Max Webb was a man of the people. He always loved being around people and bringing a smile to their faces whenever possible. For him, every morning was a good day just by the virtue of waking up and being alive. As a survivor of the Holocaust, he knew all too well that there isn’t always a next morning, so it was important to live life to the fullest. Max Webb (Menashe Weisbrot) was born on March 2, 1917 in Sydlowiec, Poland and raised in Lodz. He was one of seven children (five sisters and one brother) born to Avraham and Sheva Weisbrot z”l. Growing up in pre-war Lodz was a struggle. His parents worked hard to keep the family together, provide a good home and education for their children. However, there was never enough money and it was barely possible for them to go to bed without being hungry.Max learned more on the street than in formal classroom education. During those years of hardship he learned to think on his feet and to help provide for himself and his family. In his later years these experiences frequently took on a lighter tone as he would amusingly retell his survival methods that would range from “reserving” camp grounds for the gypsies to working with a grocer, and participating in the local unsavory businesses in the neighborhood. In the late 1930’s Max became a professional dance instructor and for decades afterwards everyone would delight in the grace he would show on the dance floor.
In September 1939 everything changed when Hitler marched into Poland and Max witnessed the most horrific of events imaginable. His voice would crack as he relived that horrible nightmare of helplessly watching the Nazis toss babies out of a hospital window into a dump truck below,
During the war, Max survived twelve labor camps and six concentration camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was at Auschwitz in 1943 that Max met Nathan Shapell with whom he developed a lifelong friendship and partnership. Together they fought for survival even through face to face encounters with Josef Mengele and the notorious Death March of 1944. Later, after liberation from Waldenburg on May 8th 1945 they began searching for other family members who may have survived. Max, along with his twin sister, Leah and his brother Isaac were the only three remaining members from his immediate family. After the war, Max and Nathan Shapell realized the dangers of the Soviet Occupation Zone and made their way to the relative safety of the American Zone. Together they searched throughout Germany for a place where they could rebuild their lives. Ultimately they settled in Munchberg and began to gather surviving family members to help form a Jewish community. Max brought his sister Leah with her fiancé; and his brother Isaac with his wife Genia, to Munchberg. Nathan also discovered two surviving members of his immediate family; his sister Sala and his brother David both of whom also settled in Munchberg. In December 1945, Max married Sala Shapell and began to start a new life and family. Max and Sala remained in Munchberg for seven years helping to build a new Jewish community, complete with a cultural center, an orphanage and a synagogue. Max and Sala had two beautiful daughters; Chara, born in 1947 and Rose, born in 1952, before immigrating to the United States in 1952 and eventually settling in Los Angeles, California. Max was a devoted husband to his wife Sala and was in many ways both father and mother to his daughters Chara and Rose. With great pride he would tell of always finding the time to take the girls to their after school activities. Later he doted over his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sala passed away in January 1990 and Max cared for her night and day, even administering insulin shots on a daily basis throughout her prolonged illness. In 1993 Max married Anna Hitter, a successful businesswoman in Los Angeles. Anna has a son and daughter as well as 2 grandchildren, all of whom Max took into his heart; Anna’s family became his family. Anna passed away in September 2011. Max, along with his brothers-in-law Nathan and David Shapell, founded S&S Construction Company in 1955. From this modest start Shapell Industries and Shapell & Webb were developed. For more than 60 years Max was a successful home builder and commercial property developer. His early years were mostly in the field, doing whatever was necessary at the time, even down to washing windows of model homes. More recently, Max spent the majority of his time in the office where he not only put in full day’s work, but also always took the time to enhance the day for all of the employees. Sometimes he would do this by sharing the wisdom gained through his vast experience. At other times he knew it was just as important to smile, maybe tell a joke, and raise the morale of all of the employees, or as he referred to them, “his children.” Surviving the nightmare of the camps was a constant reminder to Max that his life was given back to him as a miracle from G-d. Following liberation Max promised to do whatever he could to help those less fortunate and to rebuild the Jewish people. As a great philanthropist, he kept that commitment over the years by giving generously of his time and money to numerous worthwhile causes and organizations. He was frequently asked by local schools, including Chapman University and UCLA, to speak on Yom Hashoah. Even the Archdiocese of Los Angeles invited Max to speak at their Holocaust education programs. For many years the name Max Webb was nearly synonymous with Congregation Beth Israel where he was the longtime Chairman of the Board. He was personally involved in its complete rebuilding and expansion and he annually delivered the Yizkor appeal on Yom Kippur to inspire others to also support the synagogue. In his later years, Sinai Temple was Max’s spiritual home and here too he strove to support the congregation, and help it to grow. Max became close friends with Sinai’s Rabbi David Wolpe, and was prominently mentioned in the Rabbi’s book “Why Faith Matters.” In 2014 Sinai Temple established the Max Webb Senior Rabbi position with his good friend Rabbi David Wolpe filling the position. Not content to just do mitzvoth in Los Angeles, Max Webb was one of the Founders of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and a recipient of the Eternal Flame Award from the March of the Living. In Israel he was a major donor at Tel Aviv University, where he constructed the School of Languages building and adjacent outdoor café. At Bar-Ilan University he built a magnificent home for the School of Psychology on their new campus. Bar-Ilan and Tel Aviv Universities bestowed upon him an honorary Doctorate degree. He also supported many smaller schools and yeshivas in both the United States and Israel. Caring deeply about medical concerns, Max was a major supporter of work carried out at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center – ranging from diabetes research to establishing a Chair in the Cardiology Department together with Nathan & David Shapell. Max was also a devoted donor to the Juvenile Diabetes Association and the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation. In Israel he was a key supporter of the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer where he was responsible for donating the Outpatient Cancer Therapy Center and more recently helped with major funding for Israel Center for Newborn Screening. Always wanting to set a good example to his family and community Max had a 99th birthday celebration like none other. While accepting no gifts for his birthday, it was important to him to bestow gifts upon the people present who were doing so much for others. So, Max used the occasion of his 99th birthday party to take the unprecedented step of handing out more than $1 million dollars to the various charitable organizations that he had supported over the years. Mr. Webb is survived by his daughters Chara Schreyer and Rose Webb Roven as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that charitable donations be made in Max Webb’s memory to: Sinai Temple 10400 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90024 – Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Community Relations and Development 8700 Beverly Blvd., Suite 2416 Los Angeles, CA 90048 – Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 811 Wilshire Blvd #1600 Los Angeles, CA 90017 – March of the Living1146 19th Street, NW, Fifth Floor Washington, DC 20036