Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel.
Miriam Brooka Blumenfeld
March 4, 1988–May 14, 2018
Miriam Blumenfeld was a talented artist who had a gift for connecting with people and holding them close. But her effervescent personality masked a struggle to believe in herself. She died by suicide in Oakland at the age of 30.
“Mimi” was the daughter of Rochelle and Joel Blumenfeld of Berkeley and the sister of Jonah Blumenfeld of El Cerrito. She attended Congregation Beth El, where she was a bat mitzvah and a longtime camper and staff member at Camp Kee Tov.
Mimi graduated from Berkeley High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College. She received a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of San Francisco. She was a gifted photographer whose images combine a keen eye and an intense desire to capture the essence of the people in her pictures and the nuances of nature.
Mimi was bubbly, warm, wacky, inquisitive, radiant — and, above all, compassionate. She forged profound relationships with people wherever she met them because she took the time to listen to their stories, deeply and without judgment. Her preschool classmates were friends for life. On plane trips, she liked to sit apart from her family so that she could get to know someone new. As she grew older, she would drop by to check in on her friends’ parents. When Mimi visited friends in their apartments, she asked them to tell the stories behind the pictures on their walls or the tchotchkes on their bookshelves. Mimi knew the names of the people and the dogs she met when she took her beloved Golda for walks in Tilden Park.
Even as Mimi’s spirit dimmed and darkness began to overtake her, she had moments and days of joy. Photographs from her family’s Mother’s Day brunch show a laughing, exuberant young woman. The unfathomable tragedy is that Mimi — a person who exceled at living in the moment — was unable to sustain the happiness captured on camera even for another day.
In addition to her loving mother, father, and brother, Mimi is survived by her grandfather, Henry Slamovich of San Francisco; uncles, Joe Slamovich, Elliot Slamovich, and Jeffrey Blumenfeld; aunts Carol Slamovich, Gwendolyn Slamovich, and Bonnie Murphy; and many beloved cousins.
The family requests that donations in Mimi’s memory be made to:
1. The Miriam Blumenfeld Fund at the 9 Muses Foundation, a nonprofit supporting young artists. Checks should be made out to 9 Muses Foundation, c/o M. Hellerstein. 2727 California St., Berkeley, CA 94703
2. The Camp Kee Tov Foundation, which provides camperships to children attending Camp Kee Tov. 1301 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA 94709
Five weeks before Newman Fisher died on May 5 from a chronic lung ailment, he celebrated his 90th birthday with a roomful of friends. He loved company and people gravitated to him, attracted by his engaging blend of personal warmth and intellectual excellence.
Newman was a second-generation San Franciscan and earned a master’s degree from UC Berkeley and a doctorate from the University of Idaho. He had a distinguished academic career as chair of the mathematics department and Associate Dean of the College of Science at San Francisco State University. His abiding interest in Jewish education was reflected in his successful campaign to establish a strong Jewish Studies program at SFSU and the Academica Judaica club he co-founded on campus. He was devoted to Congregation Beth Sholom, where he served as president and captain of the weekly minyan and led the Musaf service on Shabbat for many years. He studied Torah, was a connoisseur of mathematical games and wines, and enjoyed jazz and fine cuisine.
He is survived by wife Neah, son David, daughter-in-law Jenny Choo and stepgranddaughter Nikki Kwong. Contributions in Newman’s name may be made to the Hebrew Free Loan Society.
Esther Pilch (née Pelta), Hebrew name Esther Sara Bas Shifra ve-Yuhudah Leib, passed away on May 10, 2018. Esther Sarah was named for her maternal grandmother, who was deported to the Treblinka Death Camp on Yom Kippur 1942. She was born on Rosh HaShanah in Stockholm, Sweden, on September 15, 1947. Her parents and brother, Jacob Pelta, were among the 35,000 Jews from Poland given temporary sanctuary in Sweden after WWII because of the many pogroms on surviving Jews returning from Russia after the war, culminating in the infamous Kielce Pogrom, July 4, 1946.
They arrived in San Francisco under sponsorship of her maternal uncle, Abraham Hirschberg, in January of 1951. Esther grew up in the Richmond District of San Francisco, attended Congregations Chevra Thilim and Beth Sholom, graduated from George Washington High School, received a B.S. degree from UC Berkeley, and ultimately became a Registered Nurse. In 1973 she married Howard Pilch of Los Angeles at Beth Sholom. They moved to Los Angeles, where they raised two daughters, Jessica and Rebecca. They divorced in 1991.
