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Memorial for Gerardo Joffe

Memorial Image
Graveside: 1:00 PM Sunday, July 15th, 2018
Home of Peace Cemetery - Colma
1299 El Camino Real
Colma, CA 94014
Memorial: 10:30 AM Sunday, July 15th, 2018
Congregation Emanu El
2 Lake Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
Memorial Contribution: Congregation Emanu El
2 Lake Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 751-2535

Gerardo Joffe, 98, passed away peacefully on July 9, 2018 at his home in San Francisco with his family by his side.

Gerardo was born Gerhard Ernst Joffe in Berlin, Germany on June 22, 1920. He was raised in a typical middle-class Jewish home, where life was filled with Boy Scouts, camping, skiing, travelling, Jewish life and school. Gerardo excelled as a student.

As the Nazis rose to power in the 1920s and 1930s, middle-class life turned quickly into survival. He was nearly captured twice by the Nazis, and in 1939, shortly after Kristallnacht, through cunning and sheer luck, he escaped to Bolivia with his life, a suitcase, and a few German Marks.

The Holocaust would form the foundation of his worldview.

He changed his name from Gerhard to the Spanish "Gerardo", dropped his middle name and renounced all things German. It would be many decades before he could begin to forgive the Germans for first abandoning and then persecuting the Jews.

In Bolivia, he found work in the mines of the Altiplano at altitudes over 14,000 ft., and in his early twenties, he became the head of the second largest tin mine in Bolivia. While his parents and brother found refuge in Argentina, Gerardo knew that his future was in the promise of America. In 1946, after the United States borders were opened, he scratched together enough poker winnings and sailed there to start a new life.

Gerardo attended the Missouri School of Mines where he earned a degree in mining engineering, after which he began working in the oil fields of Arkansas with "wildcatter" oil prospectors. There he met his lifelong love, Priscilla, and they were soon married. In 1954, their first child, Michael, was born.

Later, they moved to Boston where he attended Harvard Business School. After Harvard, he went to work in the corporate world in New York where their second child, Rachel, was born. Gerardo, however, was a self-made man and was yearning to realize the American Dream. He, Priscilla and their two children found their way to San Francisco where he pursued many successful business ventures and it was there that their son, Joe, was born. In 1967, he founded Haverhills, a direct mail order company which specialized in consumer electronics and which he later sold to Time, Inc. in 1971.

In 1980, Gerardo founded FLAME, an organization promoting Israel and Zionism which also countered an anti-Israel sentiment prevalent in the media. Through his efforts, FLAME has grown into a large, well-known and important messenger for Zionism throughout the American Jewish community.

Throughout his life, Gerardo rejoiced in the voracious reading of newspapers and magazines, word puzzles, math puzzles, Native American string "tricks", tennis, skiing, spending time with his family, bantering, arguing and caring for his goldfish. He created and self-published word puzzles, courses on business, courses on mathematics and his own memoir.

Gerardo was a loving husband, father and grandfather, a serial entrepreneur, inventor, author, polyglot, mathematician, political activist, polemic and a giant curious mind.

He is survived by his daughter Rachel Benham, her husband Derek and their children--Zaddy, Rebecca and Jake; and his son, Joe Joffe, his wife Stephany and their two sons--Sam and Nathan.

A memorial service will be held at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, Sunday July 15 at 10:30am. In lieu of flowers, kindly make a contribution to Temple Emanu-El.