Robert Lauter, a tireless advocate for Israel and Jewish causes, a patron of the arts and a fourth-generation San Franciscan — as well as a beloved husband, father and grandfather — passed away peacefully Oct. 1 after a long illness.
Born Dec. 25, 1928, Lauter (known as Bob) grew up in the city’s Marina District. His family moved around the West Coast during his adolescence, but Lauter returned to attend U.C. Berkeley.
While a student, he met his wife, Naomi, on a blind date. The couple married in 1951 and were inseparable for their 61 years together. “He was a wonderful husband,” says Naomi, 82. “The fact that we were together for 61 years — well, that tells you everything you need to know.”
Lauter graduated from Hastings Law School, became a member of the California Bar Association and went to work for his father-in-law’s electrical construction company. But his heart was in his Jewish community activities. Over the course of the Lauters’ marriage, the pair became a powerhouse in San Francisco, most notably as the face of the Northern California chapter of the Amer-ican Israel Public Affairs Committee: Bob became the first chair of its board of directors in 1963, while Naomi was the chapter’s regional director for 16 years. Together, they hosted politicians and other movers and shakers at their home in the Presidio Terrace neighborhood, counting neighbor Nancy Pelosi among their close friends.
“Bob was invaluable to starting our efforts in Northern California,” said Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s national executive director. “He was our first Northern California AIPAC chair, and along with Naomi, Bob will always be remembered for helping to create our first major AIPAC presence outside of Washington, D.C.”
Lauter also served as chair of Israel Bonds, president of the Bureau of Jewish Education, chair of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and chair of Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy’s first political campaign, for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
When he had free time, Lauter loved to hike and bird-watch — his favorite place in the Bay Area was Mount Tamalpais, according to his wife, who would accompany him on hikes and try to learn all he knew about birds.
Lauter also was a passionate art collector and a lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants. But, says his wife, nothing made him happier than his kids and grandkids, many of whom inherited his passions for politics and art. Son Sam is a respected San Francisco political consultant, while granddaughter Mimi is a successful Los Angeles–based visual artist.
Lauter took pride in the accomplishments of every member of his clan. “His family always came first, that’s just the way it was,” says Naomi. “They were the light of his life. All I had to do to lift him up was talk about a grandchild.”
Lauter had four children, David, Jonathan, Sarah and Sam; 10 grandchildren, Louie, Devorah, Mimi, Rachel, Jesse, Margie, Eliana, Shoshana, Aliza and Jacob; and a great-granddaughter, Mollie.
Services were held Oct. 4. The family requests donations to AIPAC (P.O. Box 207, San Francisco, CA 94104), the Jewish Community Federation (121 Steuart St., San Francisco, CA 94105) or CARE (c/o Margie Lauter, 1825 I St., NW, Suite 301, Washington, D.C. 20006).