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Deaths for the week of Aug. 9, 2019

Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel.

Mark Louis Erman

April 6, 1972-July 23, 2019

Mark Louis Erman
Mark Louis Erman

Mark Louis Erman passed away peacefully surrounded by family and faith on July 23, 2019. Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Mark was an active member of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, an avid guitar enthusiast and loyal friend. Mark loved college football and was a devoted Nebraska Cornhusker fan. He also enjoyed surfing, skiing, reading, history, geopolitics and traveling the world. His life took him on many adventures that spanned the globe. His three favorite places to visit were in Peru, Japan and Brazil.

Mark graduated from New York University with a double major in Economics and German and was a proud member of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi). Mark later went on to receive an MBA from the University of Southern California. He moved to San Francisco in 2001 to become a founding team member of Artis Capital Management. In 2011, Mark took his knowledge of the gaming industry and helped build Dynamighty, an independent gaming studio creating core games for the mobile lifestyle. Dynamighty’s debut game, CounterSpy received many accolades, including earning a 2015 BAFTA Awards nomination. Mark often said working with the team at Dynamighty was one of the most rewarding times of his career. Mark later went on to work for Electronic Arts and Dictionary.com.

Mark received a strong connection to family from his parents, Ruth and Joe, and also a strong Jewish identity, and those feelings deepened as he grew older. Following his graduation from college, Mark participated in Livnot, a summer program in Israel, which was transformative. Upon his return, Mark expressed deeper commitments to Judaism and strong feelings about having a Jewish home. He achieved that goal in adulthood as an active member of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco and by creating a Jewish home with his wife and twin daughters.

Mark was preceded in death by his mother, Ruth Erman, and is survived by his beloved wife Monique Soltani; twin daughters Ayla and Josephine; father Joseph Erman; sister Dana Kaufman (Michael); niece and nephews and many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Mark lived a meaningful life filled with abundance. He was a remarkable person, son, brother, friend, husband and father and we will all miss our beloved ’Husker. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Surfrider Foundation or any Jewish Family Services in the Bay Area.

Martha Donner

April 20, 1923-July 18, 2019

Martha Donner
Martha Donner

Martha Donner, who narrowly escaped the Holocaust to become one of the most highly respected clinical, psychiatric social workers and interfaith counselors on the Peninsula, died on July 18 in Auburn, California. She was 96.

Doctors at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital said the cause of death was heart and lung failure.

Born Martha Feibusch in 1923 to Jewish parents in Wuppertal, a gritty industrial city in western Germany, she attended German schools as a child and joined Hashomer Hatzair, a left-wing Zionist youth group. But with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 and the introduction of anti-Semitic laws, her family decided to immigrate to San Francisco, where a relative, Morris Feibusch, ran a successful business that required occasional travel to Germany.

One by one, Morris began to bring over his relatives as refugees from the Nazis. It was a painstaking bureaucratic process that required Morris to present each of their official German papers to U.S. immigration authorities before they received the coveted refugee status that allowed them entry into the United States.

Unforeseen tragedy struck on May 6, 1937, when Morris — returning from Germany with papers for Martha, her sister and parents — died aboard the German airship Hindenburg as it caught fire upon landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey. It would be nearly another year before Martha and her family could obtain duplicate copies of their papers and board a ship bound for San Francisco.

Like many other Jewish immigrants, the family lived in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. Martha eagerly embraced her new American identity. She quickly mastered English, speaking the language without a trace of a foreign accent. Martha also exhibited the independent streak that defined her entire life. Ignoring the norms for women at the time, she enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her B.A. Martha then received an academic scholarship to the University of Chicago, where she earned an M.A. in social work.

She returned home to San Francisco, where she began taking on cases as a social worker, working with newly arrived refugees from war-ravaged Europe. There she met Kurt Donner, also a German Jewish refugee, who worked as an accountant. They married in 1946.

In 1951, their first child, Judith (Judy), was born, followed by Howard in 1953. Soon after, the young Donner family moved to San Carlos on the Peninsula, when it was still surrounded by farmland and pastures where cows grazed.

As a working mother, Martha became a role model for many of the women she encountered. “Martha was the reason I became a social worker,” said Stephanie Lencioni of Menlo Park, one of Judy’s childhood classmates and a lifelong friend of Martha’s. “She taught me the importance of working, of establishing my own identity.”

