Napa loses one-man minyan with George Rosenberg’s death

During his 45 years in Napa, George Rosenberg never said no to a local Jewish cause.

A founder of the city’s Congregation Beth Sholom, the Holocaust survivor has been described by family and friends as the pillar that supported the community.

After leading Shabbat services just days before, Rosenberg died at St. Helena’s Queen of the Valley Hospital Oct. 26. He was 73.

“He gives to me a whole new meaning of the word `minyan.’ It’s going to take another whole minyan to fill his shoes,” said Rabbi David White, part-time spiritual leader of the independent congregation.

Rosenberg was born to an Orthodox family in Frankfurt, Germany. He was an adolescent when the family was temporarily detained at a Nazi camp. Upon their release in 1940, they fled to the United States, according to Rosenberg’s wife, Lottie.

The refugees settled in New York, where Rosenberg met his future wife. The two moved to Napa together and married there 45 years ago. Joining with some 25 Jews in the town, they began to build a congregation.

They met for lay-led services in living rooms and rented spaces. A couple of years later, Napa’s chamber of commerce building was sold to the congregation for the cost of transporting the building to its current location on Elm Street.

“It was a school holiday and all the kids were in the street to watch them cut the building in half to move it,” Lottie Rosenberg recalled.

Today, the congregation numbers 130 member households, due in large part to Rosenberg’s activism in the community, said White.

Rosenberg spent most of his spare time nurturing his congregation. His involvement ranged from leading services when there was no rabbi and training b’nai mitzvah students to managing the town’s mini version of the federation, the Napa Jewish Welfare Fund. If someone landed in the hospital in the middle of the night, Rosenberg was the first to be called.

In more recent years, he traveled to nearby Yountville on Saturdays to lead Shabbat services at a veterans home. Then, he would race back to Napa to greet his congregation.

Although Rosenberg led Shabbat services without a hitch on Oct. 23, he had just been in the hospital for an unspecified ailment, White said.

Rosenberg and Lottie earned their livelihood with their own dried fruit business before they sold it and retired eight years ago. Nevertheless, the couple continued to help the new proprietors with deliveries, devoting a day to every week to the business until Rosenberg’s recent illness, Lottie said.

Rosenberg also is survived by two daughters, Beatrice Eisenberg of Washington state and Connie Lorigan of Nevada; a granddaughter, Jessica Eisenberg of Washington; two brothers, Walter and Henry Rosenberg of New York City; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorial services were held. Donations can be made to Congregation Beth Sholom’s new building fund, P.O. Box 5322, Napa, CA 94581, or to a favorite charity.

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.