Beverly Pressman, teacher and music lover, dies at 59

If there was a pyramid to climb, a parasail to maneuver or a zip line to cling to, Beverly Pressman was first in line to attempt it.

“She always wanted to try something new and be adventurous,” said Rabbi Daniel Pressman of Congregation Beth David in Saratoga, her husband of nearly 40 years.

Pressman, who lived in San Jose, was a proud mother, longtime teacher and someone dedicated to enriching the lives of others through music. She died July 18 in Santa Clara after a two-year battle with uterine cancer at age 59.

Daniel Pressman described his wife as a diligent, giving person who rarely showed up empty-handed when invited to a friend’s or family member’s home. In that same spirit, she always wrote a thank-you note when she received a gift.

“Beverly was not the kind of person who did something in a way to call attention to her,” he said. “She was raised to do those things because she believed it was just the right thing to do.”

Born in Minneapolis, Pressman and her family moved to California when she was a child to escape the cold weather in Minnesota. They settled in the San Fernando Valley and joined Conservative synagogue Adat Ari El.

When Beverly was 15, she met 17-year-old Daniel at Camp Ramah in Ojai. A love of music and performing brought them together.

“I was looking for people to learn a particular song and perform it at camp,” he remembered. “So she stepped forward and she had a lovely voice. We did the song and pretty soon after we went on a date.”

Dating led to marriage in 1968, while Beverly was enrolled at UCLA and Daniel was attending rabbinical school in New York. They returned to the East Coast just long enough for Pressman to finish her undergraduate work in American studies at Barnard College and realize New York wasn’t the place where she wanted to start her career in education.

California proved to be a better location. She earned a master’s in teaching from Cal State Dominguez Hills. After a few years of working in Southern California, she moved to San Jose with her husband. Following the birth of their third child, Pressman went back to school and earned a second bachelor’s degree in vocal music from San Jose State University.

“She felt that she wanted to do more with her love of singing,” Daniel Pressman said. “She liked the classical repertoire and the standard show tunes. She liked to perform those as well as listen to them.”

Pressman continued teaching elementary school for 10 years in the Moreland School District in San Jose before her illness forced her to retire. She previously taught for five years at Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos.

“I would come home at 10 p.m. and she’d still be working,” Daniel Pressman said. “Sometimes I’d be handed a big laminated sheet to cut up while I was watching television.”

Outside of the classroom, Pressman was a committed volunteer at Beth David, serving on the sisterhood board and planning music programs for the synagogue. She’d often perform at the temple or gather with a group of friends to put on an informal musical.

She passed her love of music on to her children, who grew up playing the piano and singing in choral groups and musicals. But she wasn’t a “helicopter” parent, Daniel Pressman said, referring to adults who are excessively involved in their children’s lives.

“She was very involved but raised the family with the idea that a parent’s job was to teach the kids to be independent — do laundry, cook and bake — and grow up to be responsible adults,” he said.

A family vacation to Hawaii gave Pressman the chance to soar above the Pacific Ocean in a parasail. Flying 400 feet in the air wasn’t high enough, so she signaled to be raised 400 feet more. She wasn’t satisfied at 800 feet and climbed another 400 feet. Daniel Pressman watched his wife from the boat below.

“She failed to get me up in the parasail,” he said with a laugh. “But I was a little more adventurous in some ways because she was always pushing me.”

Pressman is survived by her husband, Rabbi Daniel Pressman; their children Aliza Pressman, Benjamin Pressman and Rebecca Pressman; her father, Louis Auerbach; and her brothers Melvin Auerbach and Jeffrey Auerbach.

Contributions may be made to Congregation Beth David, 19700 Prospect Road, Saratoga, CA 95070; the Kaiser Hospice Santa Clara, 10080 North Wolfe Road, SW3-160, Cupertino, CA 95014; and to Schola Cantorum, 1605 W. El Camino Real, Suite 200, Mountain View, CA 94040.