Obituaries are updated regularly and archived on JN Online:
The Gift Of
OPERA STAR EMMA SCHAVER'S
LIFE WAS A LOVE SONG TO
THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
Special to the Jewish News
hen Emma Lazaroff Schaver died
at age 97, the world lost a
renowned opera star, a fervent
Zionist, a generous philanthro-
pist and a devoted patron of the arts.
"Emma Schaver was truly a woman of extraor-
dinary compassion and generosity," said Harvey
Beim of Bloomfield Hills, a longtime friend of
the Schaver family. "Her life was based on her
love of Judaism and the Jewish people. Her lega-
cy of involvement in Jewish life and causes and
the many educational institutions she supported
both locally and in Israel were most important to
"Her commitment to these causes will be
missed by the community and by her many
friends," Beim added.
Mrs. Schaver, of Southfield, died Jan. 26,
Emma Lazaroff was an infant when her par-
ents, Jacob Lazaroff and Tzippe Henye Velinsky,
left their small village near Yakatrinislov, Russia,
and came to the United States with their seven
children, of whom Emma was the oldest. They
went first to New York and moved to Detroit in
1914, after the outbreak of the World War I.
Yiddish was her first language; and her par-
ents, who were both Lubavitch, instilled a strong
tradition of Jewish culture and values.
A Life Of Music
From childhood on, music and singing were a
major part of her life.
After graduating Northern High School, she
studied at the Detroit Conservatory of Music
while holding various jobs to help support
the household. When she was 16, she trav-
eled to New York to attend the Juilliard
School of Music, where she later received
an honorary degree. She also attended
the Chicago Conservatory in Illinois.
Mrs. Schaver quickly became a crit-
ically acclaimed opera star, singing
with opera companies throughout
the world. She was a soprano
soloist with conductor Leonard
Bernstein and sang with many
symphony orchestras in the
United States and in Israel,
including the Detroit
Symphony Orchestra and the
In 1924, she married
Morris "Moshe" Schaver, a
friend of the family. Mr.
Schaver owned Central
Overall Suply Co. in Detroit
and the couple spent 30
happy years together until his
death. They shared a strong
devotion to Israel, Jewish values,
education and the arts, and were
known for their generosity and phi-
lanthropy to the causes they supported.
Mrs. Schaver's love for Israel and the Jewish
people prompted her to join a cultural mission
to Europe after World War II sponsored by the
World Jewish Congress and the United Nations,
where she traveled from camp to camp entertain-
ing Jewish survivors with Yiddish and Hebrew
When she saw the condition of the people and
realized how much her presence meant to them,
she volunteered to stay for six months. She later
wrote a book titled Mir Zyznen Do! (We're
Here!) about that experience.
"She was always amazed at the power of the
Jewish people to bounce back and at their
remarkable spirit," said Oak Park author and his-
torian, Irwin Cohen.
"She was the biggest star ever in the history of
our Jewish community," said Cohen, who is
weaving Mrs. Schaver's life story into his upcom-
ing book Echoes ofDetroit's Jewish Communities:
A Comprehensive History 1760-2003.
"She always downplayed her accomplishments.
Yet if you go through Detroit's Jewish weeklies
dating back to the 1930's, an article about her
talent or good deeds seemed to appear on a regu-
lar basis," Cohen said.
Said Harvey Beim, "She always used to tell me
how lucky she felt to have been born a Jew, even
as a child she felt that way.
"She was a brave lady and a great supporter
of ours for many years," said Joseph Savin, presi-
dent of the Michigan Region of the Zionist
Organization of America. "Even when she
(couldn't attend an event, she was always our
Mother Of Lubavitch'
Like her parents, Mrs. Schaver was devoted to
the Lubavitch Foundation, serving as its local
honorary chairperson and supporting every one
of the 19 Lubavitch institutions in Michigan.
The main sanctuary of the Shul-Chabad
Lubavitch, the centerpiece of the Synagogue
Campus of Living Judaism in West Bloomfield,
is named for Mrs. Schaver's two grandfathers,
Efraim Aharon Velinsky and Zelig Lazaroff, both
of whom were Lubavitcher Chassidim.
"Without Mrs. Schaver's untiring and uncom-
promising support, we would not have enjoyed
the success we have," said Rabbi Berel Shemtov,
director of the Lubavitch Foundation. "She
deserved and more than earned the name,
`Mother of Lubavitch' in Michigan."
Shirley Zimberg of Oak Park, who was Mrs.
Schaver's personal secretary for the past 10 years,
said, "Mrs. Schaver always used her talents and
resources for the strengthening of Jewish life and
education, both locally and worldwide, and, as a
deeply compassionate woman, she personally
helped countless others to bring their dreams to
fruition through her encouragement and sup-
port. She was quite a woman.
"She knew all the prime ministers of Israel; she
GIFT OF COMPASSION on page 108