Elias Villegas z”l

I am saddened to share with our TBS family that Elias Villegas, z’l, passed away early this morning in Arkansas. He was surrounded by his loving family.

Elias moved to Arkansas to be close to his children but especially his grandson, Andy Jr. Our hearts break at this tragic loss, but we are grateful he was able to spend these past few months together with his family.Elias

Funeral services will be held in Arkansas later this week. We will share memories of Elias this Shabbat at our services beginning at 6:30 pm at the LDS Center in Orange. Elias was a very important member of our TBS family and dear friend and we will all miss him greatly.

May his memory forever be a blessing.
Rabbi Heidi Cohen

We invite you to share your memories in the comments form below or on the TBS Facebook page

17 Responses to Elias Villegas z”l

  1. Ed Amador April 6, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    Great person and the smile in this photo of Elias with the fish captures what he was all about!!

  2. Bill Cunningham April 6, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    Elias was/is a pillar of strength and kindness. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working closely with him for the past seven years on many projects. In every interaction he brought his true passion for his faith and his love for the TBS congregation. He will be missed, but everyone who interacts with the Temple operations will continue to expect him to be behind the scenes, as he always was, guarding and guiding us all.

    • Ed Amador April 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

      very nicely said Bill —

  3. Gary Holloway April 6, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    It was an honor and a blessing to have known him. His warmth, his humanity, and his sense of humor inspired me over the few short years I knew him.

  4. Sara Camm April 6, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    Elias was a good man and friend. He was always kind to us from our first days at TBS. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t know how to call bingo nor would I have been so traumatized by the bingo calling experience. Every time we chatted he was always certain to ask me when I would be calling bingo, with a knowing grin and wink that I probably wouldn’t be. He held a special place at TBS in the hearts of those who had the privledge of knowing him.

  5. Bonnie Wenneberg April 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Elias was the very definition of ‘mensch’! A kinder, generous, more caring & compassionate man could not be found. He was always at the ready to assist with whatever one needed. His warmth and humor always made us smile. He was always an amazing help and supporter of Sisterhood, who will forever remember and be grateful to this wonderful man. Truly a blessing! Many tears are being shed at this very sad news. Blessed are You, Creator of the Universe, who gave Elias the foresight to be with his family these last few months and for giving us the many many years we had to enjoy Elias Villegas, z’l. Our sincerest condolences to his family… xoxo

  6. Jada Robitaille April 6, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I am shocked and saddened to hear of Elias’ untimely passing. We were chatting on Facebook late last week and he told me how much he missed all of us from TBS and how he had made arrangements to attend a local congregation for the start of Passover on Friday night. He was a dear friend and a mensch and I will miss him.

  7. Kevin Glaser April 6, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    So sad to hear of this news. Elias was a true mensch and will be missed.

  8. Stephen Einstein April 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    I am greatly saddened to learn of the death of my dear student. Elias always greeted me with the greatest warmth and respect. He will be sorely missed by many.

    Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet.

  9. Marci Endless Bruffey April 6, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    We are saddened to hear this news. Elias was so special–he will be missed!

  10. Pamela Karel Poster April 6, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    Elias and I were coworkers and friends for many years. I looked forward to seeing him on Sunday mornings, and he always made me happy. He even allowed me to practice my mediocre Spanish with him! I am saddened by the news of his passing.

  11. Bruce Smith April 6, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    Truly sad news. Elias took the video at our wedding (Bruce Smith and Ann Kershnar) which we treasure and will certainly keep Elias in our memory. He and i also shared our conversion experiences often with much humor.

  12. Cindi Dubrow April 6, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

    I am incredibly sad about the news of the passing of Elias. I used to tease him that he had the entire state of Arkansas that he could kibitz with because he was so social. G-d must have had a plan that allowed him to spend precious time with his family that he loved so much. Goodbye my friend, you will be missed.

  13. Doris and Bob Bachman April 8, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    We are truly saddened by the tragic loss of Elias from our Temple Family. Remembering so well when Rabbi Donnell brought Elias to all of us. Elias has been a friend and so helpful to our family through the years since. The sudden news is shocking to say the least. May his soul be bound up in the bonds of eternity and may he be a blessing . All his good deeds will live on in our hearts and memories. Deepst condolences to his lovely family. Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet. Bob and Doris Bachman and Family

  14. April Akiva April 10, 2015 at 6:37 am #

    Elias was incredibally kind and friendly, always checking in with you and sharing great stories about his life and experiences. He will be missed!

  15. Robert Dean Nuñez April 10, 2015 at 11:02 am #


    You didn’t have to know Elias very long to feel like he was a good friend. When my husband Jack & I first joined TBS in 2011, before we were married, I remember Elias being there, greeting us with a smile and welcoming us with open arms. He was always laughing, talking & making us feel at home. At every shabbat service, every holiday or special event, he was one of the first persons you saw as you walked through the door. He was very warm, welcoming and genuine. I always felt happy to see him. I must admit that I got a little kick at seeing another Latino at TBS. One just can’t help but feel that immediate connection.

    When Jack & I became engaged and our wedding plans were underway, Elias was such a massive help to us. During the few times I met with him personally about the wedding, he really put me at ease. He was such a yes man. “Don’t worry about it. We will make it happen,” he’d say again & again. I remember when my parents arrived at the temple before the ceremony, Elias and my father immediately hit it off, talking about their backgrounds and laughing like they were old buddies from the same neighborhood. I told Elias “why don’t you stay? Eat & drink and have fun.” I could tell he wanted to, but he had other things to do, as usual.

    The night we all said goodbye to him at the shabbat service before he moved to Arkansas was very moving. So much love, so much affection. The tears in Elias’ eyes were a wonderful thing to see. He left California knowing how much he was loved & appreciated. And that is a beautiful thing that I am comforted by. I am also grateful that he got to spend the last months of his life with his family. My heart goes out to them the most. I am so grateful for knowing Elias. “May his memory be a blessing.” Indeed it is.

  16. Sarah Schweitz April 17, 2015 at 7:00 am #

    After Rabbi Cohen called me about Elias’ death, I was immediately shocked with a felling of great loss. I was flooded by memories of my friend Elias.

    I remember when he came to TBS with Rabbi Donnell so many years ago. He was very pleasant to work with. Elias was a great help to me in the Gift Shop all those years up to the fire of 2014 when our lives turned upside down at TBS. We did not have a Tempe or a Gift Shop, Elias was there to help us adjust during this difficult time.

    Elias always called me Sarita. As the years passed, Elias converted to Judaism. He was pleased with the choice and so was I. Later Elias studied, took the Adult B’nai Mitzvah classes and he became a Bar Mitzvah! For this special day he received a talit and I ordered it. He was so proud wearing it. He came to the shop and asked me, “Sarita, how do I look?” I told him he looked like a mensch.

    I remember fondly when Elias and I participated in Adult Purim Spiels for years, the text written by our friend, Len Fox.

    Elias was very involved with Bingo, Quincenaros, videotaping happy occasions such as weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations. Elias and his friends, Octovio, Fabian, Nelson and Angel met all our needs at TBS especially after the 2014 fire.

    Our Temple always looked welcoming during Shabbat and the High Holidays. Elias built the Sukkah, helped us with the sound system so the choir could be heard.

    I regret that Elias will not be with us to see the remodeled sanctuary, but he will always be in our hearts and memories.

    Rest in Peace Elias!
    Your friend,
    Sarah B. Schweitz