Amy Weiss, the wife of one of son Howard’s old friends, said upon hearing of Martha’s passing;

“I’ll never forget the day I met Martha. She drove up to our house for some reason in a green convertible, top down, so full of life, and extended her love to me as if I was a long-lost daughter. She truly was one of the most generous women I’ve ever met.”

Martha’s colleague, Bonnie Berg, wife of Rabbi Alan Berg said, “Your mother was my mentor, my hero and deep-heart friend. I’ve been blessed.”

Martha loved adventure and nothing could stop her from having fun. She loved to drive and eventually drove an iconic Mazda RX-7, followed by a series of sporty, convertible Saabs. She loved the beauty of wild places, cityscapes, sunsets, oceans and would cast the most blissful Zen-like expression during moments when immersed in those places. When sailing, as she loved to, in big swells and gale-force winds in San Francisco Bay, she was typically the calmest person on the boat. She seemed to always have energy to spare, and always wanted to sit and talk late into the night with “one more cup of coffee.” Yes, she really loved adventure, and squeezing the most out of life.

Martha also loved to travel. She and Kurt visited Israel, where both had relatives, and where Judy lived for 10 years. They enjoyed trips to Europe, Mexico and even the former Soviet Union, where they went to provide assistance to the refuseniks.

Kurt passed away in 1993. Martha dove back into her work, branching out from her practice to counsel interfaith couples, and she didn’t retire until age 75. She was known for her ability to celebrate — she believed that celebrating things big and small was an essential part of life. After Kurt’s passing, she would regularly go to Washington, D.C., where her daughter Judy had settled with her husband, Jonathan Broder, and their daughters. A cherished tradition developed of spending New Year’s Eve with her granddaughters, Julia and Noa, at a hotel in Washington. D.C. During the course of their special celebrations, Martha allowed the young girls to stay up until midnight, whereupon they would ring in the New Year by covering their room with confetti and streamers.

In 2007, at the age of 84, Martha suffered a serious stroke that left her partially paralyzed. But that didn’t stop her from continuing to enjoy travel and adventure. Her son, Howard, regularly took her sailing on the bay. Howard, a wilderness medical doctor, expert sailor and flight instructor, facilitated a flight for Martha with an acrobatic pilot — and she loved it.

Martha was a lifelong learner. At the age of 93, she finally had her bat mitzvah alongside her grandson, Evan, at a synagogue on the shores of Lake Tahoe. In her 90s, she learned to paint, and discovered both a passion and real talent for painting. Martha became a prolific painter, always thinking about what her next painting would include.

At the opening of the funeral service at the Hills of Eternity Jewish cemetery in Colma, Rabbi David Azen of Grass Valley set the right tone as family and friends came together to honor such a remarkable woman; “This is the first time I ever had family members describe their departed mother as a ‘kick-ass mom.’” She was laid to rest beside Kurt.

Martha is survived by her son, Dr. Howard Donner, and his partner, Denise Lange, and grandson, Evan Donner of Truckee; daughter Judy Donner and son-in-law Jonathan Broder of Washington, D.C.; and granddaughters Julia Broder and Noa Broder of Brooklyn, New York. Her sister, Ilse Lewy of San Francisco, died in 2018.

Sinai Memorial Chapel San Francisco

Ronald C. Mendlin

Jan. 8, 1936-July 26, 2019

Ronald C. Mendlin
Ronald C. Mendlin

On July 26, 2019, employment author, lecturer and longtime San Francisco City and County government employee Ronald (“Ron”) Clark Mendlin passed away at the age of 83 after battling Parkinson’s disease for several years.

Ron was born on Jan. 8, 1936 to Joseph and Freda Mendlin of San Francisco, California. His younger brother, Maurice, predeceased him. As a young boy, Ron worked in his father’s clothing stores and attended public school in San Francisco. He grew up in the aftermath of the Great Depression and during World War II; food rations, blackouts and air-raid sirens made a lasting impression on him.

When he was age 9, Ron’s mother was stricken with a severe illness, causing Ron to be placed in Homewood Terrace, an orphanage dedicated to Jewish children. He returned to living with his parents three years later but never forgot his years at Homewood Terrace. There, he learned how to survive a challenging environment, and he made lasting friendships.

Ron graduated from Lincoln High School of San Francisco in 1954. He later earned his Associate of Arts degree from City College of San Francisco and attended both San Francisco State University and University of San Francisco. He also served nine years in the California Army National Guard.

