a lit memorial candle with a Sinai Memorial Chapel logo on it

Deaths for the week of May 28, 2021

Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel

Ruth Jaffe

July 21, 1915–May 26, 2021

Ruth Jaffe
Ruth Jaffe

Ruth passed away peacefully on May 26 at Aegis of Moraga.

Until the final days of her 105 years, Ruth enjoyed clarity of mind and generosity of spirit. She offered unconditional love to her family and loyal companionship to her many friends and neighbors. She was engaging in conversation, focusing on the interests and needs of those around her while offering sage advice and the wisdom gained over her many years.

Ruth was born in Oakland, CA to Annie and Ben Borsuk, who married in New York, came to California on their honeymoon and settled in Oakland in 1913. The family moved a few years later to Alameda, where Ben opened a grocery store. After Ruth graduated from Alameda High, the family moved back to Oakland, where Ruth continued to live until she was 101. Ruth met her husband, Max, a wholesale tobacco distributor (Jaffe Bros.), in Oakland. They were married in 1937 and enjoyed a long and loving marriage for 63 years. They had three daughters, Joyce, Barbara and Carol.

Ruth was the consummate hostess for their large extended family and many friends, cooking elaborate meals and hosting parties tailored to every holiday or special occasion. Ruth continued to host large family Thanksgiving dinners and lovely Valentine’s Day luncheons for friends until she was well into her 90s. Many special family events were enhanced by the humorous and heartfelt poems Ruth enjoyed writing and presenting for the occasion.

When their house in the Montclair hills burned in the 1991 firestorm, Ruth and Max were among the first to rebuild their home. Demonstrating the same optimism and determination she showed 20 years earlier when she overcame breast cancer, Ruth quickly refurnished and equipped the newly rebuilt home where she continued to live for another 24 years. Ruth was a longtime member of Temple Sinai in Oakland.

Ruth is predeceased by her husband, Max, her brother Sid Borsuk and her son-in-law Charles Aronson. She is survived by her three daughters and their families: Joyce (Marv) Ellenberg, Barbara Aronson and Carol (Renee Tarshis) Jaffe and four grandchildren, Lori (Mark) Edelstone, Linda (Scott) Rafferty, Jeff (Kristine) Aronson and Steve Aronson. She is also survived by six great-grandchildren: Steven and Emily Edelstone, Annie and Melina Rafferty, and Karina and Rachel Aronson, by her sister Florence Helzel and many nephews and nieces.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Caring Community Fund at Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, CA 94609 or to the charity of your choice. A private burial has been held.

Eva Libitzky

February 28, 1924–May 23, 2021

Eva Libitzky
Eva Libitzky

Eva Libitzky died peacefully in her home in Pompano Beach, Florida, on May 23, 2021 at the age of 97 surrounded by her family.

Eva was born in Lodz, Poland, into a prominent Chassidic family. Her faith and loyalty to her family and religion ran deep. In 1939 at the age of 15 her happy home life came to an end, and Eva along with her family were taken to the Lodz Ghetto. Her father died in the Ghetto at the age of 52, and in 1944 when the Ghetto was evacuated, Eva and her mother were transported to Auschwitz where her mother was killed immediately. Eva worked in the labor camp and survived the horrors of Auschwitz only to be sent to another slave labor camp, Oederan, where she was ultimately liberated by the Russians. Eva was the only survivor from her family.

She met her husband, Martin Libitzky, shortly after being liberated, and they were married in 1946. In 1947 Moses was born; a few years later they moved to the United States and they welcomed Anne and Ellie. They made a life for themselves on a chicken farm, in Colchester, Connecticut, where Eva would sew dresses for herself and her girls, harvest eggs, milk the family cow and even make her own butter. She and Martin sold the family farm and moved to Manchester, Conn., where they operated a successful dry-cleaning business for 25 years and thereafter retired and moved to Pompano Beach, Florida. Eva and Martin enjoyed their retirement in Florida. They made great friendships, traveled the world, loved to play bridge and cards and enjoyed the casino and theatre.

In 1998 they participated in the March of the Living, and as difficult as it was for them to recall so much of their past, they answered all and any questions that were asked of them. Eva was a woman with great strength and inspiration and continued to speak at schools and answer questions no matter how painful those memories. Eva was encouraged by her children to write a book about her life called “Out on a Ledge,” which she co-authored with Fred Rosenbaum. She told her story to stand up to hate and so that future generations never forget. Eva never forgot the teachings of her faith nor the traditions of her father and mother which she passed onto her children. After Martin’s passing in 2012, Eva continued to live her life to the fullest. She continued public speaking, enjoying card games, dinners and outings with friends, visits to see family in California and cruises to the Caribbean.

