Bertha Taube
Bertha Taube
Bertha Taube

Obituary of Bertha Taube


(May 22, 1915—March 23, 2019)

Known by friends and family for her tenacity and elegance, Bertha (Berte) Berman Taube, life-long peace and civil rights activist, and beloved mother of local Santa Cruz activist Phyl Taub Greenleaf, died peacefully in her home on Pleasure Point, March 23, 2019. She was 103.

Berte was born in Buffalo, New York, May 22, 1915, the 4th of 6 children, to Alice and Barney Berman, immigrants from Odessa, Russia, who spoke only Yiddish.

As a youth, Berte was a champion handball player and confident horseback rider. She joyfully recalled sneaking off as a teenager to see horse races at the Kentucky Derby! (Later in life she was thrilled to ride an elephant in India, and a camel on the beach in Karachi, Pakistan.)

When she was 17, her family relocated to Los Angeles, where she met and later married Arthur M. Taub. Bertha and Arthur raised their two daughters Louise and Phyllis in Dinuba, Burbank, North Hollywood, and Beverly Hills.

Berte’s commitment as a mother and social activist intertwined when her daughter Phyllis was kicked out of her Brownie troop because she was Jewish. Berte petitioned the Girl Scouts of America, and started another troop, which accepted girls from all racial and religious backgrounds—it became “the most adventurous troop!”

During the McCarthy period, Berte emotionally and economically supported her friends—writers, dancers, actors, and social workers—blacklisted and unemployed. Sometimes this support would be as basic as making sure their families had good food on the table.

She worked with hundreds of L.A. activists trying to stop the federal execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. She inspired her daughters’ later activism by taking them to one of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, where they witnessed the Congressional interrogation of a beloved Unitarian minister.

In L.A., Berte was also active in Hadassah, Women for Legislative Action, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). She was one of WILPF’s delegates to London in 1960, participating in the international Aldermaston march for nuclear disarmament.

Deeply anti-racist, Berte sponsored fundraisers in her home for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), co-founded by our current elder Congressman John Lewis. In 1965, Berte joined the Selma to Montgomery March for equal rights.

After her divorce from Arthur Taub, Berte added an ‘e’ to her surname (Taube means dove in German). She moved to Mexico City where she became active in the progressive community, and began her life-long friendship with the renowned artist Elizabeth Catlett—who decades later, Berte assisted crossing the border!

In the early seventies, on a trip to the then People’s Republic of China, adventurous Berte met Manny Granich, who became her second life partner. Together with the Chinese People’s Friendship Association, they organized eight educational trips to China. Berte lived with Manny on Cape Cod where they were part of a local community of older socialists and peace workers. With Manny, she returned to Mexico, and helped a group of indigenous women in San Miguel de Allende establish a cottage macrame industry.

After Manny’s death in 1987, Berte returned to California to be closer to her family. In 2002, her older daughter Louise Taub died of breast cancer. Her passing was a tremendous loss to the family. Though bereft, Berte never lost her chutzpah.

Just before turning 90, Berte moved to Santa Cruz with Phyl. She first lived at La Posada, where she joined a group advocating for Palestinian human rights and peace in Israel-Palestine—where Berte had traveled with her own mother 50 years earlier.

In 2010, Berte moved to Pleasure Point to live close to the ocean. In her 90s and early 100s, she enjoyed many a sunny promenade (on her wheelchair) along East Cliff Drive with her daughter, caregivers, and extended family. Along with the lovely coastal views, Berte loved to watch the surfers!

As she slowed down towards the end of her otherwise vigorous life, Berte became an avid reader of good books, a fan of great movies, and a television news junkie.

For decades wanting to visit Cuba, at 95 Berte with Phyl went to a delightful Cuban wedding near Havana.

At BookShop SC, when Berte was 101, she was delighted to meet Amy Goodman—having regularly tuned in to Democracy Now and Rachel Maddow.

In the last decade, with her daughter and caregivers, she participated in many protests: supporting Gay and Lesbian rights, the SC Occupy movement, the Women’s Marches, and Black Lives Matter. She loved Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Stacey Abrams. Local Pleasure Point people enjoyed Bertha’s VOTE DEMOCRAT sign, which she held up while riding on her wheelchair a few days before the November 2018 primary.

Along with her political activism, Berte was part of the local Santa Cruz Jewish community. She participated in services at Chadeish Yameinu and Temple Beth El—treasuring her friendships with Reb Eli and Rabbi Paula.

Berte was a devoted grandmother and great-grandmother, and loved her caregivers and their families who supported her wellbeing and gave her joy. “It’s because of you that I’m still here,” she told them last year.

She is survived by her daughter Phyl Taub Greenleaf; granddaughters: Karla Greenleaf-MacEwan Shields, Chela Taub-Pineda, and Alicia Reina Greenleaf; and, great grandchildren: Milo, Cyrus, Stevie, Louise, Elijah, and Mariah; nieces/nephews: Joan Taub Ades, Jack and Daniel Caraco, Cris Caraco Lipnick, Nina Izsak, Michael Mostyn, Bruce and David Berger, and Diane Berman; and her grand-nephews/nieces: Adam, Elena, Jett, Jessica, Joshua, and Zachary; her sister’s daughters: Judy, Louise, and Marcia Caraco; as well as caregivers: Dominga Martinez, Patricia Roman, Maricela Fabian, and their children and husbands; and her constant companion Mocha—her chihuahua.

Her family is appreciative of the beautiful support Berte received from Santa Cruz Hospice.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Sunrise Movement, Doctors Without Borders, and the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

There will be a Burial at Sea with family and others close to Berte the morning of May 26, followed by a bigger on land gathering to honor Berte. Info @ Benito & Azzaro 831-423-5721 after April 10