Morton Postrel — passionate Zionist, psychologist, musician

Throughout Morton Postrel’s life, his love of Israel and Judaism burned bright.

He died in his Burlingame home Nov. 17 after four months of hospice care and many years of living with Alzheimer’s disease. He took his last breaths surrounded by his family, said his son Oren Postrel, the rabbi at Congregation Beth Sholom in Napa.

He was 82 years old.

When he was a 15-year-old boy in San Francisco, Morton Postrel and his identical twin brother, Monroe, became active in Hashomer HaTzair, a progressive Zionist youth movement that intended to prepare young American Jews for aliyah.

Members of the group would gather in the evening to sing, dance, play guitar and talk about Israel and international current events. Meanwhile, World War II raged.

The teenagers were well aware that “the world was in flames at the time,” recalled Postrel’s friend Jack Goldberg. Nonetheless, they maintained an optimism that they could make the world a better place. “We dreamed about the future, about the new world,” Goldberg recalled.

In 1949, after Postrel had served in the Navy, he finally made aliyah, and along with other Hashomer HaTzair alumni founded Kibbutz Sasa in Israel’s northern Galilee.

“He was not a very religious man — he was mostly that brand of lefty labor Zionist that doesn’t really exist anymore,” said Oren Postrel.

“He taught us that there are many different ways of expressing oneself as a Jew.”

Postrel met his wife, Rivka, through her sister, a fellow kibbutznik at Sasa. At the time, Rivka was a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. After she completed her service, the couple married and moved to Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Based on his experience in the Navy, Postrel landed a job as a communications technician for El Al Airlines.

The couple had a daughter, Amit, and in 1958 moved to California, where they had two more children. Postrel went back to school and earned a graduate degree in psychology from San Francisco State University.

He got a job as a school psychologist for the Jeff-erson Union High School District in Daly City, a position he held for nearly 30 years.

“He worked with real troubled kids as a psychologist, and he had satisfaction helping turn a troubled kid around and into a good kid,” said his son Ron Postrel of San Rafael. “That’s what gave him nachas around his work.”

Postrel also worked at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, teaching classes on Mideast studies and working with bar and bat mitzvah students to prepare them for leading services.

A music lover, he played the guitar, piano and clarinet, and sang in the Yiddish Choristers, a Palo Alto-based group.

He often played the clarinet before his children’s bedtime, and instilled his children with a love of music. “There’s nobody in our family who doesn’t play some instrument on some level,” said Ron Postrel.

His family described him as friendly, thoughtful, easy going and good-natured.

“He was a very warm person with no pretension,” his wife said.

Postrel also enjoyed traveling. One summer, he bought a one-of-a-kind RV and named it Mr. Aro (an acronym for the family: Morty, Rivka, Amit, Ron and Oren). The family drove across the country, visiting national parks along the way. “We traveled in it and slept in it. It was very bohemian,” Oren recalled.

Postrel is survived by his wife of 53 years, Rivka Postrel, children Amit Gallagher, Ron Postrel and Oren Postrel, and grandchildren Hannah and Jordan Gallagher, Juliana and Benjamin Postrel.

Funeral services were held Nov. 19 at Home of Peace Cemetery in Colma. Donations in Postrel’s memory can be made to Congregation Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.