Esther moved to Calistoga in Napa County several years ago. She leaves behind two daughters, Jessica Samuel and Rebecca Greenberg; brother Jacob Pelta; four grandchildren; cousins; nephews; a niece; and many friends. She was buried beside her companion Barnabas Kovacs. Burial in St. Helena was officiated by her Rabbi Mordechai Miller of Congregation Beth Ami of Santa Rosa, attended by family and friends. In addition, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld of Congregation Beth Am of Los Angeles, where Esther had been a longtime member, officiated as well. May she rest in peace and may her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Marilyn Felice (Rachofsky) Taubman, age 91, passed away at The Legacy Willow Bend in Dallas, TX, surrounded by her daughters, Hilary, Andrea, Rebecca, and Claudia. After a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease and related dementia, Marilyn succumbed to this ugly, unfair disease that took her from those who loved and adored her, but who will remember her for the true lady she always was. She was honest, but never brutal; progressive, but not radical; reliable and confident, but never brash. Marilyn was an elegant lady with the dignity of a queen, ruling her dominion with lofty but reasonable standards.
Born in Dallas in 1927, Marilyn and her family lived in South Dallas where, upon high school graduation at age 16, she packed one suitcase and took a bus to the University of Texas in Austin to begin her college studies. A proud member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, Marilyn graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. She taught second grade for eight years until she met and married Bob Taubman. In 1963, they moved to Atherton, California, to raise their four little girls. Marilyn came full circle and returned to Dallas in 2011.
Marilyn and Bob settled in quickly to the Bay Area, where they became active members in the Jewish community and in the community at large. Several organizations remained near and dear to Marilyn, including ongoing fund raising efforts for the State of Israel; the Mid-Peninsula Jewish Community Day School; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Jewish Home for the Aged (Dallas and San Francisco); Brandeis University National Women’s Committee, and Technion University in Tel Aviv, Israel, as well as local agencies where the needs of underserved children and their families were not being met.
For 35+ years, Marilyn volunteered her time at the San Francisco office of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which included a 30-mile drive each way from her home. She might visit a gallery, a museum, or do a little shopping or noshing before or after her time at JFCS. She was an active member at Temple Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California, where her girls went to Sunday school and celebrated their B’nai Mitzvahs. Although Marilyn received multiple awards over the years for her service, those who knew her well knew she preferred to not have received accolades, as she believed it was incumbent upon each of us to give back to the community without fanfare.
As a former second-grade teacher at Forest Avenue Elementary School in South Dallas, education remained Marilyn’s single most important focus throughout her life. She was often heard saying that “a good education provides good options.” Marilyn prioritized time each week to tutor remedial English to several of the Russian refugee families who settled in the Bay Area. She remained an influential advocate to her own children and grandchildren as they pursued higher learning. In Midland, Texas, many years prior to the family’s move to California, she, along with well-known American educator Mae Carden, created a school called The Hillander School, which continues to offer its students the opportunities to become strong readers and competitive leaders. To this day, the school remains among the top-ranked in the region.
Educational pursuits were but one of Marilyn’s passions. Many feel she missed her calling as an architect/designer. When she and Bob built their Japanese-style family home in Atherton, designed after the Katsura Palace in Tokyo and which was featured in Architectural Digest, Marilyn was involved in every phase of the design and build process as well as the creation of several custom-designed furnishings. Marilyn’s devotion to detail resulted in a tranquil, beautifully designed home modified to meet the demands of “Western” living. The home served the family well and doubled as a perfect location for many grand fundraisers and social events. Marilyn and Bob hosted functions such as Close Encounters of The Jewish Kind, where young Jewish singles in the area were provided opportunities to meet. Notices were often posted at Stanford University inviting students without a place to spend a Passover Seder, a Shabbat meal, or to sit in a Sukkah. Their generosity knew no boundaries, and the Taubmans became treasured members of the South Peninsula and the San Francisco Bay Area community alike.
Marilyn’s love of interior/architectural design earned her the reputation as an avid supporter of local artists, as she understood and so appreciated the design process. She was a member and organizer of several groups that visited artists in their studios and whose goal it was to bring more exposure to their work.
