Beth Abraham leader Bercovich dies at 98

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Albert Bercovich's family roots extend back to the beginning of this century in the Bay Area. They even go as far as the founding of Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland in 1907, named after Bercovich's uncle, Abraham.

Bercovich, who was honored with a special lifetime membership to the temple, died on Monday of last week in St. Rafael's Homes in Berkeley. He was 98.

Integral to the life of the temple, Bercovich was vice president of the synagogue for 10 years and served as a board member for his entire adult life.

"He was very active and instrumental in the congregation," said Beth Abraham Rabbi Mark Diamond. "He jumped right in to whatever needed to be done. He just cared deeply about his community."

Bercovich also volunteered with the Jewish Welfare Federation during World War II. "He was a Jew through and through," said his daughter, Idele Saul, who resides in Oakland.

Born in Svet, Hungary, Bercovich came to the Bay Area as a young boy. His father had arrived some years before and established a furniture business.

At the age of 13, Bercovich left school to go into the family business. As the eldest of six children, three of whom had muscular dystrophy, he had to add to the family's income.

Bercovich Furniture, the family business, was anchored on Franklin Street in Oakland for 70 years until it closed in the early 1980s. The longevity was due to Bercovich's pride in his product and customers, according to Saul.

Saul added that though her father ran a very successful business, he never sought to be in the public limelight. "He had a motto: you can only wear one suit at a time. He never aspired for wealth for wealth's sake."

Outside of work, Bercovich was active with the Fremont Lodge F&AM Order, from which he received an award for 75 years of membership. A baseball lover, he sponsored through his business several local semiprofessional baseball teams.

To add to his knowledge of the world, he attended classes at adult schools. "He always revered education," Saul said. "He was one of the most well-read, self-educated persons you could meet."

He learned Hebrew from his grandfather, and helped tutor his grandsons for their b'nai mitzvah.

Spending time with family highlighted his days. "He was a devoted son, brother, husband, father and grandfather," Saul said.

One tradition he held was an annual visit to Portland, Ore. for his grandson's birthday. Saul said he had a particular fondness for kids. "He had a very wonderful mind, being able to adapt to any age."

Bercovich's wife, Belle, passed away 22 years ago. He is survived by daughters Saul and Lenore Simpson, who lives in Portland, Ore., and son David Wright. He is also survived by his brother Sam; grandchildren Frederick, Jennifer and Jonathan Saul, Eric Simpson and Bill and David Wright; and longtime companion Pearl Levit.

Private family services were held. He was buried at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Oakland. The family asks that memorial contributions be made to the charity of choice.