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Funeral for Esther Naomi Lauter

Memorial Image
Funeral: 12:30 PM Thursday, December 7th, 2017
Sinai Memorial Chapel
1501 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
Interment: 2:00 PM Thursday, December 7th, 2017
Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery - Kol Shalom Section
2500 5th Avenue
San Rafael, CA 94901
Memorial Contribution: American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Pacific Northwest Region
PO Box 207
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 989-4140
Memorial Contribution: Jewish Family and Children’s Services
2150 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 449-1200

Esther Naomi Lauter, z'l

June 8, 1930 - December 4, 2017

Naomi (Nonie) Lauter passed away early Monday afternoon.

She was predeceased by her husband of 61 years, Robert (Bob) Lauter, z'l and leaves behind a remarkable legacy, including her four children: David (Liz), Jonathan (Deborah), Sarah and Sam (Stephanie); 10 grandchildren: Louie (Mara McDermott), Devorah (Jean Bernard Prouhet), Mimi, Rachel, Jesse, Margie (Andrew Epstein), Eliana (David Mantell), Shoshana, Aliza, and Jacob; four great-granddaughters: Mollie, Rosalyn, Kassie and Eloise; and many beloved nephews and nieces.

Naomi would have objected to this obituary. Not because of what it is - she was certainly aware this day would come - but because she disliked attention. A San Francisco Chronicle article in 1998 on her retirement as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) Pacific Northwest Regional Director, led with, "What Naomi Lauter <> didn't want to do in this busy week was sit for an interview, which would lead to an article, which would put her in the limelight, which is precisely where Lauter doesn't want to be."

Naomi was born in San Francisco, attended Lowell High School and UC Berkeley, and received a Masters in educational psychology from SF State. Her parents, Rose and Louis Ets-Hokin, were prominent community leaders and philanthropists, and politics and Zionism were a central part of Naomi's upbringing. Rose's many relatives who remained in Hungary perished in the Holocaust, and this played a significant role in Naomi's view of the world and her desire to help repair it.

Her personal activism began in the 1950s. She was extremely engaged in a variety of organizations and issues, including creating the national organization Friends of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, and organizing with the labor movement, most prominently with Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers. She was a co-founder of the Golden Gate Democratic Club and deeply engaged in the Democratic Party, where she was especially close with CA Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown; Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy; Congressman Phillip Burton; and Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr., among many others. Over the years her advice and help was sought out by mayors, members of Congress and the Senate, and others looking at running for office at all levels throughout the country. She was proud of being influenced by Saul Alinsky and Mike Miller, and she used their lessons on grassroots organizing throughout her long career.

But no cause resonated more with Naomi than the strengthening of the Jewish community and support for Israel. In the late 1950s Isaiah "Si" Kenan, the founder of AIPAC, recruited her to help build AIPAC's volunteer base. In those years, women were not typically asked to lead organizations, so she assigned her husband, Bob, to chair of one of the country's first AIPAC local boards and she remained one of its most active volunteers for over two decades. In 1983, AIPAC's then-director, Tom Dine, called upon Naomi to open and staff the organization's first office outside of Washington, D.C. Not only was this the first office outside of Washington, D.C., but Naomi was the first AIPAC employee outside of the Nation's Capital. After 16 years spearheading the creation of AIPAC's entire regional program-one of the most successful efforts in American Jewish communal history leading to the organization's prominence - she stepped down as Regional Director and became the organization's Community Consultant, traveling the country training staff and engaging communities in Israel advocacy. She retired at 80 years of age, after visiting well over 100 US cities and towns, many multiple times.

Prior to AIPAC, Naomi worked under another mentor, Earl Raab, for the SF Jewish Community Relations Council, serving as educational director. She played a major leadership role in organizing services and programs for San Francisco's Holocaust survivors, including leading the establishment of San Francisco's Holocaust Memorial in Lincoln Park and creating an annual Holocaust commemoration event, helping survivors feel a close part of the community for the first time. She was honored, along with Earl, for her role in those efforts by Jewish Family & Children's Services in 2013. She was also active in numerous other organizations, including as one of the co-founders of the New Israel Fund.

Motivated by a desire to make the world a better place, throughout her career she shunned the limelight, and relished the behind-the-scenes organizing. But she welcomed the close relationships fostered through her work. Her warm personality, genuine and ready smile, humor and laughter, and absolute passion for her causes earned her admirers throughout the country and she was a beloved, unique leader.

Naomi thrived on her friendships. She met one of her best friends, Carolyn, on their first day of high school, and they spoke almost every day for 72 years, until Carolyn passed away this November (Carolyn introduced Naomi to Bob). She had decades-long meaningful friendships with a tight circle ("the grey-haired ladies") and also had a way of making the most casual friend feel beloved. And it was sincere - she genuinely loved to get to know people, learn about their lives and families and share her hobbies. All her children and grandchildren (happily) heard the common refrain: "You're Naomi's child/grandchild? I'm one of her best friends!" She was a wonderful cook, an avid reader and extraordinary gardener. She truly lived life to its fullest.

Nothing meant more to Naomi than her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Friday night Shabbat dinners at her house and summer parties in her backyard in Ross among her extraordinary roses and dahlias, are often mentioned as a favorite memory for everyone in the family. A visit from a grandchild could turn any day into a joyful one no matter the circumstances. She needed to know every detail of each family members' day at work, school or hobby or passion. A few weeks before passing she was visiting with her close friend of almost 50 years, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). After the visit Leader Pelosi said, "We spent the entire time talking about our children and grandchildren, although she did try to get me to talk about House races all over the country."

Naomi's family and friends will forever miss her breaking into out-of-tune song, her wisdom, guidance, and, most of all her incredible capacity for unconditional love.

Services will be held at Sinai Memorial Chapel, 1501 Divisadero Street (at Geary Blvd.), San Francisco, at 12:30 pm on Thursday, December 7.

Donations in Naomi's memory may be directed to AIPAC, P.O. Box 207, San Francisco, CA 94104; or Jewish Family and Children's Services, 2150 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115; or to other impactful organizations that would further the legacy of this extraordinary woman.