David Apfelbaum
David Apfelbaum

The legendary founder of  San Francisco's David's Deli passed away peacefully on Sunday  May 4, 2014 at the age of 86.  Opened in 1952, David's became an instant hit in the theater district of his adopted City. Known as "celebrated, yet neighborly," David's Deli was a constant topic in Herb Caen's column.  Show business personalities, political figures, tourists and San Franciscans mingled and enjoyed superb deli food and magnificent desserts.  David spoke nine languages and made everyone feel at home in what was his home for more than six decades. Born in Poland in 1929, David spent the early years of World War II in the Lodz Ghetto.  At the age of 12, David was deported to Auschwitz. The number tattooed on his arm was B1179,  The numbers added together totaled 18, which in Hebrew means life. Live he did, despite being hung, bayoneted eighteen times, beatings, solitary confinement, near drowning and typhus.  David believed "that after the darkness of the Holocaust there is a burning need to bring to light and to preserve for posterity the verbal testimony of all who survived and still survive.  The testimony is the shadow of death brought to light. Eternity is on our side. Time is not."  David founded one of the first oral history projects to record the testimony of survivors. After locating his mother, two brothers and two sisters and reuniting his family, David worked for the Bricha, saving the surviving remnant of Jewish children, teaching modern Hebrew and leading "his" children to Palestine. It was then that he met his wife Nusia.  David was a life- long Zionist who was devoted to Israel and the Jewish people.  The leadership of Israel including David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Ytzhak Rabin, David Elezar, Ezer Weizman, Ehud Barak and countless others, were numbered among his friends.  David believed that "we do owe thanks to the Almighty for Israel.  Had Israel existed then, our history would read differently. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be."  David died on Israel's memorial day and was buried on Israeli Independence Day.  He is survived by his second wife, Cass, his son Efraim, his brother Harold Apfelbaum and countless others who count his life as a blessing.  We will all be comforted by many wonderful memories of a dear friend and wonderful human being.  May he be blessed with eternal peace.

Published by San Francisco Chronicle from May 21 to May 25, 2014.
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8 Entries
Oh Ef, he changed so many lives, including mine. I think of him often and one day I shall write a book about the Deli and the man who touched so many. We lost a great one but I think he probably willed himself to pass on that day which meant so much to him.My thoughts and spirit are with you. Love, Sharin
Sharin Mendelson
June 8, 2014
I'm so sorry, Ef. He was a very special person.
May 29, 2014
I would like to offer my heartfelt condolenses. David and my Dad were friends for over 40 years. He is a true San Francisco legend!
Stephanie Cohen
May 25, 2014
Our hearts are heavy with sympathy for Harold and Family. May your rich memories of David help you find comfort and peace. A great man who you will never really lose because he will always be alive in your heart.

With Love, Pam Krueger
Pam Krueger
May 25, 2014
To the Apfelbaum family I give my thanks for helping David's bright light always shine in San Francisco. Always pleasant and outgoing, he made everyone feel good just being around him. To Harold, I am so sorry for your loss. We have not seen each other in quite a while, but I learned a lot from what happened to your family and how you informed a naive young woman on some hard historical facts without bitterness. I admire greatly the fortitude, intelligence, and generosity which are truly outstanding family values. May God continue to bless and keep the Apfelbaum family and friends in the light. Natalie Hanke Geary
Natalie Hanke Geary
May 24, 2014
To David's Family & Harold…We will miss our friend, David who always sat w us at the counter and talked about everything,,,,one of our favorite places to schmooze, 1960-80's. He will not be forgotten. We sincerely regret his
passing….Please accept our sincerest sympathy for a true
Ralph Seligman & Paul Diller
May 23, 2014
As a teenager in San Francisco, I worked at David's Deli and also had the pleasure of meeting David's mother and other family members. The excitement of being hired by Mr. Apfelbaum for my very first after school job and having such a positive experience while working there has undoubtedly enriched my life. Thank you David for your goodness! In return, may God bless your soul with eternal peace. You will be forever in my prayers. J.Neuert
J Neuert
May 23, 2014
My dad was the first star to sing at David's Shalom Nightclub.
They were very close friends. We noticed the number on his wrist as little boys. It gave my father an opportunity to explain things to my brother and me...david showed tremendous integrity and grit.
To go through what he did and to accomplish so much and to help so many along the way is inspiring. From the Cherneys to the Apfelbaums...Shalom
May 23, 2014
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