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Rose Kaufman Blooms in Santa Monica

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

August 23 -- An ordinary late afternoon in late summer on a quiet street north of Montana Avenue was the setting Sunday for the City of Santa Monica to bestow an extraordinary honor for an extraordinary woman.

Rose Kaufman, a 47-year resident of Santa Monica, was honored by the City and the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica (LWVSM) for her more than 55 years of volunteer service to the nonpartisan political organization.

“It couldn’t be a more beautiful day to honor a beautiful woman,” said Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, as he declared August 19 “Rose Kaufman Day in Santa Monica” and presented Kaufman with a City proclamation.

“Your years of dedication and stalwart support of your community are unmatched in Santa Monica,” Bloom told Kaufman. “You are a treasure for us.”

Bloom capped his accolades to Kaufman with a song -- actor/comedian Groucho Marx’s “Show Me a Rose.”

Rose Kaufman receives a City of Santa Monica proclamation from Mayor Richard Bloom

Yes, Bloom did indeed carry a fine tune in front of nearly 40 guests and Kaufman’s dearest friends.

In addition to League activities, Kaufman served on a number of City of Santa Monica boards and commissions, including the Citizens Task Force on Development (1981), the Commission on Older Americans (1985, 1988 and 1992, Emeritus member in 1996 and 1998) and the Fourth Street Housing Committee (1997).

Kaufman spoke before the Santa Monica City Council more than two dozen times in support of various issues, such as crime prevention programs, enhanced healthcare benefits for Medicare recipients, at-large Council seats, senior housing, traffic safety, parking structure projects and the Santa Monica Public Library.

Most famously, she is oftentimes the lone voice advocating for the distribution of free taxi vouchers to seniors during City budget season.

Her more than 90 years of age have not at all lessened or slowed her efforts.

She did not hesitate to use her speech time Sunday to put some pressure on Bloom to address the taxi voucher issue.

Kaufman: “Richard Bloom, don’t hide. You know something, our new city manager (Lamont Ewell) said he would work on it. And I don’t think he ever did. Now that I am so duly honored, I am going to say to him ‘taxi coupons for seniors.’ This is a rich community and we can do it. Before I die Richard.”

Bloom: “I’ll check on it. We’ve got plenty of time.”

Kaufman: “Well, I’m not so sure.”

(From left) Amy Bishop Dunbar, president of the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica, and her daughters, Saundra Jay and Katie Dunbar, present Rose with a League of Women Voters of California proclamation.

Born in Philadelphia to Lithuanian immigrants, Kaufman was named Rachel Leah Rootkin after her maternal grandmother and the Biblical two wives of Jacob.

As one of six children – there were five girls and one boy – Kaufman’s sisters teased her for having a boy’s name when Rachel was shortened to Ray, so her parents changed her name to Rose Lillian.

She skipped a few semesters and graduated from high school at the age of 16. In 1942, she married Philip Kaufman, whose mother also emigrated from Lithuania.

Rose Kaufman’s interest in the League of Women Voters began in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but she could not find the time for meetings and activities with three small children -- Judith, Louise and Ira -- at home.

In 1950, the Kaufman family moved to Toledo, Ohio because of Philip Kaufman’s job. In Ohio, Kaufman found the time for the league and was quickly elected to a board of director’s seat.

“I joined the League of Women Voters in Toledo for three dollars a year,” Kaufman said, in addition to mentioning she is always shocked at the Santa Monica League’s rising membership fees. “It was either December 1950 or January 1951, but it seems like only yesterday.”

The Kaufman family moved again, in 1960, this time to Santa Monica, where Kaufman’s league commitments evolved.

She has served twice as an LWVSM president (1964-1965 and 1982-1983) and in between held numerous positions as an officer, director or committee member.

Her special interests include voter service activities. She has presented ballot measures and coordinated the speakers bureau, as well as assisted LWVSM president Amy Bishop Dunbar as a consultant, historian and conscience of the local League.

Philip Kaufman passed away in 2003. In addition to her three children, Kaufman has two grandchildren, Michaela and David. She currently chairs the Santa Monica Emeritus College Executive Committee.

Kaufman was first attracted to the League after being insulted at a Toledo school district’s parent-teacher association (PTA) board meeting.

“I had a culture shock,” Kaufman said. “Toledo may as well have been a foreign country. I came home from that first board meeting in a huff.”

One of her neighbors, whom Kaufman barely knew because she had just moved to Toledo, later called to demean her as “an outspoken person” and warned Kaufman not to say anything at PTA meetings or her children “will feel the effect of it.”

Peggy Fonkalsrud, an events coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica, joins Rose as she accepts flowers and well wishes from friends.

“I thought how horrible,” Kaufman said. “What do I do about this? Who is objective? Who can I talk to? I got on the phone and I called the League of Women Voters.”

For this one phone call, League members in Santa Monica and throughout California are grateful to Kaufman.

“I look out, as a woman with young children, at the inspiration that Rose, other members of the League, community members, the City Council and other leaders of other organizations provide,” said Bishop Dunbar.

“I recognize there is so much in our community that motivates their future,” she said, of her two daughters, Katie Dunbar, age eight, and Saundra Jay Dunbar, age 13.

Bishop Dunbar presented Kaufman with a proclamation from the League of Women Voters of California.

“This is the first time the state League office has ever done anything like this,” said Joanne Leavitt, an LWVSM advisory board member and state League legislative consultant, of Kaufman receiving a proclamation.

Leavitt presented Kaufman with a 50-year pin.

Kaufman also received a joint resolution from State Assembly member Julia Brownley, of Santa Monica’s 41st District, and State Senator Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica’s 23rd District.

“As I look out amongst the crowd, there are so many people here, Rose, who give so much of themselves to this community and to the State of California,” said Cheri Orgel, Brownley’s field representative. “I am struck with what a testament it is to you to be singled out as a star among stars.”

Kaufman graciously accepted all of the well wishes.

“So here I am,” Kaufman said, smiling ear to ear. “I think you are all honoring me just because I survived, but I appreciate it. I am really very touched. To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement. I am super-whelmed. All I can say is that League people are special people.”

Readers Fine Jewelers Advertisement


“Your years of dedication and stalwart support of your community are unmatched in Santa Monica. You are a treasure for us.” Richard Bloom


"To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement. I am super-whelmed." Rose Kaufman


“I am struck with what a testament it is to you to be singled out as a star among stars.” Cheri Orgel


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