Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel.
Resident of Danville
January 28, 1931–June 27, 2018
Rita passed away on June 27 after battling for several years against advanced Parkinson’s disease. She was surrounded by her three daughters, Aidel Heller (Baruch) of Boca Raton, FL, Marilyn Bitton (Shlomo) of Ra’anana, Israel, and Laureen Cohen (David) of Oakland, CA.
Rita was born in Berlin, Germany, to James and Frieda Osterweil. At the age of 7, Rita was one of the children of the Kindertransport who landed with an extremely loving family, headed by Will and Debbie Brecker, in Woodgreen, London. When she was 16, Rita reunited in San Francisco with her parents, James and Frieda, who lived in Shanghai from 1940 to 1947.
She met the love of her life, Martin Goldman, in 1949, and they wed two years later in 1951 in San Francisco. They were married for 48 years until Martin passed away in 1999.
Rita spent most of her adult life raising a beautiful family in San Francisco and then Oakland. From 1993 to 1999, Rita was Martin’s caregiver at their Oakland home after he suffered a major stroke. After living for many years in Oakland, Rita enjoyed 13 years living in the retirement community of Rossmoor in Walnut Creek. During her final five years, Rita discovered a new talent she never knew she had in oil painting while living in Danville at the Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living.
Most important to Rita was her legacy of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her grandchildren, from oldest to youngest, include Aaron (Miryam), Benjamin (Rivka), Maytal (Ofir), Ephraim (Rivka), Yitzi, Yoni, Gabrielle, Sara (Matt), Jacob, Miriam, and Martin. Her ten great-grandchildren are Mordechai, Daniel, Eliezer, Nava, Karen, Meyer, Zack, Bella, Gaya, and Ethan.
Donations may be made in Rita’s memory to AMIT or to a charity of your choosing. A memorial service was held at Eternal Home Cemetery in Colma on June 29.
Philip Goldstein Graham passed away peacefully on June 29, 2018 in San Francisco at the age of 97, with his family by his side.
He was a kind, decent, lovable, generous person who was proud of his service as a fighter pilot in World War II. Prior to the war Phil played the trumpet and French horn in the band at Arlington National Cemetery. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he was transferred to the infantry and then the Army Air Corps. Phil was awarded the Air Medal Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross for action in the skies over North Africa and Europe. He later wrote a book about his life that has been optioned to be turned into a movie.
At the end of the war Phil met and married the love of his life, Janie (Roeder), and they raised three children in San Francisco. Phil and Jane recently celebrated their seventy-second wedding anniversary.
Phil spent 40 years in the insurance business. After retiring he attended classes at the Fromm Institute and traveled with Janie. They spent every summer at Lake Tahoe and cruised to Alaska year after year. Phil was an avid golfer, and they were members of Lake Merced Golf Club. He also maintained his love of music throughout his life and always had music playing at home.
Phil adored his family and is survived by his wife Janie, son Stephen, daughters Robin Graham and Betsy Brown (Brian) and three grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Janice Fuller and his sister-in-law Joan Titus. Phil was so happy to have been able to attend the weddings of his beloved grandchildren Caroline Haun (Matt), Ian Brown (Emma) and Lauren Brown Grinnell (Jon).
Philip’s life will be celebrated on July 15. For information please email: Philgmemorial@gmail.com.
Donations in his memory can be made to the charity of your choice.
Gerardo Joffe, 98, passed away peacefully on July 9, 2018 at his home in San Francisco with his family by his side.
Gerardo was born Gerhard Ernst Joffe in Berlin, Germany, on June 22, 1920. He was raised in a typical middle-class Jewish home, where life was filled with Boy Scouts, camping, skiing, traveling, Jewish life and school. Gerardo excelled as a student.
As the Nazis rose to power in the 1920s and 1930s, middle-class life turned quickly into survival. He was nearly captured twice by the Nazis, and in 1939, shortly after Kristallnacht, through cunning and sheer luck, he escaped to Bolivia with his life, a suitcase, and a few German marks.
