San Francisco says goodbye to Richard Goldman

It had the trappings of a state funeral –– a flower-draped casket, soaring music and top political officials in attendance. Yet the tears of a daughter eulogizing at the bimah reminded all that this was a memorial for a beloved father and grandfather.

San Francisco said goodbye to Richard N. Goldman at a midmorning memorial service held Dec. 3 at Congregation Emanu-El, the synagogue Goldman belonged to all his life.

Goldman, who died Nov. 30 at his San Francisco home, had been a longtime philanthropic leader not only in the Jewish community, but in the wider Bay Area and well beyond. He was 90.

Mourners at the funeral of Richard Goldman on Dec. 3. photos/dan pine

The funeral brought together 1,000 mourners to remember one of the Bay Area’s most important philanthropists. In attendance were California Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, Rep. Jackie Speier, San Francisco Mayor (and Lt. Gov.–elect) Gavin Newsom, former Mayor Frank Jordan, State Sen. Mark Leno and Attorney General–elect Kamala Harris.

Also there in force were communal leaders from key Bay Area Jewish institutions, and local celebrities such as San Francisco Giants living legend Willie Mays and Giants president Larry Baer.

To Cantor Roslyn Barak’s performance of a setting of Psalm 23 and the strains of Beethoven’s heart-wrenching Cavatina played by a string quartet, the Goldman family filed in to Emanu-El’s packed sanctuary.

The synagogue’s head rabbi, Stephen Pearce, offered the first eulogy, noting Goldman “had no illusions” and had no problem expressing his opinions, even to the rabbi. “I received a written critique of my sermons,” Pearce joked.

Newsom also spoke, expressing gratitude for Goldman’s impact. “He shared his action and his passion,” he said. “All of us are his legacy.”

He also told the story of Goldman, a lifelong Republican, helping out the liberal mayor after he had a “successful blind date” with Jennifer Siebel, now Newsom’s wife. Goldman volunteered to speak with Siebel’s parents, both staunch Republicans, to help smooth things over.

San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas performed a Brahms ballade on the piano before Goldman’s three children spoke, each sharing personal memories and reflections about their father.

“Dad was tough and opinionated,” said John Goldman. “His love affair with San Francisco made him the city’s quintessential representative.”

Said Doug Goldman, “Dad’s life was charmed. In this, he shared his largesse with others.”

Susan Goldman Gelman, choking back tears, remembered her father and late mother, Rhoda Goldman. From them, she said, “I learned the primacy of giving … I will not honor your memory with mere words. I will carry your spirit and good works forward.”

Pearce then stood with 10 of Goldman’s 11 grandchildren, each clutching a white rose. Pearce read passages from their collected reminiscences, including Goldman’s love of his alma mater, U.C. Berkeley (“He had blue and gold blood running through his veins”).

As they returned to their seats, each grandchild placed their rose on the casket.

Filing out under overcast San Francisco skies, mourners clutched memorial brochures, on which was printed a poem by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer. It read in part: “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are part of us/As we remember them.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a J. staff writer. He retired as news editor in 2020. Dan can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.