Harvey Silbert, a noted Los Angeles entertainment attorney, well-known philanthropist and longtime chairman of the American Friends of the Hebrew U., died Sept. 28 of natural causes in L.A. He was 90.
A native Angeleno born and reared in Boyle Heights, Silbert graduated from Southwestern University Law School during the Depression and began his law career in downtown Los Angeles, paid $50 a month and a streetcar pass to the courthouse.
Constance Bennett, a movie star of the 1930s, became a client and helped move him toward a career in entertainment law. During his long career, he represented studio heads such as Howard Hughes and numerous film celebs while a partner at Wyman, Bautzer, Silbert & Kuchel.
Silbert’s career as a philanthropist began during the 1940s when a Columbia studio executive asked him to join the board of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital.
Silbert’s efforts on behalf of the AFHU (he and his wife became benefactors of Hebrew U. in 1970) led him to bring scores of delegations to Israel and later to the establishment of vital facilities on the Mount Scopus campus, including the Harvey L. Silbert Center for Israeli Studies.
Silbert was at ease with American leaders, Israeli prime ministers as well as Hollywood celebrities. He counted among his friends, Gregory Peck and Frank Sinatra. His friendship with Sinatra resulted in the singer subsidizing a Hebrew University edifice. At his urging, Barbra Streisand funded a building on the Mount Scopus campus.
He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Lillian; a son and daughter; four grandchildren; three great grandchildren; and a sister.