Generations: Geri & Marty Brownstein

When a fellow dentist asked Marty if he would like to meet “a nice Jewish girl,” Marty got interested.  It was 1954 and he had returned from Japan where he served as a dentist in the Marines.  He was stationed on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. Soon after, Marty and Geri went on a blind date and within a year they were married and living in San Francisco.

Marty and Geri both came from religious homes; Marty grew up in an Orthodox family in Queens, and Geri came from a Conservative family in the Richmond district.  It was important to them to keep a strong religious affiliation and Jewish home.  After they were married, they moved to Sausalito where Marty opened his dental practice, and Geri was working as a physician’s assistant in San Francisco.  In 1957 their first son, Howard, was born, and two years later their second son, Larry, was born and they moved to Larkspur with their growing family.

It was around this time they heard about a meeting at the JCC in San Rafael to determine  if there was enough interest in forming the first synagogue in Marin County.  Concurrently there was another group of men already interviewing potential rabbis, which resulted in the eventual hiring of Rabbi Morton Hoffman.  After much discussion, Rabbi Hoffman recommended they join URJ and Congregation Rodef Sholom was on the map.

Through the years, the Brownsteins have been dedicated members.  They have made Judaism and Rodef Sholom a central focus of their religious and social lives.  Shortly after joining, they found themselves among several other new families and they formed a “young marrieds” group, spending much of their social time together.  Many of them are still friends to this day.

Over the years Marty has served two terms on the Board of Directors and on rabbi search committees, and Geri was active in the Women of Rodef Sholom.

Vacations also reflected their commitment to tikkun olam. They made eight month-long trips to Israel and the emphasize, these were not all "sight-seeing vacations. For four of them they stayed at kibbutz Bet Ha’Emek in the upper Galilee where Marty volunteered his services as a dentist, and Geri did any task she was asked to do. They loved the spirit of Zionism on the kibbutz where everything was shared.

Having been temple members for nearly 60 years, they’ve seen the congregation grow and evolve to reflect the changing times and the influence of our clergy and staff.  They explained how Rodef Sholom has kept its character: Rabbi Barenbaum was a strong and nurturing presence, Rabbi Friedman has grown before everyone’s eyes to be a most dedicated leader and agent for social justice, and Cantor David is an adored hazzen with a most beautiful voice.

When asked what advice they have to pass on, they concurred:  “Make sure there’s a Jewish environment and life in Marin for generations to come, and ensure there’s a congregation for our children and grandchildren with rituals and social life as integral parts of the community.”