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Jewish history professor killed in light plane crash in San Francisco

William Sachs Goldman, 38, was the grandson of San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman, and Levi-Strauss heir

William Goldman. (Courtesy University of San Francisco website)
William Goldman. (Courtesy University of San Francisco website)

The grandson of a well-known Jewish philanthropist was killed in a plane crash near a small airport in San Francisco on Thursday.

William Sachs Goldman, 38, was piloting the single-engine Cirrus SR-22, a small plane with five seats, when he crashed about 300 meters from a regional airport in Sonoma County.

His two children and the family’s au pair, who were on board the plane, were reportedly seriously injured. The children’s mother, San Francisco attorney Serra Falk Goldman, was not on the plane.

Goldman was an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco and grandson of the San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Rhoda who was the great-grandniece of Levi Strauss, the founder of the famed blue jeans manufacturer.

Goldman’s grandparents established the Goldman Environmental Prize, often referred to as the “Green Nobel.” Before closing at the end of 2012, the fund was among the original funders of Taglit-Birthright Israel and supported religious pluralism, environmental causes and social justice in Israel. It also contributed the lead gift in a project to rebuild the San Francisco Jewish Community Center.

The university’s president said the community was devastated to learn of Goldman’s death, according to a report in the SF Gate, a local news website.

Goldman was “an accomplished scholar, a beloved and generous teacher, and a valued member of our community,” USF President Paul Fitzgerald said.

Goldman’s grandparents were widely known for their philanthropy, which encompassed Jewish causes but also environmental issues.

It was not immediately clear why the plane crashed or if it crashed soon after takeoff or before attempting to land. The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating.

The injured were airlifted and driven to area hospitals. Two were taken to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and another was taken by ambulance to Sonoma Valley Hospital.

According to the website of the New Israel Fund, of which he was a board member, Goldman was a founding trustee of the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation. He was a teacher of courses on world history, diplomacy and democracy.

“Bill Goldman was a deeply beloved friend, board member, and part of the New Israel Fund family,” Daniel Sokatch, the philanthropy’s CEO and a personal friend, said in a statement. “Bill was fiercely dedicated to the New Israel Fund’s work to promote democracy and equality for all Israelis. His vision, idealism, and sharp sense of humor sustained us all. Our thoughts are with his family, and especially his children.”

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