Jack Papu Aruch Abravanel

March 23, 1932September 16, 2012

Jack Abravanel was born in Salonika, Greece, on March 23, 1932 to Isidore and Dora Abravanel. A natural athlete, winning medals in high school for high jumping, he subsequently became a celebrated soccer player in Salonika, and later in life an avid racquetball player, until he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1997. He valiantly fought the disease for 15 years.

Jack was a Holocaust survivor. He was deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of 11. Due to the family having Spanish citizenship, they survived. During the war, he spent time in a Palestine refugee camp and then he and his family returned to Greece where he met Lela, his future wife, in a summer camp. Lela, with her family, immigrated to Houston, Texas after the war. Jack followed her there where he later graduated from the University of Texas. Jack and Lela were married, and had their first daughter, Doris. Jack was hired by Boeing, which brought the family to Seattle, where Tammy was born. Jack’s rewarding career as an aerospace engineer, spanned over 35 years. He traveled domestically and abroad, and the Boeing business trips he took with Lela to France were their most memorable.

As a founding member of Temple Sinai, Jack was active in the synagogue, especially the Sunday school. An attentive and caring father, he cherished the times he spent helping his daughters study, excel in sports, and realize their dreams. After retiring, Jack (a.k.a. Papu) devoted his life to helping raise his only grandchild, Makena. He described the time he spent taking care of Makena as the most enjoyable and rewarding “job” he had ever had.

Jack passed away on September 16, 2012 in Bellevue with his family by his side. The family wishes to thank Evergreen Hospice for the excellent care of Jack.

As a devoted husband for 56 years, Jack is survived by his beloved wife, Lela, daughters Doris and Tammy (Craig Owens), one granddaughter, Makena, brother Sylvin, and two nephews, Isidore and Mario.

Memorial contributions may be made in his honor to the Charity of your choice.


  • Funeral Service Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jack Papu Aruch Abravanel

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Rachelle Baruch

February 7, 2013

Dear Lela;

It was with tremendous sadness, and yet such pleasant memories, that I read about Jack's passing. Although I don't your family well, I had the pleasure of seeing Jack often when he would pick up Makena in first grade. His always present smile, his depth of kindness and natural warmth, and his obvious love for Makena, left an indelible impression. I can only imagine how deeply his presence will be missed.

My deepest condolences and sympathy to you, and wishing all of you strength and comfort during this time.

"May you be comforted from heaven" and "May G-d console you together with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."


Rachelle Baruch

Steve Steinbock

November 15, 2012

Dear Lela,

I was so sad to learn of Jack's passing. The world is poorer having lost such a man. But as I looked at photos of Jack on the Internet, I couldn't help but smile at the warmth and humor in his eyes. You and Jack meant a lot to my parents. I can't help but think that somewhere, at a dinner party in Gan Eden, Jack and my father right now are mixing each other drinks and sharing funny stories.

I was very moved by the words of Lew Guterson, Doris, Tammy and Makena. Jack exemplified a unique and special trait, and one that I value and try to emulate: he had a gentle masculinity, every bit the man, but a man whose kind voice and sense of humor, and tenderness I saw him show toward you and your daughters, shows a man at his best.

My thoughts and tears are with you, Tammy, Doris and Makena.

Steve Steinbock

Jack Saltiel

October 22, 2012

The obituary captures Jack's life well. As a child in Salonica, I experienced the pride of the Jewish community in Jack's performance on the soccer field. I remember well turning on the radio to a soccer match and the crowd chanting in unison "Abravanel, Abravanel, Abravanel ....". He was a legend and only in his teens!

Makena Owens

October 6, 2012

Most people know that my Papu and I were very close. He was my babysitter, personal chauffer, and storyteller, but above all, he was my teacher. He was the best kind of teacher because he was able to impart lessons either by being a good role model or by teaching me things in a fun way. I learned a lot about sports, school, enjoying life, standing up for myself, and about Sephardic Judaism from my Papu.

One day during my freshman year in high school, someone asked me what my favorite holiday was. I immediately said, Pesach, or Passover, a holiday that commands us to not eat leavened bread products for a week and to recount the time that God took the Jews out of Egypt. Just the fact that pasta and donuts are out of the question usually makes Pesach people's least favorite holiday, so they are generally surprised when I confess that it is my favorite. When asked why, I did not immediately have an answer. It took me a few years to realize why exactly I liked Pesach so much, and here is why:

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my Papu occurred once a year the week before Pesach. We would take out two Haggadot, the prayer books used on Pesach, a stack of post it notes, and a pencil. We would then go through the entire book and put a sticky note on each page that we intended to read during the Seder, the commemorative meal during the holiday. While we made sure to cover all the basics, such as the introduction, the four questions, and of course everyone's favorite song, Dayeinu, we usually skipped through most of the story because, as everyone knows, most people just want to cut to the chase and eat some brisket. However, what we never skipped was the first paragraph of the Pesach story, which explains that the Jews were slaves in Egypt and God took us out by way of a miracle.

It was not until I was in high school that I began to delve more deeply into the Pesach Seder and started to learn about all the laws and customs that observant Jews practice on Pesach. I noticed how much of the Seder my family had been glossing over and thought that this meant that we were not fulfilling our obligations on Pesach. Eventually, however I learned that the main commandment regarding the holiday of Pesach can be found in the Torah in Shemot 13:8:
And you will tell your children on that day saying, “It was because of this that God took me out of Egypt.”