Marilyn and Bob supported the San Francisco symphony, ballet, opera, and the American Conservatory Theater. A love of the arts most definitely trickled down to the girls, who also appreciate solid design, unique hand-made jewelry, clothing and artwork. The girls’ genuine appreciation of music can be attributed to Marilyn and Bob’s eclectic musical tastes at home, from a beautiful opera aria to a masterfully composed symphony, from Fiddler on the Roof to Allan Sherman. Marilyn and the girls proved an enthusiastic audience while listening to Bob’s magical voice.
Marilyn is preceded in death by her loving and devoted husband of 45 years, Robert Marvin Taubman. She is survived by her daughters Hilary Taubman-Dye and husband, John Dye of San Mateo, CA, Andrea Taubman, Rebecca Taubman Schnitzer, and Claudia Taubman-Smith, all of Dallas. Marilyn was also preceded in death by her beloved parents Meyer Jake Rachofsky and Fannie (Rubin) Rachofsky and her cherished brothers-in-law, Avrohm Wisenberg and Charley Feldman. She is survived by her three siblings, Evelyn (Rachofsky) Wisenberg, Helen (Rachofsky) Feldman, and Morton Rachofsky, all of whom were tireless, loving, and supportive siblings to their dear Marilyn until the very end; sisters-in-law Rosalie Taubman and Renee Taubman; and stepdaughter Sara Katherine Taubman. Nieces and nephews who were a part of their aunt Marilyn’s loving support system include Howard and Dana Feldman, Sam and Mynan Feldman, Kaaren Shalom (Richard Gilligan), and Jonathan Shalom (Kimberly), as well as Houston niece Rosi Fink (Bill), and Chicago niece Sandi Wisenberg (Linc). Marilyn was the proud aunt to many great-nieces and nephews who often asked and genuinely cared about their “great” Great-Aunt Marilyn, including Cory and Spencer Yasbin, Chad and Bat Feldman, Jonathan Feldman (Samantha), Jeffrey Feldman (Helene), Michael Feldman, Lauren Fink, Jeff and Alli Fink, and Sarah Fink (Bobby). Several of Marilyn’s Dallas cousins include the late Freda-Gail Stern; her children, Karen, Richard and Harley Soltes; Howard and Cindy Rachofsky, Marc and Casey Rachofsky, as well as several of Bob’s (first generation mentioned) California nieces/nephews, Deborah Taubman, Elizabeth Taubman, Mary Taubman, Adina Taubman (Michael Dermansky), Perry Taubman, Anne Taubman and Ricky Taubman, Maureen Taubman and Lauren Taubman.
Finally and most importantly are Marilyn’s cherished grandchildren: Taylor and Keenan Quijano (Andrea Taubman); Adam, Max, and Ari Schnitzer (Rebecca Schnitzer and Michael Schnitzer); Samantha and Jake Smith (Claudia Taubman-Smith). Each of the grandkids stated how they will cherish the lovely memories, the on-going support, and the quality time spent with their “Bubbie, G-ma, Grandma,” which they will treasure for many years to come.
No words may describe the infinite feelings of loss that Marilyn’s four “extensions,” daughters Hilary, Andrea, Rebecca and Claudia, will endure. Yet they will attempt to perpetuate her legacy with dignity, righteousness, courtesy, kindness, and respect. Andrea, Rebecca and Claudia wish to extend an extra special acknowledgment to Hilary, who, for years, maintained regular ongoing “mom” visits to Dallas from San Francisco. The family wishes to extend their heartfelt and abundant appreciation to both John Latham and to Michael Schnitzer for their continued patience, guidance and support. Additionally, the family wishes to acknowledge The Legacy at Willow Bend for their assistance during this difficult time and would like to extend the warmest, most heartfelt appreciation to Marilyn’s caregivers Thabiso Chidawanyika, Shatonya Wiley, Candace Williams, Esther Amoah, and Deneen Washington, who went “up and beyond” in their dedication, time and devotion to our dear mother.
Following the private funeral service at Hills of Eternity, there will be a Shiva Minyan service. It will held on Thursday, May 31, at 7 p.m. at the home of Hilary Taubman-Dye and John Dye, 337 26th Ave., San Mateo, CA. In lieu of flowers, a contribution may be made to the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 121 Steuart St., San Francisco, CA 94105