Shir Ami founder and activist Rolf Weinberg dies at 77

Rolf Weinberg, a Holocaust refugee and founder of Castro Valley's Congregation Shir Ami, died Jan. 26 at age 77.

This week, friends and family remembered the commitment and generosity of a man affectionately called "Reb Weinberg."

"He did not know how to say `no' to a good cause," said Leon Meier, Weinberg's friend of 40 years. "He was my role model. He was many people's role model."

Weinberg guided Shir Ami from its inception in the early 1960s.

As chairman of the Reform congregation's religious committee for 32 years, his opinions were sought and honored, friends say.

He helped plan High Holy Day services and organized a Sunday morning speaker series that brought in academics, journalists and others to talk about global issues.

Weinberg was also instrumental in coordinating a program that for the last decade has brought rabbinic interns from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion to Shir Ami.

"I would describe him as a person who was very well-organized, who had drive," said friend and Shir Ami congregant Rose Levine. "He was a great motivator."

Meier agreed. "He never hemmed. He never hedged. If something needed to be done, he pitched in."

Born in Kassel, Germany, Weinberg arrived in Portland, Ore., in 1936. His parents followed in 1938.

As a U.S. army veteran, Rolf was stationed in San Diego and later interrogated German POWs.

He graduated from New York University with aid from the GI Bill, and while in New York met his wife of 45 years, Ingrid. He moved to Castro Valley in 1960. A certified public accountant, Weinberg enjoyed a long career as a corporate accountant. Following retirement, he was quick to adapt to the latest technology, becoming an Internet consultant.

Weinberg frequently shared his computer knowledge with members of the congregation. At Shir Ami fund-raisers, Weinberg's skills as a consultant would be offered as a raffle prize.

"There was no aspect of Shir Ami he was not involved in," said Barbara Nemoyten, a fellow founding member. "He felt his identity as a Jew deeply, strongly, positively and creatively."

He was a board member of the Jewish Education Council and the Sun Gallery in Hayward.

Funeral services were held on Feb. 1 at the Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward. They were conducted by Shir Ami rabbinic intern Lisa Rosenberg.

Weinberg is survived by his wife, who lives in Castro Valley, and daughters Debora Antonoff of Atlanta and Susan Andersson of Sweden. He is also survived by four grandchildren.

Donations in Weinberg's name can be sent to Congregation Shir Ami, 4529 Malabar Ave., Castro Valley, CA 94546, Attn: Ann Blank.

Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is a former J. staff writer.