Sheryl Sandberg’s husband was a mensch guided by Jewish values

David Goldberg, a popular Silicon Valley executive and husband of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, died on May 1 while on vacation in Mexico. He was 47.

A prominent member of the Bay Area Jewish community, Goldberg was a member, along with his family, of Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City.

In a heartwrenching remembrance of her husband of 11 years posted on  Facebook, Sandberg recalled Goldberg becoming her “best friend” when they met 20 years ago in Los Angeles, where Goldberg used to live.

“He showed me the Internet for the first time, planned fun outings, took me to temple for the Jewish holidays, introduced me to much cooler music than I had ever heard,” Sandberg wrote on May 5.

“We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine. He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved — and I will carry that with me always,” she continued. “Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be OK. When I wasn’t sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way — and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit.”

Goldberg, who grew up in Minneapolis, was the CEO of online survey questionnaire provider SurveyMonkey. He lived in Menlo Park with Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer and author of the best-selling memoir “Lean In,” and their two children.

The family’s rabbi, Rabbi Nat Ezray of Beth Jacob, presided over a May 5 memorial service for Goldberg held at Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium. Nearly 1,700 mourners — friends, family members, Silicon Valley leaders and noted entertainers — attended, including U2 frontman and family friend Bono, who sang his song “One,” substituting the name “Abraham” for “Jesus,” according to an account of the service in Fortune magazine.

Eight people, including Sandberg, eulogized Goldberg, and Ezray, in his remarks, called Goldberg a “mensch,” Fortune reporter Adam Lashinsky reported. He also paraphrased part of Ezray’s eulogy, writing: “The true righteous man is unique … and though it is cliché and even common to say kind things of the dead, no one would disagree that Dave Goldberg was that rare righteous man.”

Sheryl Sandberg and her husband, David Goldberg, in 2011 photo/creative commons

Zander Lurie, a senior vice president at GoPro and a friend of Goldberg’s since 1999, also delivered a eulogy.

“He truly was an egalitarian man who would give without ego,” Lurie told J. “He lived his life for his family and friends.”

According to Lurie, Goldberg was inspired by Jewish values, and he and Sandberg enjoyed bringing family and friends together for Jewish holidays, such as hosting an annual Yom Kippur break-the-fast. Goldberg was energetic in business and philanthropy, and generous with his time and was happy to be a sounding board for friends and colleagues dealing with business and personal issues, Lurie said.

He treated people “in a way that celebrates all of their potential and their opportunity,” Lurie added. “He just cared about investing in everything he was doing.”

In an interview last month, Goldberg told Business Insider about maxing out his credit cards in the early 1990s to fund one of his first Internet ventures, a music site, before going on to work at other tech companies, including Yahoo.

Goldberg also was devoted to philanthropic efforts, including the charter school movement, helping ill and disadvantaged children, and the Eastern Congo Initiative, founded by actor Ben Affleck, Lurie said.

He strongly supported his wife’s work; her 2013 book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” encouraged women to overcome obstacles in the workplace and push forward into leadership positions. Sandberg credited her husband with supporting her career by taking an egalitarian approach to marriage and the care of their two children.

“Their lives were an example of co-parenting and true partnership,” Lurie said.

Goldberg was discovered unconscious in the gym of a resort he was staying at with his family in Punta Mita, near Puerta Vallarta; he apparently fell while exercising on a treadmill. He reportedly died of severe head trauma, although CBS News reported an autopsy showing that a heart arrhythmia may have contributed to his death.

On Facebook, tributes rolled in from many people, including some tech giants.

Philanthropist and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff posted: “Dave lived the life we all aspire to. All of our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May his memory be for a blessing.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, wrote: “Dave Goldberg was an amazing person, and I am glad I got to know him … My thoughts and prayers are with Sheryl and her family.”

Sandberg also shared her thoughts on Facebook, writing: “Dave and I did not get nearly enough time together. But as heartbroken as I am today, I am equally grateful. Even in these last few days of completely unexpected hell — the darkest and saddest moments of my life — I know how lucky I have been. If the day I walked down that aisle with Dave someone had told me that this would happen — that he would be taken from us all in just 11 years — I would still have walked down that aisle. Because 11 years of being Dave Goldberg’s wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him, is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for every minute we had.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a J. parenting columnist and former staff writer. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.