• The Boiling Point has reached its millionth online view! Thank you, readers!
Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Ivan Wolkind, Shalhevet dad, champion of community safety and liaison with law enforcement, dies at 56

Sudden loss of father to three brings outpouring of grief and admiration
Danya Hoenig
SERVICE: Ivan Wolkind z”l smiles as his daughter Nettie, now a Shalhevet senior, affixes his badge at his LAPD swearing-in ceremony July 2, 2014, as then-Chief Charlie Beck looks on. Mr. Wolkind was known in the Jewish community and beyond as a champion of safety and love of family.

Mr. Ivan Wolkind, father of current senior Nettie Wolkind and two Shalhevet alumni and former Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, passed away suddenly on May 10. He was 56.

A memorial service was held on Sunday at B’nai David Judea Congregation, where he was a member, attended by more than 450 people in person and more via livestream, even though it was held on the afternoon of Mother’s Day. 

Known as a reliable liaison between the LA Jewish community and both local and national law enforcement, Mr. Wolkind appeared at many community events as well as Shalhevet Town Halls. He was a sworn volunteer LAPD officer and, most recently, CEO of Magen Am, a West Coast security service focused on Jewish communities. At the time of his death, he was preparing to move to Houston where he would have been CEO of Holocaust Museum Houston.

Mr. Wolkind, seated on stage in white shirt, organized a schoolwide safety event at Town Hall on Sept. 21, 2022. He advocated preparation, not panic. (Evan Beller)

At the B’nai David service, Mr. Wolkind was described as a gregarious, hard-working colleague and friend who was devoted to his family. In addition to Nettie, he is survived by his wife, Leah Lesch; daughter Rosie, class of 2018; and son Lenny, class of ‘21.

All spoke at the service. Lenny said his father saw his work as a duty to the world. He said he once told him all he needed to be happy was his wife, a dog, and a peaceful home in the country, but that his own happiness wasn’t his only priority.

“He gave up all of his time, gave up anything and everything to work for all of us here, to keep us safe, to raise money for the people who needed it,” said Lenny. “I think maybe he was happier in a troubled world, where he could help fix it.”

In his 20s, Mr. Wolkind took a break from working in finance “to move to Israel to be a bum,” Lenny said, and lived on a boat there for half a year scuba-diving, eating bananas off of trees, and working on kibbutzim. 

“And he was happy, he loved doing that,” Lenny said.

But after six months, Mr. Wolkind returned to the work world.

“He didn’t want to be in a world like this one where there is work to be done and he wasn’t the one doing the work,” said Lenny. 

Rosie said her father sent a letter every day to her and each of her siblings when they were in summer camp. In the letters, he reaffirmed his love for them and described what the rest of the family had had for dinner, or wrote about something he was interested in—for instance, quantum physics, she said.

“My dad was the Tooth Fairy, and he took his job very seriously,” said Rosie. “I did not make it easy, I’m very competitive. I would put my tooth inside a matchbox, and then I would duct tape it to my hand, and then hide that under a pillow. 

“And he’d have to wake up extra early before he went on his swims in the morning, so that he could with love, and care, and genuinely magic, very calmly untie the duct tape from my hand, remove the tooth, replace it with two dollars and a note from ‘TTF’ —the Tooth Fairy.”

Nettie said she would work to embody him in her daily life as much as she can.

“I’m going to try every day to make you proud of who I am,” said Nettie in a letter to her father that she wrote to be read at the funeral. 

“My dad empowered me in every part of my life,” Nettie said. “How lucky am I to be the daughter of Ivan Wolkind—to have his DNA, his bad sense of humor and his love, as part of who I am.”

Mr. Wolkind was previously healthy and fit; on May 8, he collapsed of cardiac arrest while exercising at the gym, a family spokesperson confirmed to the Boiling Point. 

“He had so much love to give to this world, so many plans,” said Nettie. “So much more to say. More off-color jokes, more making fun of Americans, more cheating in board games, more adventures with my mom, and more hugs to give us.”

His love for his family was commented on by friends, colleagues and family members.

“My dad loved deeply and loud,” said Rosie at the service. “And if you ask any of us, I bet that we’d each say that secretly, we thought we were his favorite.”


The suddenness of Mr. Wolkind’s death left the community in shock. Several speakers commented that they had seen and joked with him within the last few days.

“He was someone we knew that we could call and he would answer always on the first ring,” said Ms. Sarah Emerson, Shalhevet’s Chief Operating Officer. “We knew that whatever he could do to help Shalhevet, he would do.”

Mr. Wolkind spoke numerous times to the school community about security and helped plan an emergency security training session for the entire school on Nov. 15, 2022. 

He advocated preparation but not panic. A day before a lockdown drill in December 2018 — held just a few months after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.— Mr. Wolkind reassured students at Town Hall.