The Holocaust would form the foundation of his worldview.
He changed his name from Gerhard to the Spanish “Gerardo,” dropped his middle name and renounced all things German. It would be many decades before he could begin to forgive the Germans for first abandoning and then persecuting the Jews.
In Bolivia, he found work in the mines of the Altiplano at altitudes over 14,000 feet, and in his early 20s he became the head of the second largest tin mine in Bolivia. While his parents and brother found refuge in Argentina, Gerardo knew that his future was in the promise of America. In 1946, after the United States borders were opened, he scratched together enough poker winnings to sail there and start a new life.
Gerardo attended the Missouri School of Mines, where he earned a degree in mining engineering, after which he began working in the oil fields of Arkansas with “wildcatter” oil prospectors. There he met his lifelong love, Priscilla, and they were soon married. In 1954, their first child, Michael, was born.
Later they moved to Boston, where he attended Harvard Business School. After Harvard, he went to work in the corporate world in New York where their second child, Rachel, was born. Gerardo, however, was a self-made man and was yearning to realize the American Dream. He, Priscilla and their two children found their way to San Francisco, where he pursued many successful business ventures, and it was there that their son, Joe, was born. In 1967, he founded Haverhills, a direct mail order company which specialized in consumer electronics and which he later sold to Time, Inc. in 1971.
In 1980, Gerardo founded FLAME, an organization promoting Israel and Zionism which also countered an anti-Israel sentiment prevalent in the media. Through his efforts, FLAME has grown into a large, well-known and important messenger for Zionism throughout the American Jewish community.
Throughout his life, Gerardo rejoiced in the voracious reading of newspapers and magazines, word puzzles, math puzzles, Native American string “tricks,” tennis, skiing, spending time with his family, bantering, arguing, and caring for his goldfish. He created and self-published word puzzles, courses on business, courses on mathematics and his own memoir.
Gerardo was a loving husband, father and grandfather, serial entrepreneur, inventor, author, polyglot, mathematician, political activist, polemic and a giant curious mind.
He is survived by his daughter Rachel Benham, her husband Derek and their children Zaddy, Rebecca and Jake; and his son, Joe Joffe, his wife Stephany and their two sons Sam and Nathan.
Services were held. In lieu of flowers, kindly make a contribution to Temple Emanu-El.
Edward S. Levinson, age 69, of Orinda, California, passed away peacefully on June 28, 2018. He was the beloved husband of Ruth Levinson (née Hagen) for 46 years. Proud father of Howard Levinson, Rachel (Chett) Garcia and Amy (Vince) Caruso; dear grandfather of Nolan Garcia.
Ed was born in New York City to Theodore and Lottie Levinson. He went to Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley and his juris doctorate from Hastings College of the Law.
Graveside services were held on July 2 with interment at Gan Shalom Cemetery.
May his memory be a blessing.
Herman (Menne) Shine
October 4, 1922-June 23, 2018
The amazing life of Herman Shine has come to an end. He was born in Berlin and raised by his mother Theresa along with six siblings. Only Herman, his brother Bernard, and sisters Erna and Rosa would survive WWII.
Herman was arrested in 1939 and then taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp for the crime of being Jewish. Feeling and seeing the violence rained down by the SS, he survived using his guile and savvy wit by claiming to be a roofer in order to make it more difficult for the guards to beat him. As the years passed, he survived one threat after another as he learned to be a roofer on the fly. In 1942, he was taken to Auschwitz, where his skill as a roofer continued to keep him alive. While working at an Auschwitz satellite camp in the town of Gleiwitz, he attempted to pass the time singing as he toiled on the rooftop. Little did he know that his voice would inspire a great love story that would last 74 years. He noticed a young Jewish girl named Marianne and her sister listening to him. They were in the camp to take out food scraps but were allowed to go home at night. He decided he had to meet her. When he could, he stole moments to talk to her or pass her notes.
