A tireless and loyal volunteer for Jewish causes and Sisterhood, Dorothy Wittenberg initiated and planned, prepared and served the Ida Weinstein Luncheon at Council House for over 25 years. Born in Denver, Colorado, Dorothy grew up in one of the only Jewish families in Tacoma, Washington. After her father’s death in 1933, when she was 17, she and her mother moved to Richmond, California where they sold retail clothes and cosmetics in an uncle’s department store and Dorothy attended UC Berkeley. In 1948 Dorothy met and married Albert Rosengarten, a jeweler who opened a small business fixing watches in Bremerton, Washington. When her husband died suddenly twelve years later, Dorothy returned to San Francisco. In 1965 she married widower Samuel Wittenberg of Seattle and returned here with him, becoming stepmother to his son. Though she never had children of her own, Dorothy reveled in the role of grandmother and spent her free time baking confectionary masterpieces for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She died in March 2009 at the age of 92.
“Well, I guess, in looking for things to do-or willing to accept-to fill my own life, I was asked to serve on the board of Council House. Council House was only about two years old, built by the National Council of Jewish Women for low-income people. So I served on the board and then I think the idea came up among the women on the board, and the men agreed, to have this lunch for the residents. It’s called the Ida Weinstein Lunch. Edith Weinstein, the daughter-in-law of Ida Weinstein, was one of the original Council members who voted to build Council House.
“The lunch is free. It doesn’t cost them anything. Those of us who prepare it, if we know they like a certain dish, we like to prepare it for them. I think last Wednesday we had a fish loaf. It’s something that appealed to them and when the ladies who were serving came back they said, ‘Oh, it was so good.’ Well, that makes us feel good. The reason that you do that is it’s an opportunity to bring a little happiness, a little comfort, a little joy to some people who might not have it.
“I was a volunteer. And it seems when you can make people happy for something you do, you just keep doing it. It’s a rewarding thing. Through my own life, it’s been the easiest way maybe to contribute and give something. But when you can actually see and visit with the people and do things, it becomes very real.
“I don’t feel that what I have done is so outstanding. But because, I guess, I’ve been active in different organizations, the women decided to give me this honor the Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation Sara Kaplan Outstanding Service Award. I was greatly honored but I can’t give a reason why. These women who I have spoken of in my life, they all give of themselves. I have to tell you that in volunteering, the people you meet is a very valuable part of your life. I guess it’s because maybe you share the same things and I think it fills your own life.”
© 2004 Jewish Women’s Archive. Photographs by Joan Roth.