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Katz-Yarchever, Edythe, 1920-2015
Edythe Katz-Yarchever (née Sperling; 1920-2015) was a leader in the Las Vegas Jewish community, as well as an activist for causes such as education and Civil Rights. She came to Las Vegas with her husband Lloyd Katz in 1951 to manage three of the four movie theaters in the city, which they desegregated at a time when the rest of the city was still racially divided. Edythe opened the city’s first Jewish gift shop, served as Sisterhood president at Temple Beth Sholom, and established the Temple Preschool and the Jewish Reporter. She initiated programs with the Clark County School District to bring understanding of the Holocaust throughout the State of Nevada, and participated in the establishment of the Clark County School District Curriculum Guide in Holocaust Education. In 1992, the Clark County School District named a school, The Edythe and Lloyd Katz Elementary School, after her and her husband.
Edythe Sperling was born in Boston, Massachusetts and spent her formative years there. After high school graduation, she attended the Charles School in Cambridge where she began to develop an interest in politics. One of her earliest memories was walking behind Franklin Roosevelt’s town car at the Boston Gardens.
During the early years of World War II, she was a member of the Massachusetts National Guard and drove an ambulance. Edythe then worked for the United States Army Medical Corps as an executive secretary at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. Later, she was transferred to Cushing General Hospital in Framingham, MA, as a secretary of the Neurological Division, and then to the Hawaiian Islands.
She returned home to Boston in 1946 and shortly thereafter moved to Los Angeles. Edythe was first employed at MGM Picture Studios in Culver City and, a year later, at the Harold Hecht Agency, working with many well-known Hollywood celebrities of the time. In 1948 she met and married Lloyd Katz, who was employed as a manager for the Eagle-Lion film Distribution office in San Francisco, CA.
In October of 1951, a business opportunity arose in Las Vegas, NV. At that time, there were only four movie houses in the town and Lloyd took over the operation of three of them. They needed a great deal of improvement and updating, but Lloyd had years of experience in the field and made them first class theaters. The first thing Lloyd did was to integrate. His employees were instructed to “let everyone sit wherever he chooses.”
Almost immediately upon their arrival in Las Vegas, they joined the Jewish Community Center, which was the first and only Jewish congregation in the city. They became active on the Board, Lloyd becoming its President, and Edythe with the Sisterhood, where she served as President and founded the first Judaic Gift Shop in Las Vegas. It was during Lloyd’s term as President that the plans were drawn and initiated for Temple Beth Sholom.
Both Edythe and Lloyd worked toward civil rights and inter-faith relationships in the community, opening their theaters to every church of every denomination for fund-raisers. The Huntridge Theater, in particular, was considered “the family theater.” Edythe developed the Temple Preschool, the only preschool recommended by the Clark County School District, for which they offered scholarships to underprivileged children of other races and religions.
After 38 years of happy marriage, Lloyd Katz passed away in 1986 with his wife and two sons by his side. In 1995, Edythe married retired Federal Appeals Judge Gilbert Yarchever. Gilbert Yarchever passed away in 2010. Edythe Katz-Yarchever passed away August 31, 2015.
• Chairperson for Board of Directors, Temple Beth Shalom
• Board of Directors – University Center for Religion and Life, UNLV
• Founding member of the Jewish Family Service Agency
• Founder of the Jewish Reporter – Jewish Federation Newspaper
• Organizer and Director of “Volunteers for Education” program, Clark County School District
• Member of Nevada State Council of Southwest Education Research and Development for Clark County
• Appointed by Governor Grant Sawyer to “Operation Independence Committee” for Clark County
• Appointed by Governor O’Callaghan to the “State Health Facilities Advisory Council”
• Headed United Way Medical fundraising campaign
• Board member of Friends of Channel 10
• Founder and organizer of Junior Art League – children’s auxiliary of the Las Vegas Art League
• One of the founders and organizers of FOCUS Youth Services
• Board member of Nevada Medical School Advisory Board
• Executive board member of Las Vegas Jewish Federation
• Nevada Liaison of the President’s Holocaust Memorial Council, Washington, D.C.
• Member, Board of Directors, Anne Frank Institute, Philadelphia, PA
• Instrumental in bringing the “Anne Frank in the World, 1929-1945” exhibit to the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History, UNLV
• Appointed Chairperson of the Governor’s Advisory Council in Education Relating to the Holocaust by Governor Bob Miller
“Edythe Katz-Yarchever Biography.” Women’s Research Institute of Nevada at UNLV. Accessed January 15, 2015. http://wrinunlv.org/research/our-history-profiles-of-nevada-women/edythe-katz-yarchever/.