “Paula was brilliant,  fun, passionate and stood by her beliefs and her friends.”
A friend, former neighbor and former chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, Rita Luftig, said of Siegel: “She was a loyal supporter of the Democratic party and worked hard for the issues she believe in.  She will be missed.”
Former Assemblyman Howard Wayne commented that in the 1980′s Siegel “was a stalwart supporter of the San Diego County Democratic party.  There were not many Democratic party events where you wouldn’t find Paula. We’ll all miss her.”
Noting that when she moved here in the 1950s San Diego was a “cultural backwater,” compared to her beloved New York, Siegel was among the early supporters of the San Diego Jewish arts, such as the Film Festival and the Book Fair, which has since grown into one of the largest and most respected in the nation.
“We are saddened by the loss of a longtime member and supporter of both the San Diego Jewish community and of San Diego generally,” commented Michael Sonduck, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.
Paula Siegel as a young woman
Paula Siegel, circa 1955
Born January 6, 1932 to William and Regina (Goldstein) Becker, Paula attended college in New York City and found employment as a dental hygienist.  She married Dr. Robert Siegel, a dentist, in 1953 and the couple moved two years later to San Diego.  During their 30 year marriage, the Siegels had four children: Karen; Jonathan (Barbara Lounsbury); Michael (Kris Alman); and Donald, all of whom survive.   She also was a devoted grandmother to Max, Rebecca, Leah, Benjamin, and Nathan, about whom she exercised the grandmother’s prerogative to brag to her many friends.  Siegel’s devotion to her family included taking care of her parents, as well as Bob’s mother, Goldie, in their later years. Siegel was pre-deceased by her husband, and her twin brother, Stanley Becker.
After her husband died in 1983, Paula  and her children established the Robert Siegel Memorial Lecture, which has been presented at the Jewish Book Fair for many years. She was an avid supporter of the Jewish Film Festival also. For those who wish to honor her memory, please support the Jewish arts that Paula loved so well by contributing to the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at, or contact Leora Waiche at 858-362-1347.
Burial services will be held at 10 :30 a.m.  Sunday,  Feb. 2, at the Home of Peace Cemetery, 3668 Imperial Avenue in San Diego.


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