Remembering Yoram Kahana, HFPA Member, 1939-2021

It is with great sadness that we post this remembrance of our friend and colleague Yoram, sent to us by his family. Yoram’s wit, intelligence, culture, and humor will be irreplaceable at the HFPA. We will always remember him with love.

Yoram Kahana was born in Tel Aviv, Israel (Palestine at that time) on January 1,1939 to Jacob and Shulamit (nee Aharoni) Kahana.    In November  1947,   following the UN Decision to Partition the country into two states – a Jewish and an Arab one, the young Yoram –  only  8 years old –  celebrated by staying out all night at a local cafe with the country’s renowned writers, artists, and progressive politicians. This set the tone for his independent spirit and life-long passions for progressive politics, arts, and literature 

At 4 years old he was taught to read by his grandfather Abraham Kahana, the renowned biblical scholar and author which, coupled with his natural intelligence, allowed him to skip two grades in school.  He was a regular guest on Shmuel Rosen’s radio quiz show in 1953-54 gaining national recognition for his intellectual prowess.  He began writing and photographing for Ha’olam Hazeh – a radical political weekly (1953-1993), starting a long relationship with Uri Avneri, the owner and editor, who later became the spokesperson for the peace movement before it was fashionable. 

When Yoram was still in his early teens, he was very active in the national scouting movement, leading platoons of up to 300 scouts in activities and training. In high school, his girlfriend’s father owned a cinema, which was not much more than a projector and outdoor screen.  He perfected his English working the subtitle machine and learning quickly to understand the dialogue to match the subtitles. 

In 1955 Yoram joined the Israeli Army at 16, after high school, beginning his training in the officer’s academy in the branch known as “Nachal”.  However, the army did not align with his independent spirit, causing a slight falling out with his commanders.  This landed him in a military prison on the beach, which in true Yoram spirit, he turned into a vacation, reading James Joyce, and writing letters for illiterate prisoners.  

After his release from the Army at 19, he attended University of Jerusalem for a semester, studying archaeology, a long time passion, before writing to Columbia University and informing the admissions department that he would be arriving to attend their college in September 1958.  After cadging credentials from various children’s newspapers in Israel, he had them professionally bound and bluffed his way into the Belgium World’s Fair press corps where he spent several months and made numerous lifelong friends.  He boarded a boat to Canada and then made his way, with the help of his aunt in Toronto and cousin in Ohio, to New York City.  When he arrived at Columbia to start journalism school, the admissions department informed him that the major he had chosen was only available on the graduate level, but they enrolled him nevertheless in the undergraduate school.  Yoram lasted one winter in New York before transferring to UCLA.  Once in California, Yoram decided to teach himself Spanish and spent the next 50 years switching seamlessly between Hebrew, English, and Spanish.

At UCLA he met, in 1961,  the love of his life, his partner, and wife, Peggy at a party. They married in 1962 when Yoram was 23, and began making educational films and film strips, under the banner of Kahana Film Productions, for which they won many awards.  Yoram and Peggy continued at UCLA getting their Masters in Film and Yoram also received a Master’s Degree in Journalism. 

Yoram photographed for the Los Angeles Free Press chronicling the zeitgeist of the 1960’s.  He documented historical and cultural movements and leaders of the time, including music festivals, Black Panthers and the anti-war movement, musicians, authors, artists, celebrities, and politicians. His images have appeared in magazines, on magazine covers, album covers – too many to count.

Their daughters Tal and Paz were born around the same time Shooting Star International was created.  In its heyday, Shooting Star was a globally recognized international photo agency for celebrity at-home and studio photography.  Yoram, its star photographer, had his celebrity photos gracing the covers of magazines in numerous countries for decades.

He joined the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1963 and held numerous positions on the Board and in the Association.  He was a regular on the red carpet for the Golden Globes, working for the event. Until his last days he remained committed to steering the HFPA towards reform.  He was also a longstanding member of the Society of American Travel Writers and his award-winning travel photography was published worldwide.

Mentorship was crucial to his being.  He led by example, and was an advocate and lent support to photographers, journalists and bright eager minds. He championed the underdog, spoke for the silenced, and was a moral compass.  

Travel was ingrained in his daily life and purpose. With his camera slung over his shoulder and a pen in his pocket, he traveled over one hundred countries and every continent, documenting what he saw with open eyes and an open heart. His passions were many and eclectic and ranged from noir movies, first editions of Alice In Wonderland to e.e. cummings and James Joyce (celebrating Bloomsday every year) to art, architecture, vintage cars, politics, and above all  – his grandchildren. Yoram was a voracious reader. Yoram lived by the rule that if they took the time to write it, he was going to take the time to read it. And he did. In five different languages. He advocated for numerous charities including the LA Conservancy, Pablove, Doctors without Borders, the ACLU, and Arab-Israeli Peace.  In lieu of flowers, any donations to those organizations would be an honor to his memory.  

He died peacefully on June 15, 2021, in Los Angeles with his wife at his side.  He is survived by his wife Peggy, daughters Tal and Paz, and grandchildren Jacob, Goldie, Ben, Nathan, and Noa.

                                                                                                            – Yoram’s family

This tribute by the Film Noir Foundation took place on opening night of the NOIR CITY: Hollywood film festival, April 15, 2022, at the Hollywood Legion Theater.