It is with deep sadness we mourn the loss of an incredible woman who believed in love not hate. She had a spirit for life, a profound love for her family and kindness for others. A Holocaust survivor, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, may her teachings guide us all. Eva’s memory and story will live on in her memoir “Out on a Ledge,” which can be found on Amazon. She leaves behind her children Moses Libitzky (Susan Libitzky), Anne and Nathan Petrowsky, and Ellie Caruso; her five grandchildren Sharon Petrowsky (Josh Castro), Stacey Petrowsky, Michelle DeGregory (Peter DeGregory), Paul Caruso, and Michael Libitzky; and three great-grandchildren, Madison Alcorn-DeGregory, Nolan DeGregory and Olivia Castro.

Donations may be made in memory of Eva Libitzky to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., or to the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, 2031 Harrison St., Hollywood, FL 33020 or to the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, 121 Steuart St., San Francisco, CA 94105.

Sigmund Freeman

April 10, 2021

Sigmund Freeman
Sigmund Freeman

Sigmund Arnold Freeman, 88, passed away peacefully on April 10, 2021 at his home in San Francisco after a three-month battle with post-acute Covid-19 syndrome. He is survived by his beloved wife, artist Janet Donald (“Donnie”) Partridge, whom he met on a ship to Europe in 1958. He is also survived by his first cousins Analee Nunan and Rabbi Bernard J. (Yetta) Robinson, and was predeceased by his first cousin Arlene (Paul) Nathan. He is also missed by the Robinsons’ children, Daniel, Naomi and Micah Robinson.

Born in San Francisco and raised in the city by his parents, Harry and Lillian Freeman (née Greenfield), Sig was a graduate of Lowell High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and maintained lifelong friendships with members of his college fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi. Sig became an internationally recognized expert in seismic engineering, developing influential technical models and analytical tools and serving on the City of San Francisco Building Inspection Commission. He was known by colleagues as a generous mentor who had an insatiable curiosity and delighted in finding clever solutions to complicated engineering problems, and is remembered by family and friends for his easygoing conversations and his passion for travel, both professionally and with his cherished wife, Janet.

Sig’s distinguished career as a structural engineer began with the California Division of Highways (Caltrans) during the construction of the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge and the Embarcadero Freeway. He then worked for 15 years at John A. Blume and Associates (later URS/Greiner) and for over 35 years at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE). He performed on-site earthquake damage assessments following the Alaska (1964), San Fernando (1971), Loma Prieta (1989) and Northridge (1994) earthquakes. Sig contributed to many seismic design projects, including the development and testing of methods to predict earthquake damage and the drafting of codes for earthquake resistant construction. He also updated military manuals and taught for the Army Corps of Engineers. Sig received professional accolades as senior principal with WJE, including Design Awards from the California Preservation Foundation for the seismic retrofits of San Francisco’s historic Congregation Sherith Israel and the Alcatraz cellhouse.

In 2010, Sig and Janet moved to The Carlisle retirement community in San Francisco, where he served as president of the Homeowners Association and was instrumental in guiding the community through several major engineering repair and restoration projects. Among residents, Sig was beloved for his gentle warmth and quiet good humor. Friends joked with him about many projects but always knew that they could rely on him to create, on a moment’s notice, a graph or a spreadsheet that would clarify the most complicated of issues. “We will miss his skills, his great smile and his big heart,” said one longtime friend and fellow Carlisle resident.

Funeral services were privately held through Sinai Memorial. Memorial donations may be made to San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, formerly the Jewish Home, 302 Silver Avenue, S.F., CA 94112, or a charity of your choice.

Sinai-Redwood City

Geraldine Steinberg

May 30, 1925–May 22, 2021

Environmentalist Geraldine Steinberg championed green foothills, legal aid service

Geraldine Steinberg
Geraldine Steinberg

Pioneering environmentalist Geraldine Steinberg, the first woman appointed to the Santa Clara County Planning Commission, the first woman elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and among the first women to graduate Stanford Law School, died Saturday. She was 95.

Steinberg chaired the Santa Clara County General Plan Commission that resulted in rezoning the foothills as open space, earning her accolades from state conservation groups, while supporting managed growth in the flat lands, winning her the support of the development community.

“She was a mediator,” her daughter Joan Laurence said. “She went into a man’s world with her feminine influence and made peace between factions that were at odds.”

As county supervisor, Steinberg encouraged the purchase of open space adjacent to a small county park, creating the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. Among her greatest joys, she said, was driving down Interstate 280 and viewing the beauty that all can enjoy.

Steinberg married her husband, renowned regional architect Goodwin B. Steinberg, at the age of 18, on May 7, 1944, after a year at Vassar College. When he enlisted in the United States Air Force, she persuaded Vassar to allow her to matriculate as a married woman to complete her studies. With six months left on her husband’s tour of duty, Steinberg returned to her parents’ home in Evanston, Illinois, where she audited a course at the local Northwestern University that would change her life: Constitutional Law. When her husband enrolled in architectural school at the University of Illinois, she decided she, too, would go back to school, completing two years of law school.

The Steinbergs left the Chicago suburbs for the Bay Area in 1952, by then with two children. They were part of a brash, entrepreneurial cadre of Midwestern transplants whose ambition and ingenuity were the DNA that spawned Silicon Valley.

It was not until 1960, by then a mother of three, that Steinberg returned to law school, at Stanford. She was one of just four women in her class.

Steinberg’s involvement in county government began in 1965 when she served as deputy county counsel, following completion of her law degree at Stanford University in 1963. When she passed the bar, her children remember a gaggle of reporters gathered at the doorstep, and the newspaper headline that followed: “Local housewife passes state bar.”

In 1967, she went into private practice, but her interest in land use issues brought her back to the public arena. Watching the Permanente Cement Company mine the hillside near her home in Los Altos Hills in 1970, Steinberg worked with county and corporate leaders to successfully limit the excavation. Her efforts impressed Supervisor Victor Calvo, who nominated her for a seat on the Planning Commission— the first woman to be appointed. Through her work, she demonstrated her balanced commitment to the environment as well as planned growth to ensure the region’s long-term economic vitality.

In addition, Steinberg served on the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and was a strong advocate for mass transit.

“She was refined and dignified, a woman of a different era,” her son Robert Steinberg said. “She was soft-spoken and modest, but unflappable, with an inner fortitude that did not bow to external pressures.”

When Calvo won a seat in the state assembly in 1974, the Board of Supervisors appointed Steinberg to replace him. She became the first woman elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 1976. Shattering another glass ceiling, she would become the first woman to chair the board as well. Widely regarded as balanced, deep, wise, thoughtful, and very caring, Steinberg was considered for appointments to the Superior Court and Municipal Court in the late 1970s, but continued to serve as supervisor.

Steinberg left political office in 1981 to work as an attorney and spend more time with her family.

She would go on to join a real estate development firm founded by her daughter that, among shopping center and residential development, assisted public school districts in maximizing the income from surplus school sites in the 1980s.

She also founded the East Palo Alto Community Law Project, now known as Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, offering low or no-cost legal services to those who could not afford them. She served as its first executive director.

With a trained operatic voice, Steinberg was a founding member of Congregation Beth Am. She sang in the congregation’s choir for many years. She also served as president of the New Seed Foundation.

Frequently called upon to mediate between parties with intersecting interests but competing end goals, Steinberg negotiated multiple issues between Stanford University, Palo Alto and Santa Clara County. Known for her high standards of integrity, divergent representatives trusted what she said and her ability to negotiate successful solutions.

This integrity did not originate in a vacuum. Steinberg embarked on a course of Jewish study with her son Tom at the age of 90. As they discussed the personal attribute of honesty, Tom recalls his mother told him, “I haven’t lied since I was 11.” She went on to tell him that the punishment for her lie — having her mouth washed out with soap — made such an impact that she never again spoke a mistruth aloud.

After her husband of 66 years passed away in 2010, Steinberg found new love at the age of 86 in John Thompson, who lived in the apartment beneath hers at the Vi, a senior living community in Palo Alto. Together they enjoyed golf, travel, and their families.

She is survived by her children Joan Laurence of Sfat, Israel; Robert (and Alice) Steinberg of Palo Alto; and Thomas (and Shaindel) Steinberg of Jerusalem, as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the New Seed Foundation in Gerry’s honor. The New Seed Foundation program, “One People One Heart,” helps women and children in crisis to rebuild their lives. Gerry was the founder and served as the President of the Board for 30 years. Donations can be made online at onepeopleoneheart.com or checks sent to the New Seed Foundation, P.O. Box 61186, Palo Alto, CA 94306.

A private service will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 26. The community may participate by livestream at betham.org/livestreaming.

Sinai Redwood City

Lora F. Bloch Weiner

Dec. 5, 2019

Lora F. (Bloch) Weiner, age 99, Dec. 5, 2019 at the Washington, D.C., home of her younger daughter, Ellen Abraham.

Born in Germany, Mrs. Weiner immigrated to the U.S. in 1937, initially living with relatives in Buffalo, N.Y. Her parents, Herman and Klothilde Bloch, joined her several months later and they moved to Elmira, N.Y.

She lived in Washington, D.C., during World War II, working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She eventually moved to New Jersey and then to San Francisco, where she lived for more than 45 years.

She was predeceased by her husband, Edward Weiner, in 1981. She is survived by her older daughter, Joyce Lucht, and grandchildren Michael Reed, Daniel Reed, Rachel Lebeaux and Daniel Lebeaux. Her great-grandchildren include Jamie Reed, Brandon Reed, Sydney Reed, Juliet Ertischeck and Calliope Ertischeck.

A memorial service was held in Washington.