Tireless Mt. Zion, Emanu-El supporter Barbara Rogers, 83

When Barbara Rogers was growing up, she was never allowed to do anything around the house. Therefore, when she got married in 1941, she was totally unprepared to be the housewife she would become.

"The stories were that her food went from inedible to delectable," said her son Ernest Rogers Jr. "The disasters initially were numerous and profound. There was the roast beef that had been in for 30 minutes and the cake that couldn't be cut."

Rogers (nee Shainwald) died on May 16 in San Francisco. She was 83.

Born on March 1, 1920, Rogers was a third-generation San Franciscan, and her family was among the founding families of Congregation Emanu-El. Her father, Richard Herman Shainwald, eventually became a director of Wells Fargo.

Rogers attended Galileo High School and Stanford University. In 1941, she married physician Ernest Rogers. The two remained very active at Emanu-El, with Ernest serving as president.

In addition to raising their five children, Rogers worked extensively as a volunteer. As her husband worked at Mt. Zion Hospital, she devoted much of her time to helping there.

Marty Diamond, who served as CEO of Mount Zion Hospital from 1985 to 1998, met Rogers when he first arrived there.

As president of the auxiliary, Rogers was a great booster of the hospital, said Diamond. "I remember her with great admiration as a woman who could relate to anybody and was very supportive of the hospital and its ability to serve the community," he said.

People continued to call upon her for advice, he said.

"When I got there, it was a hospital in significant financial trouble," said Diamond, "and we needed to think through what are our core services and how to position the hospital to serve the community. She was quite open to the merger with UCSF and was not at all parochial in her ideas. She was eager to be involved in helping the hospital to remain vibrant."

Stephen Pearce, senior rabbi of Emanu-El, remembered Rogers for the way she helped him when he and his wife first arrived in San Francisco in 1993.

Calling her a "lovely and elegant woman," Pearce said Rogers immediately asked him what she could do to be helpful. When Pearce said he didn't know where anything was, Rogers wrote up a two or three-page list of all the services and places that would be useful to them.

"She would always go the extra mile, just a really beautiful person," he said. "All the highest ideals a Jew should embrace, she did."

At Emanu-El, she served as a curator for its Judaica collection. When it came to her volunteer work at the synagogue, "she did it with a great deal of commitment," said son Ernest Jr. "She felt she was representing her parents and her family and took that role as the eldest sister to carry on the tradition her parents had set."

The Rogers were also involved with the Jewish Community Endowment Fund.

"My family has always given to the Jewish community," Rogers wrote last year in a testimonial collected for a second edition of the Living Legacy Society's "Book of Life," of the Endowment Fund. "I give because the Jewish people need it — they never get a peaceful chance in this world and I give because I want them to have that chance."

Rogers was a great fan of the opera and symphony and was also known for her exquisite style, said her son, Ernest Jr.

She was devoted to her family, said her son, and "as our family grew, and we had a stepgrandmother and stepaunts, and son and daughter-in-laws, she never acknowledged those distinctions," said Ernest Jr. "Everyone was a son or daughter, and not only did it confuse the entire community, but it was her way."

The family took many trips together in the Sierra mountains, and all of them loved to hike. Rogers was known for always bringing up the rear.

Rogers was predeceased by her husband Ernest in 1997. Besides her son, Ernest Jr. of Burlingame, she is survived by son Richard Rogers of San Francisco; daughter Claire Rogers of Victoria, Canada; son James Rogers of San Francisco; daughter Barbara Rogers of Safed, Israel; sister Rudy McCaffrey of Palo Alto; sister Dickie Kern of Menlo Park; sister Judy Miller of San Francisco and sister Ginny Stern of Washington, DC; 12 grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Contributions can be made to Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., San Francisco, CA, 94118 or the California Academy of Sciences, 55 Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118-4599.

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."