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Gerson Bakar z’l, a Beloved Visionary, Remembered
You might not know of Gerson Bakar z’l by name but you have almost certainly seen his work in San Francisco. Levi’s Plaza, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the UCSF Mission Bay campus—these are just a few of the iconic San Francisco institutions that Gerson helped bring to life.
Gerson, who passed away last June, supported many charitable projects yet it was giving back to his Jewish Community that brought him the most satisfaction, saying, “Asking me why the ‘Jewish Community’ is important to me is like asking me why the sun and rain are important.”
As we light the yahrzeit candle for our dear friend, we remember perhaps the most personal of all his projects, the Gary Shupin Independent Living Community named in memory of his nephew Gary and part of JFCS’ Comprehensive Regional Disabilities Services.
Gary, born with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and developmental disabilities, lived life to the fullest. He worked, enjoyed an active social life with many friends and family, and for 18 years lived in a unit in the apartment building now named after him.
When Gary passed away, Gerson and his sister, Barbara Shupin, wished to honor his legacy by donating the building to JFCS and create a new, warm and welcoming community for young adults with developmental disabilities to live as independently as possible.
In 2009, Gerson’s dream became a reality and the Gary Shupin Independent Living Community opened its doors to make sure that other families could also find the critical support necessary to help their adult children thrive.
Cooking Up Friendships and More
Before his passing, Gerson said, “Among the many activities that go on at Shupin House are the things that Gary liked that are needed in the community—a place to learn how to cook, a place to learn how to keep house, and a place to have a social life.”
The Shupin Social Club is just such a place and is open to Shupin residents and non-residents alike and its popular events attract adults from throughout the Bay Area. During Passover, it hosted a cooking class at the Shupin apartment building in vibrant Laurel Village. The group prepared an entire Passover menu from scratch: tri tip, baked potatoes, grilled asparagus—and for desert, matzoh candy, a club favorite.
Cooking class is just one of the Club’s weekly events that give members an opportunity to connect and have fun. Other popular get-togethers include bowling, baseball games, movie nights, and karaoke.
The Freedom of Living Independently
One resident at the cooking class was Molly Trezevant, who has been living at Shupin since 2012. While spreading the chocolate on the matzoh candy, she spoke of how she enjoys living on her own and the opportunity to develop close friendships with her roommate and the other residents.
“If I were to give advice to a new resident, I’d say that the location of where we live is excellent, and it’s a good way you can meet new people,” says Molly. “I have freedom here to do what I like, and I enjoy that.”
In addition to enjoying Shupin Social Club events, Molly is employed at a local grocery store. She also meets regularly with a social worker and Shupin’s on-site resident manager on developing skills like financial management, personal care, and coaching in social skills.
Always a Forward Thinker
Gerson and his wife, Barbara Bakar, wanted to ensure that both the Shupin program and property would continue to flourish for future generations of young adults and to do so established the Barbara and Gerson Bakar Endowment Fund.
Gerson said it boiled down to his innate understanding of what giving means to the generations to come and said, “It seems self-evident that if individuals from the Jewish community are to continue to make contributions, we should do what we can to maintain and nurture it.”
Funding for JFCS’ Disabilities Services is provided by generous individuals and foundations. Special gratitude to the Barbara and Gerson Bakar Endowment Fund, Gerson Bakar z’l, Terry & John Levin/Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of California, Frances & Theodore Geballe/Eucalyptus Foundation, Federation Newhouse Fund, Lana Berke Silverman Endowment Fund, and The Barbara Shupin Fund for Independent Living.