Professor of English and Jewish history who promoted Israel and the Jewish people
THE YOUNGEST volunteer in Israel’s War of Independence, Jason Fenton, who left his native London in 1948, has died at 85 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.
The son of Rabbi Benzion and Bertha Fertleman, Fenton was orphaned at a young age and was sent to Perse School Cambridge as one of the few accepted Jewish students. Fenton was an indefatigable champion of the Jewish people and Israel during more than 50 years in Southern California; the last four years of his life in Minneapolis.
A talented writer and public speaker, he regularly addressed audiences in synagogues, churches, public forums and classrooms. He emigrated to the United States in 1956, received a Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and then pursued a lengthy career as a professor of English and of Jewish history at community colleges and state universities, primarily in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ivor Fenton, Jason clandestinely left England for Israel and there fought with the 4th Anti-Tank Unit, composed of volunteers from the world’s English-speaking countries. His service, under fire, was arguably the
defining experience of his life.
In addition to his many speaking engagements, he authored Strength and Courage: The Untold Story of the MACHAL Volunteers Who Helped Win Israel’s War of Independence, appeared in two documentaries, and frequently participated in TV interviews.
After moving to Minneapolis to be near his daughters, Fenton taught a very popular continuing education course in Jewish Biblical History through the University of Minnesota, despite advancing ill health.
Fenton is survived by his three daughters, Mina Rush, Tamar Fenton and Suzanne Fenton, 11 grandchildren, one great-grandson and his former spouse, Judith Fenton. He had a profound influence on his daughters, who are all deeply involved in Jewish life as professionals and volunteers, and on their descendants.
Jason Fenton, a London native, shown in 1948 as a 16-year old