Penina Bergman was born Finy Horowitz in Chernowitz, Rumania on March 13, 1926. It was the beginning of an amazing journey.
After a happy childhood, Penina and her family moved to Bucharest during WWII to evade the Nazis. Youthful dreams of a career in medicine were abandoned. Life became difficult, and many of their family members were lost during the Holocaust. But her father's intuition to leave Chernovitz had been very wise, and their lttle family survived.
At the end of WWII, she and her parents made their way to Palestine, which was about to become the Jewish state of Israel. There she met an American rabbinical student, Robert Bergman, and on July 18, 1951 they were married in Jerusalem. She returned with him to America. He was ordained in 1955, and took his first congregation in Pennsylvania. During the next 6 years, the young couple had 4 children, served several small congregations, and Penina's parents followed her to America in 1960. In 1961 the family moved to Colorado, and in 1963 they came to Southern California, where Bob became the Rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana.
Raising 4 children, she taught religious school classes and tutored Hebrew students in congregations in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and California. She and her husband founded Israel Academy in Irvine, and were involved with several congregations in Southern California, as well as Union of Reform Judaism's Camp Swig in Saratoga, CA.
As her children were going to college in the 1970's and 80's, Penina decided to go back to school, and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Counseling from Cal State University Fullerton. She also revisited her dream of working in the medical field, as a medical assistant specializing in infertility. She loved this work, helping couples to create families.
Her husband and life's love passed away in 1989. Shortly after his passing, Penina was invited to tutor Bar/Bat Mitzvah students at Temple Beth Sholom. She loved working with the children, and soon it became a full-time job, inevitably adding the students of Temple Bat Yahm as well. For over 15 years, Penina was the 'Coach' to hundreds of Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, many of whose parents she had taught decades before. She truly shone in this role, and became a most beloved influence on Jewish families throughout Orange County. The Israel Bonds foundation honored her at a testimonial dinner in 1998.
Penina's journey took her from Rumania to Israel, to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and California. She spoke fluent Rumanian, Hebrew, Yiddish, & English. She was also familiar with French, German, & Russian. She loved opera & Israeli folkdance. She had a brilliant singing voice, was a perceptive photographer, and was famous for her Cherry Cheesecake. She belonged to Sisterhood, ORT, and Hadassah. She was a force to be reckoned with.
In her later years, Penina lived at Heritage Point Jewish retirement home in Mission Viejo. She passed away there on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
She is survived by her 4 children: Esther Liberman, David Bergman, Gabriel Bergman, and Ben Bergman, and 4 grandchildren: Joel Liberman, Micah Liberman, Trevor Bergman, and Robert Lloyd Bergman.