JCF presidents new endeavor is to head S.F. Symphony board

Next December, a very busy man will become even busier.

A year from now, with seven months to go as president of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, John Goldman will take on a second presidential title — that of the board of the San Francisco Symphony.

Goldman, who is the CEO of Goldman Insurance, will replace current president Nancy Bechtle, who is stepping down after 14 years.

"She felt she served for sufficient years, and I would agree," Goldman said.

Goldman, who has been federation president since June, said he and Bechtle had been discussing the possibility of him serving as symphony president, for several months.

Once Goldman said he would be interested in serving, Bechtle forwarded her recommendation to a committee of governors, and board members approved it last Monday.

By serving as symphony president, Goldman is continuing to follow in his family's footsteps; the Goldman family has long been a supporter of the arts in San Francisco, and his mother, Rhoda Goldman, who died in 1996, served on the symphony board for many years.

"When my mom passed on, I was asked if I would consider serving on the board, to keep our family's involvement continuing," said Goldman.

Rhoda Goldman also chaired the Stern Grove Midsummer Music Festival, a program of free concerts founded in 1938 by Goldman's great-grandmother, Rosalie Meyer Stern. Goldman's brother Douglas now chairs the festival, which includes annual concerts by the San Francisco Symphony.

Remembering that his parents often took him to concerts as a small child, Goldman said he always held great affection for the symphony.

Additionally, he added, serving on the board "was a way to keep the memory of my mom alive in something I was doing. It felt good."

Bechtle, like Goldman, also comes from a prominent San Francisco Jewish family with a history of involvement in music. Her parents, Marco and Ruth Hellman, established the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's Hellman Hall.

Goldman said the symphony and JCF were fully supportive of his commitment to both groups.

"Both organizations are fully aware of it, but both are aware that with the support of staff, which will work hard to allow this overlap to not be burdensome, it will be manageable."

Sam Salkin, chief executive of the JCF, expressed his full support of Goldman. "This is both a tremendous honor for John and the Jewish community," he said. "We're off to a good start working together, and I'm confident that his new commitments will not be at the expense of his commitments to the federation and the Jewish community."

Goldman added that he could not do both without the full backing of his family.

"I have a very supportive family with a legacy of community service for generations," he said. "It's what we all believe in, and it's a high priority for my life."

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."