Milton L. Goldberg, 92; Helped Start Times Summer Camp Fund

Times Staff Writer

Milton L. Goldberg, a longtime executive director of the Jewish Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Los Angeles who was also a co-founder of what is now the Los Angeles Times Family Fund Summer Camp Campaign, has died. He was 92.

Goldberg, who also was active as a leader of the Boy Scouts in the Los Angeles area, died Sunday of heart failure at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

A social worker by training, Goldberg was named executive director of what was then the Jewish Big Brothers of Los Angeles in 1946 and led the organization for 40 years. Under his leadership, the agency became a national leader in the field of child welfare with youth mentoring, family counseling and a strong camping program.

An avid camper, Goldberg wanted to extend the joys of camping to all young people. But he realized there were few opportunities for economically disadvantaged youth and the disabled to enjoy the outdoors.

During a local meeting of the American Camping Assn. in 1954, Goldberg pressed the notion that a camp experience should be for all children regardless of economic means. The leaders of the camping association approached The Times for support for a camp fund for the underprivileged.


The newspaper agreed to kick in $10,000 for the pilot program, and the United Way agreed to match that amount. Goldberg became the founding president of the campaign. Since its inception, more than 400,000 children have attended camp with the help of the summer camp campaign.

“He worked tirelessly to always focus and maintain the mission of the campaign, which has not changed over the last 51 years,” said Raul Bustillos, grants director of the Los Angeles Times, which administers the fund. “He was attending meetings up until 2000.” The Times campaign runs each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, during which time the paper offers stories about the disadvantaged youth the fund aids as well as the organizations that help them. Contributors to the fund have their names listed with the stories.

Goldberg was born in New York City and moved with his family to the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles when he was 8. He became a Boy Scout, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, and went to UCLA after graduating from Roosevelt High School. He earned his master’s degree in social welfare from UC Berkeley.

He returned to Southern California after college and became a paid executive in the Los Angeles Council of the Boy Scouts of America, where, among other things, he helped train scout leaders in Bishop, Calif., to work with Japanese American scouts who were interned in Manzanar during the war.

Toward the end of the war, when restrictions on the Japanese Americans in the camps were eased, Goldberg was active in taking Scouts out of the internment camps so they could complete their camping merit badges in the nearby mountains.

Goldberg first became associated with Big Brothers in the late 1930s while working for the Boy Scouts.

He helped the organization buy Camp Max Straus, its residential summer camp in the Verdugo Hills above Glendale. He designed the layout of the camp and became its first executive director in 1938.

After he joined Big Brothers as executive director in 1946, he continued his work with the Boy Scouts on a voluntary basis. He served as vice chairman of the National Committee on Handicapped Scouting and established the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.

He served on the camping committee of L.A.'s Council of the Boy Scouts for more than 20 years.

After retiring in 1986, Goldberg eased out of his volunteer commitments except for two: The Times camp fund and the Boy Scout Camp Committee. He believed that the fund was needed “as a counterbalance to the negative things going on in the environment,” he told a Times reporter in 1999 at the start of the 45th annual fundraising drive.

Goldberg married Harriet Smulekoff in 1941, and they lived in Sierra Madre for more than 60 years. She died in 2000.

He is survived by two children, Michael Goldberg of Long Beach and Roberta Goldberg Braun of Pasadena; two grandchildren and a sister.

Instead of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to the Milton L. Goldberg Campership Fund, c/o Camp Max Straus, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 600, Los Angeles, CA 90048.

Memorial services will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at Camp Max Straus, 1041 Shirlyjean St., Glendale.