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Meet Founding Member Frederica Postman

By Gloria Kompel

As part of the Building Bridges Initiative, I had the privilege of speaking with Frederica Postman. She is one of the original founders of Congregation Beth David. 

Frederica was born in Detroit, Michigan and moved to New York with her family at the age of three. She grew up in a Jewish neighborhood.  She felt as though there were more Jews in the world because, seemingly, every neighbor, store clerk, and member of her community was Jewish.  However, Frederica’s eyes opened when she befriended the school superintendent’s daughter, who described the church that she attended and other aspects of her life that were different from Frederica’s. 

Her parents later moved to Los Angeles, California.  Frederica didn’t care for the LA lifestyle and returned to New York where she met and married Monroe Postman. The young Postmans were transferred to Philadelphia, where they lived for a short time, until a harsh winter made Frederica want to live in a sunnier locale.  What better place than California? Monroe was able to transfer his job to Palo Alto and they settled into their new home in Sunnyvale in 1959.

When living in Sunnyvale, Frederica, her husband Monroe, and their three children joined Congregation Sinai in San Jose.  Since there weren’t any freeways, it was a 35-minute drive to Congregation Sinai.  In 1962,  in order to attend services closer to home, Monroe and Frederica joined founders Jerry and Esther Daniel, Herb and Ruth Dreifuss, and Nathan and Edith Kallman in the creation of Congregation Beth David.

In the early years, the fledgling congregation rented meeting space in Sunnyvale. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a rabbi from Folsom Prison came and conducted a service for members to mourn the loss of their president. This was a powerful and groundbreaking moment for all of those who partook in the service.

Eventually, Beth David was able to buy a three bedroom home in Cupertino that served as their first shul. Nonetheless, the dream remained for a true synagogue that could accommodate the young, growing congregation.  The Church of the Ascension in Saratoga approached the members, offering to sell the synagogue a portion of the church’s property.  That space is where Beth David stands to this day.  The initial structure has seen expansion and remodeling, but will always stand in tribute to the founders and early members who paved the way for Congregation Beth David as we know it today.

Although Frederica currently lives in Palo Alto, she still keeps in touch with some of the co-founders. What she loves most about Beth David is the congregation’s warm and welcoming sense of community.  There were never “outsiders” because everyone always greeted newcomers with open arms.  Her favorite activities include the Women’s Study Group and the annual Purim Celebration, and her favorite holiday is Passover because it brings her large family and close friends together.

Although Frederica did not grow up in an observant family, when she married Monroe, she promised that Judaism would be a big part of their lives. She has upheld that promise and continues to keep her Jewish identity strong.  Although Monroe sadly passed away, he and Frederica remain great role models for our Jewish community.  

Throughout this coronavirus pandemic, Frederica has been safely

self-quarantined. She loves to talk on the phone with her children, grandchildren, and friends.

When asked by a friend, I decided to participate in this project.

I was  super excited and nervous about doing it at the same time.  I enjoyed speaking with Frederica and was intrigued by her story.  I learned from her the importance of everyone turning their words into actions.