Murdered immigrants funeral draws 300

Gennady Penskoy, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant found murdered last week in San Francisco, had struggled to make a better life in America since arriving in the Bay Area in 1989.

In his home town of Nikolaev, in the south of Ukraine, Penskoy had labored as a shoe repairer. Upon arriving here, he worked for seven years as a pizza delivery person. His wife, Tamara, found a job as a nurse in a hospital in the city.

Two years ago, Penskoy switched to taxi driving. "He liked the independence of driving a taxi," said Michael Bondarenko, Penskoy's son-in-law.

Penskoy was found slumped over the wheel in his taxi early on Thursday of last week. He was shot in the head.

Penskoy, 46, lived in Daly City with his wife. The couple resided next door to their daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters. He had formed extensive friendships with Jewish emigrés from the former Soviet Union, Bondarenko said.

More than 300 people attended his funeral, nearly all of whom were Soviet immigrants.

Rabbi Bentzion Pil officiated at the funeral, held Sunday of last week at Hills of Eternity Cemetery in Colma.

"He was a very nice person and got a lot of new friends here," Pil said in an interview. "It was a struggle to come here. He was always happy with what he had."

Pil had fixed a mezuzah on Penskoy's first apartment several years ago, and was anticipating doing the same to a condominium Penskoy recently purchased.

"Their home was always open to anyone and always full of people," Pil said. "In general, this is a big tragedy in the Russian Jewish community."

Police are still unsure of the motive for the murder, said Holly Pera, an inspector from the San Francisco Police Department's homicide detail assigned to the case. The assailant, she said, did not take Penskoy's wallet and jewelry. She added that other unspecified items may have been taken from the cab.

Bondarenko, a taxi driver himself, said he is considering leaving the profession, fearing that there are not enough safety precautions taken by local cab companies.

So far, police have no solid leads. Pera is searching for the anonymous caller who dialed 911 to notify the police of the murder. The call was placed from a phone booth on the corner of Sunnydale and Hahn Streets in the Visitacion Valley area nearby the crime scene.

Pil is concerned that police department is not working hard enough to solve the crime.

"I feel it's unfair that the police don't do anything to find the killer," he said, suggesting that police should offer a reward for information. "It just shows that Russian Jews are not important in the eyes of the city."

Pera, who noted that the department "is working very hard on the case," said a reward is being considered by cab drivers and the mayor's office. As of press time on Wednesday, no amount had been determined.

Penskoy occasionally attended Orthodox Congregation Torath Emeth in San Francisco with his father. Bondarenko said Penskoy also helped Russian Jews immigrate here by contributing financial and emotional support.

In addition to his wife and son-in-law, Penskoy is survived by daughter Olga Bondarenko of Daly City, parents Mikhail and Anna of San Francisco, sister Victoria Yaroshevsky of Los Angeles, and granddaughters Michaelle and Nicole Bondarenko of Daly City.

A fund has been established by friends at Patelco Credit Union, 156 Second St., San Francisco, 94105. Checks should be made out to Gennady Penskoy Trust Fund.