After he attended college, Ron worked for the city and county of San Francisco for over 30 years and retired in March 1992. He was a loyal public employee who served in several city departments, including the Board of Education, Tax Collector’s Office, Department of Public Health, the Airport Commission and the Municipal Railway. Many times he was tasked with reorganizing city procedures and processes, and was recognized by the mayor and other government officials for superior job performance. He was also recognized by the mayor for his dedication to the Holiday Food Drive for the Emergency Food Box program.

In 1964, Ron married Lorraine Schefski of San Carlos, California. They lived in San Francisco and then moved to San Mateo, where they raised two children and had four grandchildren. As a father and grandfather, Ron always encouraged his children and grandchildren to pursue their ambitions, and as a husband, he truly enjoyed traveling with his wife. Through the years, he and his wife, Lorraine, traveled throughout Europe and the United States. Ron especially enjoyed attending Broadway plays and Las Vegas shows. He treasured the kiss he received from Marie Osmond while attending the “Donny & Marie” show in Vegas.

During the late 1970s through the 1980s, Ron worked on several political campaigns and served as a board member and vice president of the Fiesta Gardens Homeowners Association. He worked on several projects benefiting the Fiesta Gardens neighborhood, one of which included negotiations with the San Mateo County Transit District to bring public bus service to Fiesta Gardens.

However, Ron’s greatest passion was helping those with significant life challenges find employment. Throughout the 1970s, he worked on some ambitious projects with motivational speaker Foster Hibbard in order to improve people’s prospects for employment. After retirement from the city, Ron became a volunteer leader with the Northern California Service League, where he sought employment for those with criminal histories; he believed in helping others get second chances. He also lobbied with actor Mike Farrell to end the California death penalty and was a regular attendee of the annual Death Penalty Focus event in Los Angeles.

As an employment counselor, Ron co-authored several, highly-regarded books used in vocational training courses throughout the nation: “Up Against The Clock,” “Time Management,” “The ‘Double You,’” “Being ‘Job-Ready’” “Job Search Tools,” “Networking and Interviewing For Jobs” and “Keeping Your Job.” He also worked for many years on a manuscript entitled “Two Feet in the Air,” which was, in part, based on his life story.

Throughout the 2000s, the Marquis Who’s Who publication board recognized Ron as a member of “Who’s Who in America” and “Who’s Who in the World.”

Ron is survived by his wife of 55 years, Lorraine; his son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and Valli; his daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Cory; and grandchildren Ariel, Haley, Jani and Bodhi.

Throughout his life, Ron believed that leadership was important. He also encouraged others to lead and would counsel them by saying, “If there is no leader, you be the leader.”

Donations in Ron’s memory may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD, 21741; San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, 900 Pennsylvania Ave., San Francisco, 94107; or Death Penalty Focus, 1555 River Park Drive, Suite 105, Sacramento, 95815.

Sinai Memorial Chapel Redwood City

Patricia Needle

Feb. 2, 1947-June 7, 2019

Patricia Needle
Patricia Needle

Patricia R. Needle died Friday, June 7, 2019, after a long battle with Parkinson’s. She was 72 and lived in San Francisco for 25 years, though most recently had moved to Hudson, Massachusetts. Pat was born in Mattapan, Massachusetts on Feb. 2, 1947 to Miriam and Sam Needle.

She is survived by her siblings, Burgess and his partner Marcia, Matthew, Clare, David and his wife Lynne, and Aaron. Pat was a longtime resident of Newton, Massachusetts earlier in her life as well as San Francisco (where she worked for years as a caring and much-loved psychiatric nurse).

In addition to her siblings, she leaves her nieces and nephews, Donna, Felicia, Deborah, Hannah, Naomi, Jason, Mike and their families, along with many cousins and wonderful friends, all of whom she loved dearly.

Pat was known for her generosity, her love of travel and meeting new people. Nothing made Pat happier then bringing a smile or joy to anyone she came in contact with. She’ll be greatly missed by so many people whose lives she touched in her everyday life and as a volunteer and supporter of so many political and social causes.

Pat was a huge supporter as a volunteer and fan of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, which she attended every year for decades and the Jewish newspaper J., which she always looked forward to getting in the mail and sharing articles with friends.

Donations in Patty’s memory may be made to PD Active: P.O. Box 9246, Berkeley, CA 94709, a nonprofit founded by people with Parkinson’s disease to help themselves and others cope with the disease.

A memorial in the Bay Area is being planned. If you’d like to be kept informed of the details, please contact either [email protected] or [email protected] for updates.