In September 1944, Herman was approached by his good friend, Max Drimmer, with plans of a daring escape. With the help of a Polish partisan named Joseph Wrona, they executed the plan to perfection, despite harrowing threats at every turn. Joseph hid them on his farm for three months until events dictated they move on. Herman and Max did not know anyone else in the area, and they knew their lives were hanging by a thread. In desperation, Herman suggested they go to the home of the girl he had met in Gleiwitz. Marianne’s family took them in and her father found them a place to hide. When the Soviets liberated the area, they brought new challenges, but Herman persevered and eventually brought Marianne and her sister Ilse to Berlin. There, he wed Marianne as Max wed his fiancée Herta in a double wedding ceremony.
They eventually immigrated to the United States. They settled in San Francisco, where in 1956, Herman founded Standard Roofing Company on 9th Avenue. He was an extremely successful businessman until he retired in 1979. He enjoyed his family and friends and a good game of bridge right to the end.
Menne is survived by his wife Marianne and his daughter Sonja. In addition, Menne is survived by Yoram and Aviva, Gary and Marceli, Marta, Sylvia, John and Brenda, Kathleen and Eric, Dennis, Miriam, Roxanne and Elliot, Casey and Ben, Tess and Tommy, Rina and Aharon, Ora and Benny, Anthony, Jeslyn, and Jan. In addition, Menne left many, many great-nieces and great-nephews.
Louise Davidson Weiss died in Encinitas, CA on June 29 at the age of 101. She was born in Des Moines, Iowa and had lived in Laguna Hills, San Mateo, and Encinitas.
She is survived by daughter Shirley Pidgeon (Harold) of Rancho Santa Fe, CA and son Alan Weiss (Beth) of San Mateo; grandsons Brian Pidgeon and Mark Pidgeon (Hasty); granddaughters Rebecca Barone (Michael) of Sacramento and Paula Weiss of San Mateo; and 8 great-grandchildren. Graveside services were held on July 3 in Des Moines, Iowa. Donations may be made to Seacrest Village, 211 Saxony Road, Encinitas CA 92024, or the charity of your choice.
June 10, 1928–June 30, 2018
Rene Willdorff, age 90, passed away peacefully at home in Palo Alto. Rene was born in Berlin, Germany, to Daisy and Fritz Willdorff. He was the beloved husband of Ruth Willdorff (née Isaac) for 68 years. Proud father of Betty Willdorff (Lawrence Ensler) and Deborah Matuk (Steven). Very proud grandfather of Adam and Ethan Ensler, Stephanie Domek (Patrick) and Brian Matuk, and the light of his life, great-granddaughter Edie Domek.
Rene and his parents had to leave Berlin in 1938, becoming refugees in Shanghai. These years were a great hardship; however, he made many lifelong friends, whom he met while in school. He was a curious student of life, with interests in a wide array of subjects. Politics was a constant topic at nightly dinners. Rene loved photography, installing a darkroom in his home. He took many pictures throughout his life, leaving a legacy for his children and grandchildren. He was also one to lend his photography skills for the temple, other organizations, or events when asked.
Rene was a longtime engineer with Fluor Corp. After retiring, Rene and Ruth traveled the world, visiting all seven continents. They proudly served two times as Volunteers for Israel (Sar-El). Rene was past president of Palo Alto Lodge of B’nai B’rith and the Bulletin Editor of Ot Am Couple’s Lodge of B’nai B’rith. He was also active with the Shanghailanders, a group of those Holocaust survivors who escaped to Shanghai. He created, designed and maintained the group’s website. He also planned and facilitated several Shanghailander reunions when the group met in a variety of locales worldwide.
The family wants to thank Seniors at Home (Jewish Family and Children’s Services) for providing wonderful caregivers for Rene’s last months. Donations in Rene’s name can be made to Jewish Family and Children’s Services (Lovinger Trust; 2151 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94115) or ORT America at 1210 Bellevue Ave., Apt. 201, Burlingame, CA 94010-4030.