Here I realized that my Papu had understood something that many people may never truly grasp in their entire lives. The level of ones observance is not necessarily what makes a Jew a Jew. The object of our religion is the passing on of our unique culture and heritage, especially if you're Sephardi and especially if you're from Salonika, to each subsequent generation. Pesach was my favorite holiday because of the lessons I learned from my Papu and the time we spent together making sure that it was enjoyable for everyone at our table.

My Papu's message about carrying on tradition was solidified by the fact that he was a Holocaust survivor. I remember hearing his story with every intricate detail many times throughout my childhood and never feeling like it was redundant. Aside from the fact that my Papu was just a great storyteller in general, to hear of his salvation and then see him carry on his life in a happy and successful way was always amazing for me to see. To close, I want to share the 8 most memorable lessons I have carried on from my Papu, and which I believe describe him very well:

That “Yabasta mi nombre ke es Abravanel,” “It is sufficient that my name is Abravanel”—meaning everyone should know it and that you should be proud of it.

That you shouldn't kiss anyone's a** but you shouldn't kick it either.

That it's okay to take one or two more bites of dessert, especially if it's chocolate.

That the best thing you can acquire in life is a sense of humor.

That if you're born with brains, take advantage of this gift that a lot of people missed out on.

That the Three stooges and the Marx Brothers will be better than Spongebob no matter how much money they invest in that show.

That if you want something badly enough, with enough hard work and dedication, it really can be yours.

That life is something to enjoy, that every moment can be infused with laughter, and that being Sephardi is always a plus.

Diann Owens

September 26, 2012

Over the years, the Abravanel family has become part of our family. There were many joyful celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and barbeques during that time. We will always remember the laughter, friendship and great food. Thinking of you at this difficult time and remember our hearts are with you always. Bonnie, Lowell and Diann Owens

Lewis Guterson

September 26, 2012

It was a privilege to be a friend of Jack Abravanel. Our friendship goes back many years. I first met Jack 50 years ago -- yes 50 years ago. Our wives had become friendly through a Bnai Brith group - and this evolved into adding the husbands and became a dinner group. We would be together every 4 weeks. I remember particularly when Jack and Lela were the hosts - the Greek food was especially delicious. And Jack had a good appetite. He was especially fond of candy - and of all varieties of candy, chocolate was his absolute favorite. So we formed a regular circle of friends - that has lasted all these years. And that was how I first came to know Jack Abravanel.

Jack could kid - he had a good sense of humor - but I particularly remember when we would talk about serious subjects. Jack was a thoughtful person. Jack was a very kind person. Jack was exceptionally bright - he could observe what seemed to be unrelated events and see a meaning, a connection - often more quickly than those around him. I saw in this a unique, exceptional intelligence. And like many very smart people Jack didn't seem to recognize how very smart he was.

Jack was a loving person - he had a very deep love for Lela observe their love for each other...I think their love and the expression of their love had foundations in their Greek heritage.

Jack's love for his daughters was beautiful. Tammy and Doris were his delight and gave Jack such pleasure.

But Jack's most particular delight and constant pleasure was his granddaughter, Makena - he was her “papou”. Over the years, as Makena grew, Jack spent as much time with her as possible...he watched her grow and he helped her grow. I recall he became resigned, as she grew older, that she would spend more time with her young friends, as most young people do.

Jack knew I had younger grandchildren and he would remind me to spend as much time with them as possible because soon they would turn to their own activities and need their grandpa less and less.

I remember when it first became general knowledge that my Shelly had cancer - Jack was the delegate from the dinner group - he brought over 2 pair of pajamas. He talked about his diagnosis then - he talked about Parkinsons and said it was nothing that he couldn't handle.

Jack was well adjusted insofar as his place in the world. He had lots of friends. He was an educated man. He was a handsome man - he had a beautiful head of hair. He was very “greek” – and he had a Mediterranean temperament.

It was always fun to talk with Jack - especially because he was so bright - he had a sweetness about him.

Jack loved his family: Lela, Doris, Tammy, Craig, Makena.

He was so proud of his heritage - Jewish and Greek.

He loved the baked goods that Lore Coe and Susie Sherman would make, especially if it involved chocolate.

Sometimes Jack, at just the right moment, would grab a handkerchief and do a dance.

What did Jack's friendship mean to me? It meant everything I have spoken of.

And he will continue to live in our hearts…

Sam Zisis

September 25, 2012

Aunt Lela,

We want to offer our sincere condolences on your recent loss. We can only imagine how difficult it has been for you and your family losing uncle Jack
May God's blessings and peace be with you and your wonderful family.

With Love,



September 24, 2012

My condolences to the family. May the God of tender mercies give you comfort.

Elin Rosenberg

September 23, 2012


Please accept my condolences at the loss of your dad. I met him a couple of times and he was very gracious and he had a great sense of humor. May the wonderful memories you shared and the knowledge that people care help you and your family through this tough time.

Pam (Fricke) Smith

September 22, 2012

Doris and Tammy, I read both of your writings on your facebook pages. I am so touched by what both of you wrote, I had to search more and find out more about your dad. He was a special man - and thank you both for writing such wonderful letters in memory of him - it made me think again about my dad, who left us way too early in life. Charish every memory!