Holocaust survivor Al Furberg dies

Al Furberg did not celebrate his 16th birthday with a party.

Instead, he was taken from his home in Poland by Nazi soldiers and placed in a ghetto for Jews.

There, he married the love of his life, Esther, and together they struggled to survive in a German labor camp, where he would save extra food and find ways to smuggle it to her.

“He was like the Rock of Gibralter — he kept everything together,” said his niece Sally Weiss.

Al Furberg died Nov. 17 in San Francisco. He was 83 years old.

“He came to this country and didn’t have anything, but he slowly built everything up for [his family],” said granddaughter Shelli Newman.

After World War II, Al and Esther Furberg spent time in a displaced persons camp before moving to pre-state Israel in 1948. They arrived just before the start of the War of Independence, in which Al Furberg fought.

The couple made their home in Tel Aviv and had two daughters, Sallie and Phylis. After 10 years in Israel, Al Furberg came to the United States to test the waters. He visited Chicago first, then San Francisco, where he fell in love with the city. He lived and worked in San Francisco for six months before his wife and daughters joined him.

He secured his first job at Israel’s Kosher meats in San Francisco. He’d never cut meat before, but he watched and learned the trade.

He then found work at a carpet store, and soon decided to open his own store on 12th Street in San Francisco. The business grew, and A & M Carpets continues to operate as a family business, three generations strong.

Furberg enjoyed spending time with his family. On Sundays, he always cooked a traditional Israeli breakfast for his wife and daughters, recalled his daughter Phylis Kurzbard. Then he’d take the family to Golden Gate Park for the afternoon.

On Saturdays, Furberg frequently attended Shabbat services at Con-gregation Adath Israel in San Francisco, where he was a longtime member.

“I remember him always being in shul and looking over the mechitzah to see if [the grandchildren] showed up,” Newman said. “And he’d give us a nod, as if to say, ‘Good that you came.'”

Furberg loved card games, and often played poker with his friends. He enjoyed attending Jewish music festivals and concerts, and frequently traveled around California and neighboring states, taking his daughters and grandchildren to Reno, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and Calistoga.

In his later years, he went on annual cruises with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“His biggest hobby was just being with the family,” Newman said.

He spoke five languages — Yiddish, Polish, Russian, Hebrew and English. He often told “corny, cheesy jokes” Newman said.

“He was just so amazing,” Kurzbard added. “He was an excellent father; he was kind and always considerate of both my sister and I. He was always there to help us.”

Furberg is survived by daughter Phylis Kurzbard; grandchildren Robin Attia, Shelli Newman, Renee Mahan and Corrinne Vaknin; and great-grandchildren Sean, Eli, Noah, Jack and Rachel. He was predeceased by his wife, Esther, and daughter Sallie Newman.

Contributions in lieu of flowers preferred, and can be sent to Congregation Adath Israel, 1851 Noriega St., San Francisco, CA 94122.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.