Last weeek I learned Judi Kaufman, one of my former business partners, had recently passed away. Judi was a very unique and courageous person. I think you will find her story very touching and quite inspirational.

Judi Kaufman

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May 9, 1944 – September 21, 2015 Judi Kaufman, long-time community activist, artist, published writer, entrepreneur, and an 18-year brain cancer survivor, whose courageous journey served as an inspiration to thousands of people, lost her battle with the disease on Monday, September 21, 2015. Earlier this year, Judi’s 18-year fight against brain cancer was profiled in the Los Angeles Times. “Cancer wasn’t something she had wanted in her life, either, but she had learned to embrace it. She called her tumor “Friendly,” and tried to understand the strange gifts it offered – even as it took so much away from her,” the article recounted. In 1999, following her first brain cancerDIAGNOSIS, Judi created Art of the Brain (AOB), an organization that raises public awareness about brain cancer, spotlights the strength and courage of brain cancer patients, and helps raise money for advanced brain cancer research at UCLA. Based on Judi’s vision, AOB focuses on creativity, in all its forms, as a vehicle to help brain cancer patients survive and regain their self-esteem in the face of debilitating brain cancer side effects. Judi turned to poetry as her path back to hope in the wake of the damaging effects of brain cancer and its treatments. Since its founding, AOB has raised over 7 million dollars, with Judi spearheading the organization’s annual events. Each gala has a unique theme for the Los Angeles community and unites brain cancer patients and families who celebrate art, creativity and life undefeated by brain cancer. Judi’s philosophy in building AOB was to tap into the talents of the volunteers, called “Brain Buddies” for the success of the organization. All food and gifts for the gala events are donated by local vendors as are virtually all the costs, thereby ensuring that the majority of funds raised go towards brain cancer research. Judi was born and raised in Pasadena, CA, where she met and married Roy Kaufman, an entertainment business manager. Judi and Roy were devoted to each other for 49 years, until her death. Trained as a home economist, Judi focused on food as a way to build bonds by breaking bread with each other, using food as an opportunity to share culture, commonality, and community. She worked for Bon Appétit magazine, was the president and owner of a successful dessert company called “Grand Chocolate Pizza” and headed a firm specializing in public relations, protocol, contemporary manners and communications. As an artist and volunteer Judi was often called on to create tribute journals or teach Jewish cooking classes. Judi’s first book, “Cravings – The Rhyme and Reason for Cooking” (1984), is an autobiographical cookbook featuring her poetry and recipes. Her second book, “Passion and Shadow: The Lights of Brain Cancer” (2000), written after her brain cancer diagnosis, is a hopeful journey that uses the power of cooking, sex, and food as a metaphor for life. “Do You Want Your Brain to Hurt Now or Later?” (2008), Judi’s third book, is a collection of original poems. All profits from the sale of Judi’s books go directly to AOB. As a published poet, Judi’s writings have been printed in a wide variety of poetry and international academic journals. Judi used her artistic and fundraising skills to create a children’s storybook about caring and sharing entitled “Let’s Not Be Afraid to Be Friends” for UCLA’s Special Preventative Research, a program that develops new technology and researches illnesses affecting developmentally handicapped children. Judi was also a prolific community volunteer and activist. She was active in the American Jewish Committee for over forty years, as a member of the Los Angeles Chapter’s executive board and a member of the National President’s Council. Judi created AJC’s signature celebration anthology books, honoring entertainment figures like Jeffrey Katzenberg, George Lucas, Bruce Ramer, and Steven Spielberg. She also helped raise funds for The American Cancer Society , the American Diabetes Association and she was a member of the UCLA Board of Visitors. Judi and Roy were among the founding members of the Skirball Cultural Center. Judi was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She is survived by her beloved husband Roy, their two daughters, Jennifer (Vlad) and Suzy, two grandsons, Garrett and Sebastian, and countless friends whose lives were touched by her. A funeral service will be held at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 5950 Forest Lawn Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068 on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 12:30 PM. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Art of the Brain, UCLA Neuro-Oncology Program, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 710 Westwood Plaza, Suite 1-230, Los Angeles, CA 90095, www.artofthebrain.org, or to theAMERICA Jewish Committee, P.O. box 35783, 1270 S. Alfred street, Los Angeles, CA 90035 ATTN: The Judi Fund.

Published in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 22, 2015

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