Generations: Joan Hersko

Joan’s friends know to bring their orchids to her after the blooms fall off because she will coax them back into remarkable, lovely flowers, filling her bright windowsills.  Many of these friends have been part of Joan’s life since they first met through Rodef Sholom in the early 1960s. 

Growing up as a third-generation San Franciscan, Joan wasn’t particularly religious although her parents belonged to Temple Emanuel.  It wasn’t until she was at UC Berkeley and joined the Jewish sorority that she really started having Jewish friends. “Growing up, my friends weren’t Jewish, but at college, each student joined the sorority for their group, so I started having Jewish friends.” It’s Joan’s good fortune that her Terra Linda neighborhood community and Rodef Sholom Jewish community were one and the same.  

Joan and her husband settled in Terra Linda with their three young children, Mark, Marianne, and Joe, in 1961.  Although initially her husband was the one interested in joining Rodef Sholom, Joan also became involved with the temple.  It soon became the center of Joan’s social life.  Even her neighbor with whom she walked every morning at 6:30am before they both went off to work was a fellow congregant. Many of her neighbors were also Rodef Sholom members.   Joan worked at Terra Linda High School in the Home Economics department for 25 years.  “I remember buying 40 bananas at Safeway and people wondering what the heck was going on.  But, keeping them fed was how we got those high school boys engaged.”

Joan’s cooking skills were quite handy and made her a popular participant in the temple’s trendy dinner parties called “Progressive Dinners”. Eight to 12 people would go house to house for the courses of a meal: Cocktails, Appetizers, Entrée, and Dessert.  

As a member of the sisterhood, Joan participated in all kinds of activities, such as an annual rummage sale and the Purim Carnival.  At the sisterhood Passover Seder one year, Joan’s carrot cake recipe won the Passover cake contest.  It was made in a springform pan with currant jam and whipped cream.  A particularly interesting and memorable activity for Joan was helping the mother of a recently immigrated Russian family to learn English.

Joan’s involvement with Rodef Sholom was almost happenstance at first, but it has brought a richness to her life ever since.