People before business for Ner Tamids longtime secretary

Gertrude Temkin retired when she was 83, and even then, she made the decision reluctantly.

After all, she had spent 35 years as the executive secretary at Congregation Ner Tamid in San Francisco.

“She always reminded us she was the ‘executive’ secretary. We used to joke the temple would close when she retired,” said Diane Goldman, one of Temkin’s two daughters, who lives in Hillsborough.

Temkin, a quasi-celebrity at the small Ner Tamid, died Sunday, June 17. She was 90.

“Because she was older, she didn’t have great computer skills, though she did learn,” said Beverlee Hassid, president of the synagogue. “Her real talent was in her interpersonal relations with people, how she treated people. The business was secondary — being friendly was primary.

“She was a great asset to every new president and rabbi because she had her finger on the pulse of the congregation.”

Temkin was born in Boston. She and her husband Joseph moved to San Francisco in 1948 to join Gertrude’s uncle. They found Ner Tamid within weeks of their move.

Gertrude and Joseph, who preceded her in death, were married 57 years. They traveled as much as they could, to Israel, the Caribbean, Europe.

They had two children, Goldman and Gloria Brickman. Gertrude Temkin is survived by both daughters, six grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

“She was sometimes described as the queen of the family,” Goldman recalled. “She loved having her chickadees — her children — around her.”

Temkin was short, less than 5 feet tall, with a bright smile and brown eyes. She worked various jobs throughout her life, including working at her husband’s meat counter, and as a secretary for Metro Life Insurance and at Ner Tamid.

In addition to running Ner Tamid’s office for nearly four decades, she also served as president of the Women’s League, and even helped families plan bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings.

Temkin’s friends and relatives described her as kind, warm and inviting. Goldman remembered that her mother was always the first person to welcome a new spouse into the family, regardless of their religious background.

“She was totally nonjudgmental. She accepted everybody,” Goldman said.

For her and her husband’s 50th wedding anniversary, Gertrude and Joseph took the whole family on a cruise. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren made and wore T-shirts that said things like “I’m Gertrude’s daughter” or “I’m Gertrude’s grandson.”

She was also “very, very Jewish,” Goldman said. She volunteered to be the advisor for her daughters’ B’nai B’rith Girls chapter. And she regularly brought home synagogue work, enlisting her daughters and husband to help out. Goldman remembers sitting around their dining room table, stuffing envelopes for congregation mailings.

Her mother, despite getting older and having more health problems, found happiness at the Jewish Home, where she lived before she died.

“Being in a Jewish environment was important to her because at her core, Judaism was who she was,” Goldman said. “She lived it. She lived it ethically.”

Funeral services were held Tuesday, June 19. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Congregation Ner Tamid or Peninsula Temple Sholom.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.