“I work with every Jewish school in the city,” said Mr. Wolkind on Dec. 20 of that year.  “I am very comfortable with the security here at Shalhevet… This school takes security very seriously — probably more seriously than any other school I work with.”

Mr. Wolkind served on the Shalhevet security task force for over a decade, in which capacity he helped create and maintain Shalhevet’s security protocol, according to Head of School Rabbi David Block. Both Rabbi Block and Ms. Emerson praised his promptness and constant willingness to help the school.

“When we designed and built our security system and protocol, Ivan took charge,” wrote Rabbi Block in a newsletter the day Mr. Wolkind died. 

“When we trained students, Ivan took the lead,” Rabbi Block wrote. “When we had security questions, we turned to Ivan first—and he always responded with alacrity, graciousness, wisdom, and care.”

It was just one focus of a long and varied career, which Mr. Wolkind began in finance as CFO and CEO of various companies, transitioning over time to doing more security work. He also worked with the FBI, as the chair of the Board of Directors at Infragard — a nonprofit intermediary between the FBI and businesses  — from 2017 to 2023.

Mr. Wolkind grew up in the U.K., where he received a BA in history and politics from Keele University in Newcastle, and a chartered accountant certification from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

His position in Houston was announced May 2, and would have started in the fall. 

“This is a unique period in American Jewish life,” Mr. Wolkind said in an article posted in Houston’s Jewish Herald-Voice, “and I am excited to help navigate the museum through these untested waters.”

In his spare time, Mr. Wolkind did many things, including working out and researching quantum physics, friends and family said.


At the B’nai David service, Mr. Wolkind was praised by people who knew him from all walks of life.  A former colleague, Mr. Jason Dice, Regional Security Director of the Secure Community Network in Texas, described him as “passionate, driven, charismatic, a leader. Tough, demanding, yet fair.”

“Fiercely loyal, intelligent, funny, and more importantly, loving, of his friends and his family,” Mr. Dice said.

Mr. Sergio Garcia, a member of Mr. Wolkind’s elite security team, also spoke.

“He was a brother to all of us,” Mr. Garcia said. “Through his leadership, our security team turned into an extraordinary team.”

Ms. Maureen O’Connell, a former Special Agent with the FBI, said it had been her idea to make Mr. Wolkind the chairman of the board of the Infragard National Members Alliance. She called him a team-builder who was focused on getting the job done.

“He volunteered 20 hours a week, for a couple years, to help keep Americans safe, to keep children safe, to be the voice for the Jewish people on the InfraGard board,” Ms. O’Connell said at the B’nai David service.

“[He was] someone that was an out-of-the-box thinker, someone that was passionate, someone that loved innocent people and wanted to champion them. He cared about everyone and he cared about the Jewish people so much.

“All I can remember about Ivan is his love, his love for his family, his love for all of us. He loved us like we were siblings,” said Ms. O’Connell, in tears.

Several speakers described his dedication to the Jewish community. Ms. Becky Sobelman-Stern, Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer at the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, said that he had been valued for his “love of the Jewish community and commitment to the well-being of the Jewish people.”

Friends and family described Mr. Wolkind’s sense of humor and love of life.

“Ivan was just fun to be around,” said Shalhevet sophomore Ella Hoenig. “He was very unique, he had this particular smile, no one can replicate it.”

The Hoenig family has been close family friends with the Wolkinds for over two decades, spending holidays, vacations, and Shabbat meals together.

“He was a great family man, he loved his family so much,” said Ella.

Dr. Jonathan Hoenig, Ella’s father, described Mr. Wolkind as “a guy that just was funny and witty and intelligent.” He had “this smile, and this mischievous way about him, you couldn’t get angry at him!”

At the funeral, Dr. Hoenig recounted a story about the first time the Hoenigs hosted the Wolkinds on Shabbat, more than 20 years ago. Right before dessert, he said, Mr. Wolkind went missing. 

“So we looked around, Ivan’s sleeping in the bedroom,” said Dr. Hoenig. “And that was the moment I knew that this was going to be a good friend of mine.”

Ella recalled it as well.

“That was such an Ivan thing to do,” Ella said.

The main sanctuary at B’nai David-Judea Sunday was silent throughout the service, with most seats full and at least 20 people standing. Among them were Rabbi Block and General Studies Principal Mr. Daniel Weslow.

Ms. Emerson seemed to speak for many when she said that his death had left a hole in the community.

“I already feel a void,” Ms. Emerson said. “What a giant we’ve lost, and what a friend we’ve lost. And what a leader we’ve lost.”

Zecharya Rosenthal, ninth grade, contributed to this story.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Mira Schulman
Mira Schulman, Features Editor
Mira Schulman, 10th grade, joined the Boiling Point in freshman year as a writer and became Features Editor for sophomore year, after winning a Best of SNO award for her first article in 9th grade. Outside of school she ice skates and takes drawing lessons. She also enjoys reading, babysitting and spending time with friends.

Comments (0)

All The Boiling Point Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *