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Alan E. ive Rothenberg.

President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1996-1998 : oral history transcript / 2002 online

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University of California Berkeley



Regional Oral History Office University of California

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California

Jewish Community Federation Leadership Oral History Project



Alan E . Rothenberg

PRESIDENT, JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION OF SAN FRANCISCO,
THE PENINSULA, MARIN AND SONOMA COUNTIES, 1996-1998



. With Introductions by
Roselyne C. Swig

and
Annette R. Dobbs



Interviews Conducted by

Eleanor K. Glaser

in 1998 and 1999



Copyright 2002 by The Regents of the University of California




Alan E. Rothenberg, 1998.



Photo by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover.



The Regional Oral History Office would like to express
its thanks to the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of
The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties. Their
encouragement and support have made possible the
Jewish Community Federation Leadership Oral History
Project.



Cataloging information



Alan E. Rothenberg (b. 1945) Jewish community leader

President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula,
Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1996-1998, xi, 155 pp., 2002

Family background, Wheeling, WV; education at Kenyon College and
University of Chicago; to San Francisco, 1969, and career in mortgage
and investment banking, Huret, Rothenberg & Co.; Governor Jerry Brown s
secretary of business and transportation, 1977; San Francisco-based
Jewish Community Federation: Homewood Terrace, senior housing at Menorah
Park and Rhoda Goldman Plaza, 1986 Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award, 1993
campaign chairman, presidency 1996-1998 with goal of greater openness
and involvement with Israel, activities with city and state
organizations .

Introductions by Roselyne C. Swig and Annette R. Dobbs
Interviewed 1998-1999 by Eleanor K. Glaser



TABLE OF CONTENTS - Alan E. Rothenberg

PREFACE i

JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION LEADERSHIP ORAL HISTORY SERIES LIST ill

INTRODUCTION by Roselyne C. Swig v

INTRODUCTION by Annette R. Dobbs vii

INTERVIEW HISTORY by Eleanor Glaser ix

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION xi



I EARLY YEARS 1
Family Background 1
Education 5
Community Involvement 10

II SAN FRANCISCO 15
Mortgage Banking 15
Working for Governor Jerry Brown 21
Return to Banking 26

III JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION 32
Homewood Terrace 32
Senior Housing 35

IV ISRAEL 41
Project Renewal and Overseas Committee 41
Fundraising 51
Amuta; the Jewish Agency 54
Jewish Identity and Religious Pluralism 58
Visiting Israel 65

V MORE ON JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION 69
Board Membership 69
Dinkelspiel Award 69
New Directions 70
Campaign Chairman, 1993 73
Jewish Community Endowment Fund 76
Allocation of Funds 82

Agency Fundraising 84

Retrenchment and a New Look at Allocation Process 88

VI NATIONAL JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS 93
Merger of United Jewish Appeal, Council of Jewish Federations

and United Israel Appeal 93



VII FEDERATION PRESIDENCY, 1996-1998 97
A Period of Change 97
Goals, Controversies and Accomplishments 99

VIII FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON ISRAEL 107
Religious Pluralism 107
Federation s Move to Reform Jewish Agency 114

IX STATE, NATIONAL, AND INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES 119
Meetings with Overseas Leaders 119
California Organizations 124

Little Hoover Commission, 1977-1978 124

Local Initiative Support Corporation, 1980-1987 126

San Francisco Port Commission, 1977-1980 127
San Francisco Planning and Urban Resources Association,

SPUR, 1980-1984 127

San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, 1976-1977 128
San Francisco Development Fund (Housing Research

Program), 1978-1986 128

Private American Technology 129

Publications 130

X CONCLUDING THOUGHTS 133
A Vision for the Bay Area Jewish Community 133



TAPE GUIDE 136

APPENDIX

A. Biography 137

B. Acceptance speech upon receiving Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award

for outstanding young leaders, June 17, 1986 140

C. "New JCF campaign chair embraces fiscal challenges," Northern
California Jewish Bulletin, November 6, 1992 146

D. "JCF president seeks to build ties with synagogues," Jewish
Bulletin of Northern California, September 13, 1996 147

E. President Rothenberg s speech at Federation Annual Meeting,

Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, June 27, 1997 149

F. "Alan Rothenberg affirms JCF support for Israel," Jewish

Bulletin of Northern California, January 9, 1998 150

G. "Message from Alan Rothenberg, President, Jewish Community
Federation," Jewish Bulletin of Northern California,

July 17, 1998 152



PREFACE



The Jewish Community Federation Leadership Oral History Project was
initiated in 1990, under the sponsorship of the Jewish Community
Endowment Fund, to record the recent history of the Jewish Welfare
Federation. Through oral histories with the sixteen living past
presidents and two past executives of the Federation, the project seeks
to document Jewish philanthropy in the West Bay as spearheaded by the
Federation during the past half -century.

The Jewish community can take pride in the manner in which it has ,
through the years, assumed the traditional Jewish role of providing for
the less fortunate. Organized Jewish philanthropy in San Francisco began
in 1850 with the Eureka Benevolent Association, today s Jewish Family and
Children s Service Agency. With the organization in 1910 of the
Federation of Jewish Charities, the community took the major step of
coordinating thirteen separate social service agencies. The funding of
local services was absorbed by the Community Chest when the Federation
affiliated with it in 1922. Soon thereafter, the need was seen for an
organization to support the financial needs of national and overseas
agencies. This led to the formation of the Jewish National Welfare Fund
in 1925, which pioneered in conducting a single annual campaign for
Jewish needs outside of San Francisco. The Federation of Jewish
Charities and the Jewish National Welfare Fund merged in 1955, becoming
the Jewish Welfare Federation, the forerunner of the present Jewish
Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma
Counties .

This oral history project was conceived by Phyllis Cook, executive
director of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, and Eleanor Glaser, the
oral historian who had just completed the oral history of Sanford M.
Treguboff, the late executive director of the Federation. They realized
that 1990 would be the thirty-fifth year of the Jewish Welfare Federation
and that it was none too soon to try to capture the insights and
experiences of the Federation s first presidents. Not only would these
leaders be able to document the dynamic history of the Federation, but
they could link that to the activities of several other agencies since
all had prepared themselves for their services as Federation president by
working in one or another capacity in the earlier Jewish charitable
institutions.

Thus, it was anticipated that through the recollections of these
Federation presidents it might be also possible to understand the driving
motivations and principles of those pioneer leaders and the forces they
dealt with during the building of the Bay Area Jewish community.



ii



Phyllis Cook, in consultation with the board of directors of the
Jewish Community Endowment Fund, worked with the Regional Oral History
Office of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, to
carry out the project. Direction of the project was assumed by Eleanor
Glaser, the office research editor for Jewish history subjects.

In the oral history process the interviewer works closely with the
memoirist in the preliminary research and in setting up topics for
discussion. For the Federation project, Eleanor Glaser conducted
extensive research in the Federation Board minutes in order to determine
critical events, committee assignments, and the pressing needs during
each president s term of office. The interviews are informal
conversations that are tape recorded, transcribed, edited by the
interviewer for continuity and clarity, checked and approved by the
interviewee, and then final typed. The oral history manuscripts are open
to research in libraries nationwide. Copies of the Federation project
oral histories will be available in the Federation Library; The Bancroft
Library; the Department of Special Collections, Library, UCLA; and in
other libraries interested in collecting source material on this subject.

Sam Ladar, president of the Jewish Welfare Federation in 1965 and
1966, was the first interviewee. As the initial oral history for the
project, general Federation information such as early board minutes,
lists of officers, etc., have been included in the Ladar volume.
Researchers are advised to start there.

The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1954 to record
the lives of persons who have contributed significantly to the history of
California and the West. The Office is administered by The Bancroft
Library. Over the years the Office has documented a number of leaders in
the California Jewish community. The Office is honored to have this
opportunity to document Jewish philanthropy in the San Francisco Bay
Area.



Eleanor Glaser, Project Director
Jewish Community Federation Leadership
Oral History Project

Willa Baum, Division Head
Regional Oral History Office

December 1996

Regional Oral History Office

The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley



iii



Jewish Community Federation Leadership Oral History Project

Series List



Jerome Braun, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1979-1980, 1995

Annette R. Dobbs, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1988-1990, in process

Jesse Feldman, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1973-1974, 1991

Richard N. Goldman, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco,
the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1981-1982, 1993

Frances D. Green, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1975-1976, 1996

Peter E. Haas, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1977-1978, 1994

Douglas M. Heller, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco,
the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1994-1996, 1998

Ronald Kaufman, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1984-1986, 1998

Samuel A. Ladar, A Reflection on the Early Years of the San Francisco Jewish
Community Federation, 1990

William J. Lowenberg, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco,
the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1983-1984, 1995

Brian Lurie, Former Executive Director, Jewish Community Federation of San
Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1974-1991, 1997

Laurence E. Myers, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco,
the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1986-1988, 1993

Alan E. Rothenberg, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco,
the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1996-1998, 2000

Donald Seiler, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1990-1992, 1998

Robert E. Sinton, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1967-1968, 1991



iv



John H. Steinhart, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco,
the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1969-1970, 1992

Melvin M. Swig, President, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the
Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1971-1972, 1992

Roselyne Chroman Swig, President, Jewish Community Federation of San
Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1992-1994, 2001

Louis E. Weintraub, Administration of the San Francisco Jewish Welfare
Federation, 1970-1975, 1996



INTRODUCTION by Roselyne C. Swig



It is such a pleasure and honor to have been invited to make a
statement about Alan Rothenberg and his leadership in the San Francisco
Jewish community. Alan is a very good friend and a much-cherished
colleague- -a friend and colleague from whom I have drawn good advice,
comfort from his leadership style, and lots of smiles from his very dry
and focused sense of humor. Using the old adage, "meetings can be fun,"
Alan manages to lighten his "flock" whenever he sees that those involved
are taking themselves too seriously or when they/we might have missed
the point of the task at hand, bringing us back to center. His .acerbic
wit is usually right on target. Most important of all, he is a very
intelligent, very perceptive, very creative, and very, very dedicated
human being who uses his fine set of values to all of our advantage as
he leads or guides people, projects, or discussions through all the
layers and levels of interaction towards a fruitful end.

I remember when I first met Alan after his work in Sacramento, and
found him to be so reserved and cautious. He didn t appear to be very
comfortable in the setting of the new Federation. As time passed, I
watched him become more at ease within this new environment and to begin
to show his talent as a creative thinker, as a master networker, and as
a person of integrity, prepared to take on complex tasks from strategic
planning to taking cards for fundraising to heading committees, always
offering valuable advice and time to strengthen the global Jewish world.
Alan truly has shown this strength in his years on the Overseas
Committee. He consistently set the right tone, provided great guidance,
and reached out a warm hand of friendship to our Israeli friends (many
of whom became as family). He instills confidence and thought fulness,
and a genuine interest in the areas with which he became personally
involved, embracing issues and the people affected by them. To his
great credit, and to the community s great benefit, he created the plan
for the Small Business Loan Fund that was used so successfully in our
JCF Project Renewal partnership with Kiryat Shmona. It was the most
successful loan fund in Israel and became the model for other
communities.

With Susan, his equally committed spouse, and their two daughters,
Alexandra and Sarah, he moves to ensure this community s Jewish
identity. Though Alan s reach in his business career is global and his
network stellar, his commitment is very local, and is reflected in all
areas that impact on improving the quality of life for Jews and non-Jews
alike. He deserved to be president of the Jewish Community Federation
and his leadership guidance and style encouraged others to work along
with him and to follow in his stead. It has been such a joy to have him
and his family as dear friends. I have always learned something from
them. And oh, yes, Alan has a keen sense of where the best cappuccinos



vi

are being madeinvaluable for serious discussion of any and all kinds!
May Alan and his dear family continue to go from strength to strength,
and may this community and the State of Israel enjoy the great benefits
of their loving ways for years to come.

With love and great respect,
Roselyne Swig

May 11, 2000
San Francisco



Vll



INTRODUCTION by Annette R. Dobbs



I was delighted to be asked to write an introduction to Alan
Rothenberg s oral history. I first met Alan in the early 80s when he
became involved in Project Renewal, which was our Federation s
commitment to assist settlement communities in Israel. We were one of
the first communities in the United States to accept a second "twinned"
community, Kiryat Shmona. I was privileged to become the first chairman
of the Kiryat Shmona Project Renewal Committee, with Alan as my vice
chair, and then in 1985, he succeeded me as chairman.

Alan is unquestionably one of the smartest young men I have ever
known. At our committee meetings, when Alan spoke, his words were
listened to, for he has a very clear way of looking at matters under
discussion. Many of us, myself included, might be carried away by the
emotion of the moment or our desire to see a quick fix. But Alan was
always very focused and the prime person on our committee to keep us
heading in the right direction.

Along with being quick and bright, Alan tends to be impatient.
Our Federation is run by a committee process, which can be ponderous and
slow moving. Alan found that difficult to tolerate. However, having
attended a few of his meetings as president, I will say he has improved
greatly in that regard, and I was proud of how he ran his meetings.

If I were to choose one innovation by which Alan left his mark,
not only on Kiryat Shmona but on all of Israel, it would be his vision
of a revolving loan fund. The fund enabled a small entrepreneur who had
no credit to expand his business with money borrowed from the fund. I
believe the fund was created in 1984, and it continued until just last
year when it merged with the Koret Foundation. I do not know how many
jobs and businesses were created within Kiryat Shmona during those
fifteen years, but I believe it numbered in the hundreds. It was so
successful that many other American communities followed our
Federation s example.

Together with Alan, I have been to Israel on numerous occasions
with our Project Renewal/Overseas Committee. Usually Susan, his wife,
accompanies him, and several times his daughters came along, and it has
always been a pleasure. They are a delightful family, and their
closeness is something of which they can be proud.

Alan is really a softy and a very kind man. This is as good as
any time to thank him most sincerely for his always welcome and
thoughtful courtesies to me. I m not sure I have ever expressed my
gratitude to him.



Vlll



I believe we are very fortunate to have Alan involved in our
community. I trust he will continue to do so for many years to come.



Annette R. Dobbs



July 12, 1999



IX



INTERVIEW HISTORY by Eleanor Glaser



Alan E. Rothenberg served as president of the San Francisco-based
Federation from 1996 to 1998. He was born in Wheeling, West Virginia,
where his parents, refugees from Vienna, were leaders in the small
Jewish community. Rothenberg tells of his father s pride in managing to
obtain a new Jewish cemetery. He relates this formative anecdote in his
oral history, conducted shortly after he completed his Federation
presidency. Rothenberg s memoir is part of the Jewish Community
Federation Oral History Project, underwritten by the Jewish Community
Endowment Fund to record the history of the Jewish Community Federation
of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties through
interviews with past presidents and executive directors.

Beginning in November 1998, Mr. Rothenberg, a slender, well-
organized man, made time in his busy day for four interviews that were
conducted in the offices of Huret, Rothenberg & Company, an investment
consulting firm. The first three meetings were held in his office on
the seventh floor of a building in San Francisco s financial district;
the fourth interview was held after the firm moved to its renovated
space on the top floor of the same building. In the new space, a
spectacular view could be seen through the floor-to-ceiling windows. On
the outside terrace, Alan Rothenberg had placed his colorful, rolled
metal statue of a Royal Canadian Mountie.

The office walls were adorned with photographs of buildings,
Native American posters, a large abstract painting, and a small rake
mounted on a plaque. Titled, "Rothenberg Rake," it was presented by
Smith & Hawkins, the garden tool company, in appreciation for his
suggestion that they make miniature rakes for use on urban gardeners
window boxes. Most eye-catching was the framed wooden cutout of five
male figures in blue business suits. These were obviously meant to be
corporate types, but one figure had a section of his white shirt
sticking out of his fly a funny, playful put down.

In the first interview, Mr. Rothenberg related that after six
months in the army, he came to San Francisco in 1969 with an MBA in
urban affairs from the University of Chicago. Early on he was
"interested in how to change the finance system to make it easier for
people who want to rebuild the city to do so." He began to work for a
mortgage-banking firm and then for a number of different banks. When
Governor Jerry Brown asked him to be his secretary of business and
transportation, Rothenberg agreed to take an interim appointment and
worked in Sacramento for ninety days. During that short but hectic
period, he had sixty thousand people reporting to him.

Along with a varied career in housing and mortgage banking, Alan
Rothenberg began his Federation involvement by serving on the board of



Homewood Terrace. After that agency was merged with the Jewish Family
and Children s Service, he joined the board of Menorah Park and later
served as its president.

Methodical and focused, Rothenberg listed on a card those things
he most wanted to accomplish as Federation president: he wanted the
organization to become more user friendly, both in relation to its
volunteers and to those who were not involved. He feels he was
successful in bringing about Federation involvement by a broader group
in the community. Another goal was to create closer ties to the area s
synagogues; this was an ongoing agenda item for many past presidents,
and Rothenberg thinks progress was made through his efforts.

Rothenberg stated, "I came out here from West Virginia without a
penny in my pocket, and I found it was very easy to get involved if you
were prepared to put energy in. There are lots of ways people could
make a difference and make their mark. I think the whole issue, which I
continued to push through my presidency, was the whole question of how
to make this organization relevant."

In speaking of Federation meetings when president, Rothenberg
said, "A number of people have said to me, Your meetings were a lot of
fun. I take that as a great compliment because we were doing heavy-
duty stuff. To be able to do it with some humor and with some laughter
and with smiles and yet have people leave these meetings feeling they ve
done something of substance. . .that s one of the few things that I
thought 1 was able to do." All to whom 1 spoke about Alan Rothenberg
mentioned his sense of humor, intelligence, and his devotion to his
family. His passion for Israel is clearly demonstrated in this memoir.

When asked to suggest those whom he would like to write
introductions to his volume, Mr. Rothenberg named Roselyne C. Swig and
Annette R. Dobbs, past presidents of the Federation, and we appreciate
her willingness to undertake this task.

Mr. Rothenberg kept the edited transcript of his oral history for
a lengthy period of time. When he returned the manuscript, it was clear
that he had reviewed it carefully, making only those changes that
clarified his meaning and eliminating some informal speech.

Interview tapes are deposited for listening in The Bancroft
Library.



Eleanor Glaser, Editor
Regional Oral History Office



Berkeley, California
December 2001



xi



Regional Oral History Office
Room 486 The Bancroft Library



University of Calif otnia

Berkeley, California 94720



BIOGRAPHICAL



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INTERVIEW WITH ALAN E. ROTHENBERG



I EARLY YEARS

[Interview 1: November 18, 1998]

Family Background



Glaser: Tell me where and when you were born and then tell me about
your family.

Rothenberg: Okay. I was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on September
20th, 1945. My parents were both refugees who came to the
U.S. from Vienna in 1938. They ended up in West Virginia in
the late thirties and opened up a drygoods store.

Glaser: Would you tell me their names?

Rothenberg: Sure. My father s name was Emil; it s E-m-i-1. My father has
passed away; my mother is still here. Her name is Lucie, L-u-
c-i-e. My father was born in Poland, and my mother was born
in Rumania, and they both met in Vienna in the thirties.
Right after the Nazis came to Vienna, they left.


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Online LibraryAlan E. ive RothenbergPresident, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, 1996-1998 : oral history transcript / 2002 → online text (page 1 of 15)