Inge Schaffer

Sept. 5, 1926-July 27, 2019

Inge Schaffer
Inge Schaffer

Inge Schaffer, born in 1926 in Berlin, Germany, was the eldest child of Leopold and Franze Loebenstein. Her father was a furrier who owned a fur coat manufacturing factory. Inge had a normal childhood until the mid-1930s, when life in Germany for Jews became increasingly difficult. After Jewish students were expelled from public schools, she and her brother could only attend a Jewish school located in a distant part of Berlin. On Kristallnacht in November 1938, hearing that Jewish men were being rounded up and sent away, her father hid in a box in the storeroom of a relative’s shop while Inge, her brother Al (known as Bubi) and their mother hid all night in silence and darkness underneath their beds. The next morning, thinking the trouble was over, Inge and her brother took the subway to school. When they emerged, they saw their school in flames and were told by a passerby to hurry home because it was too dangerous for them there. Finally, the family was able to leave Germany on one of the last ships going to Shanghai in 1939.

Life in Shanghai, a city with many penniless Jewish refugees, was very hard. Inge attended the Kadoorie School there for one to two years, then began working to help support her desperately poor and hungry family. After her youngest brother, Fred, was born there in 1940, she became his substitute mother while both of their parents worked constantly to ensure that the family survived and did not starve. Inge often recalled that in Shanghai she always looked forward to her birthday, because her present would be a loaf of bread that she did not need to share with anyone. Starvation and death were everywhere, particularly when the Jews of Shanghai were forced to live in a ghetto by the occupying Japanese. Inge described this poignantly in a video interview that is posted on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

Following the end of the war, Inge and her family emigrated to the United States in 1947, landing in San Francisco, a city that would be her home for the remaining 72 years of her life. There she met Werner Schaffer, who was also from Berlin and had also spent the war years in Shanghai. He would become the love of her life. They married in 1950 and would be husband and wife for 43 years, until Werner’s passing in 1993. In the early years of their marriage, Inge worked as a hairstylist. As their children, Stanley and Judy, grew up, she became a homemaker and dedicated caretaker for both her mother and mother-in-law, also providing much needed care on a regular basis to many other elderly people out of the goodness of her heart. Unlimited devotion to family and friends characterized the lives of both Inge and Werner. The phrase, “How can I help?” was never far from Inge’s lips and always described her attitude toward life.

Inge was an active, longtime member of Congregation Ner Tamid in San Francisco, and she led and participated in a host of volunteer activities run by the congregation over a period of many years. She always looked forward to being among her many friends there.

Inge passed away peacefully at home on July 27, surrounded by her family. Inge is survived by her loving and devoted family, including her children and their spouses Stanley (and Elaine) Schaffer and Judy (and David) Shore, her brother Fred Loebenstein, her six grandchildren Aviva, Aaron and Jacob Schaffer and Jesse, Sydney and Rory Shore, her nephew Ben (Mimi Hernandez) Lobenstein, and by many other family members around the world with whom she maintained regular communication, and by friends from far and wide. She touched so many people during her lifetime and made a warm, lasting impression on everyone she knew. Her memory will continue to inspire us all for the rest of our lives.

Donations to honor Inge’s memory may be sent to Congregation Ner Tamid, 1250 Quintara St., San Francisco, 94116.

Sinai Memorial Chapel San Francisco

Barbara Stoff

Aug. 18,1927-July 16, 2019

Barbara Stoff
Barbara Stoff

Barbara Joy Raport Stoff, 91, passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, at the Reutlinger Community in Danville on July 16, 2019.

She was the oldest child of Simon and Frances Raport of St. Paul, Minnesota. Following high school, Barbara moved to San Francisco and attended S.F. State, where she obtained both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Education. Barbara served the San Francisco community as an elementary school teacher for the S.F. Unified School District for 35 years.

While in San Francisco, Barbara met her loving husband of 65 years, Alan Stoff. Together Alan and Barbara traveled the world, including trips to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. They enjoyed their retirement years in Palm Desert. Barbara relocated to the Reutlinger Community in Danville following Alan’s death in 2014. It was at Reutlinger that Barbara found a passion for painting with watercolors, and many of her paintings were selected for display. She always enjoyed visits from family, including her great-granddaughter Alana, named after her late husband Alan.

Barbara is survived by her brother Howard, daughter Susan (Gary), granddaughters Julie (Aaron) and Emily (Zachary) and two great-grandchildren, Alana and Cayden. She was predeceased by her sister Marjorie.