Leadership honorees share verve, vigor for community

Friedman, Waldman and Goldman isn’t a law firm, an investment company or even the last names of the Three Musketeers.

David A. Friedman

But they do exude a definite “all for one, and one for all” mentality.

The names belong to a trio of stalwarts in the Bay Area who have given more than a century’s worth of time, talent, sweat and resources to better the region’s Jewish and civic communities.

For their efforts, David A. Friedman, Marilyn Yolles Waldman and Sam Goldman will be singled out for recognition at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund’s annual Day of Philanthropy on Sept. 22. The event at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco will bring together some of the local Jewish community’s greatest assets — donors, leaders and professional advisers  — for a day of seminars, speakers and philanthropic insights.

During a luncheon from noon to 2 p.m., at which former Timberland president Jeff Swartz, now the chairman of Maoz, a network of professionals dedicated to advancing positive transformations in Israeli society,  will speak on “Jewish leaders in times of crisis,” Friedman, Waldman and Goldman will be honored.

Marilyn Yolles Waldman

Friedman will be receiving the Federation’s Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leader of the Year. In his biography on the event’s website, it is noted that Friedman is following “in his family’s powerful legacy of civic responsibility.”

Legacy, indeed. His family’s history of charitable giving dates back to the Gold Rush and the early days of California — a legacy he credits with instilling in him a profound sense of commitment to community.

“Long before I knew the meaning of tzedakah and l’dor vador (generation to generation), I knew that I was lucky, but not special, and that with this came a sense of responsibility,” ” Friedman said.

“The world is not a level playing field,” he added, stressing that it is up to him and others in his position to try to even it through philanthropy and social justice.

Friedman is a highly respected professional in the field of structural engineering, a noted authority on seismic safety who has 41 years in the industry. From 1994 until 2007, he was president of Forell/Elsesser Engineers, and is now senior principal and emeritus CEO. Examples of his projects include retrofits of San Francisco City Hall, the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the remodeling of U.C. Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

He is a member of the board of the Jewish Senior Living Group, which oversees operations of the Jewish Home of San Francisco and Palo Alto’s Moldaw Residences, and is chairing the Jewish Home’s second capital campaign, which seeks to raise $70 million to build assisted living and dementia care units.

Sam Goldman

Friedman also has served in various leadership capacities at the Federation, including eight years on its board, and was instrumental in the development of the JCC of San Francisco’s current building.  He is also the treasurer of the Friedman Family Foundation, whose president is his mother, nonagenarian Phyllis Koshland Friedman.

In addition to his forebears, Friedman said he draws inspiration from his wife of 41 years, Paulette Meyer, a civic leader and philanthropist in her own right, with whom he started the Faultline Foundation.

“Paulette is responsible for my deep dive into nonprofits,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from her about nonprofit fundraising.”

Of his upcoming honor, Friedman deflected praise. It is the Bay Area Jewish community, he insisted, that deserves acknowledgment. “I am proud of our community for is ability to look out for its own and for others beyond the Jewish community,” he said.

Waldman, the recipient of this year’s Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award, was equally modest. When queried about all she has done for the Jewish community, she said it’s always been in the service of others. “I never anticipated getting an award,” she said. “This is icing on the cake.”

Born, raised and educated in the Midwest, Waldman grew up in the tight-knit Jewish community of suburban Cleveland, where her family was active at Fairmount Temple. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, where she was vice president of her Hillel chapter. Since moving to the Bay Area more than 50 years ago, Waldman has worked unceasingly on behalf of Jewish causes.

Sam Goldman (right) with delegates on an LGBT outreach trip to Israel in June.

In addition to serving on the Federation’s board, Waldman sat on the Mt. Zion Hospital board. In recent years, she has been active with the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, where she chairs the Legacy Giving Society, and has served on the board of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. A bibliophile and voracious reader, Waldman took the leadership role in two major Jewish literary conferences in the Bay Area and helped publish a Jewish literary supplement that was inserted into J. for a number of years.

But it hasn’t only been in a voluntary capacity that Waldman has served the Jewish community. She worked on the staff of Jewish Vocational Service from 1990 to 1997, where she created the Émigré Jobs Project, helping thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union find gainful employment.

“I visited synagogues, created career days and networked among friends to help find jobs for people with skills as computer programmers and doctors,” she recalled.

Even before that, in the 1980s, Waldman served as an associate director at the local AIPAC office. Every voluntary or paid position she has held in the Jewish community has been gratifying, she said. “I have met the best people through this work,” she said. “When you help people, you get out of yourself and your own life.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Goldman, the recipient of this year’s Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Young Leadership. As the co-chair of the Federation’s LGBT Alliance and a 2014 Wexner Heritage program alum, Goldman has worked hard to make sure the Jewish community is inclusive and thriving.

An environmentalist by profession — he is the California program director at the Conservation Lands Foundation— Goldman is active in Wilderness Torah, an organization dedicated to helping Jews find spiritual connections to the natural world through programs such as Passover in the Desert and Sukkot on the Farm. He serves on the group’s board and chairs its development committee.

“It is only recently that Jews have become urban people,” Goldman said. “For most of our history, we were mainly agrarian. Wilderness Torah is tapping into those roots.”

Goldman is also a regular attendee at Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where he helps organize Milk & Honey, a Shabbat service and dinner drawing hundreds of participants. “We cook all day to feed 500 people,” he said.

Goldman’s work in the Jewish, LGBT and environmental communities is an outgrowth of his upbringing in St. Louis, where he and his parents were active members of the large Central Reform Congregation, which places a strong emphasis on social action. As an undergraduate at Bates College, he honed his activist skills by rallying against white supremacists and in support of Somali refugees and lobbying on behalf of migrant farm workers.

Goldman echoed his fellow honorees in his gratitude to the Bay Area Jewish community for providing him with opportunities in which to serve others. “My community work wouldn’t be possible without a vibrant community to support me,” he said.

Robert Nagler Miller
Robert Nagler Miller

Robert Nagler Miller, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wesleyan University, received his master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. For more than 25 years, he worked as a writer and editor at a variety of nonprofits in the Los Angeles and Bay Areas. In 2016, he and his husband, Dr. Arnold Friedlander, relocated to Chicago. Robert loves schmoozing, noshing, kvetching, Scrabble, reading and NPR.