Kosher foods distributor Robert Sosnick dies at 75

When Charles Sosnick first moved to New York, he was in a train station one day, unsure of how to get to Manhattan. Lost in the early morning hours, he approached the only other person on the platform.

The man gave him instructions for how to pay a fare and how to reach his destination; then he asked Charles where he was from.

When Charles said San Francisco, the man replied, “Oh, I know a very fine man from there, maybe you know him? His name is Bob Sosnick.”

“Wow,” Charles said, “that’s my dad.”

Charles recalled the story upon his father’s death Dec. 2 in San Francisco at age 75.

Robert Sosnick, known to his friends as Bob, “was a remarkably well-known person in so many different circles — in the business world, the Orthodox world, the philanthropic world,” said Charles Sosnick. “It turned out the guy had met my father at a kosher foods convention.”

Sosnick was well known in the local Jewish community — both as a founding member of Congregation Adath Israel, and as CEO of J. Sosnick and Sons, a Bay Area kosher foods distributor that his grandfather, Joseph, a Russian immigrant, started in 1906.

J. Sosnick and Sons for decades handled brands such as Manischewitz, Rokeach, Kedem, Streit’s and its own product line. Today, it is still a family business, albeit not a kosher one. J. Sosnick and Sons is now a candy and chocolate distributor.

“He was very astute, very smart. In fact, I think he was smarter than most of the people he had to deal with,” said his brother and business partner Martin Sosnick. “He was also very sincere and very honest.”

Robert and brothers Martin and Myron grew up on McAllister Street in San Francisco, which was then the Jewish neighborhood in the city. They went to Hebrew school every day of the week, studying with Rabbi David Stolper, a revered educator who ran six Hebrew schools until his death in 1947.

After graduating from Lowell High School, Robert earned an undergraduate degree from U.C. Berkeley and a graduate degree from the University of Texas. He was working on a doctorate (his thesis topic: gamma radiation in land mammals) when his father, George (better known as Gedaliah), asked him to return to San Francisco to help out with the business. He did, and never left.

Robert Sosnick attended weekly Shabbat services and a daily minyan at Adath Israel, and studied Torah with the rabbi and other congregants.

“He was a very learned person,” Charles said. “When I was in college, I’d mention something from school, and he’d respond as though he’d just read the book. He had that kind of mind.”

Robert enjoyed playing basketball, baseball and being outside in Golden Gate Park. He loved to travel, which he often did, in Europe, for business. He served as president of Adath Israel and Hebrew Free Loan, and was on the board at Sinai Memorial Chapel.

Those organizations were “the cornerstone of his life,” said Martin. “He took great pride in the things they did, how they did it and how they treated people.”

That philosophy is one Robert took to heart. “One of the most important lessons I learned from Bob was to always be fair with the people who are working for you,” Martin said.

Robert Sosnick is survived by children Charles Sosnick of New York, Lawrence Sosnick of San Francisco and Miriam Potasnick of Teaneck, N.J., and grandchildren Judah, Steven, Sabrina and Michael Sosnick and Alexander, Ethan and Erin Potasnick.

A funeral was held Dec. 3 in San Francisco. Contributions in Sosnick’s memory can be sent to Congregation Adath Israel, 1851 Noriega St., San Francisco, CA 94122.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.