Remembering Dr. Harold J. Goldberg, ‘Hal,’ longtime Berkeley psychiatrist

Hal was dedicated to his patients, family and his community. His generosity extended far and wide and he contributed to making the world a better place.

Harold Goldberg
Hal Goldberg in Oakland in 2018. Photo: Courtesy family

Dedicated father and longtime Bay Area psychiatrist Dr. Harold J. Goldberg, known by most as Hal, passed away July 8 at the age of 88 following a stroke.

Born in the Bronx in 1931, Hal grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, where he lived in a small apartment with his parents, Ruth and Abraham, who had emigrated to the United States from Russia in the 1920s, and his older sister, Pauline. The neighborhood was populated by young, mostly immigrant families with children, and Hal had many friends and enjoyed reading comics and listening to serials on the radio. Hal’s uncle owned the S. Goldberg and Co. Slipper Factory in town, where Abraham also worked. As Hal grew up, he was influenced by his parents’ discussions about WWII and his father’s progressive political views.

After high school, Hal attended New York University to study science and politics. In his third year, he decided to leave the country and took an Indonesian cargo steamer to Paris. It was on the ship that he first heard gamelan music and had Indonesian food. His enthusiasm for travel continued the rest of his life, with a love of music and food from all over the world.

After arriving in France, Hal spent a year in Paris studying at the Sorbonne and experiencing life as a “bohemian.” He ended up living in Europe for 14 years! While living in France, he spent some time in the south of the country working as a laborer in a small village. By the time he returned to Paris he was fluent in French and he decided to study medicine to become a psychiatrist. In 1953, Hal moved to Switzerland to attend the University of Geneva, where he graduated from medical school in 1961.

Hal Goldberg in the 1950s or 1960s in sepia toned photo sitting at cafe reading newspaper
Hal Goldberg in Switzerland in the 1950s or 1960s. Photo: Courtesy family

When he returned to the United States in 1966, he made his way to San Francisco where he joined the U.S. Public Health Service and worked at the Veterans Hospital as a physician during the Vietnam War. Hal also cared for patients in the leprosy clinic there, which he found very rewarding. It was during this time that he attended one of the first protests in San Francisco against the Vietnam War. As he described it, it consisted of only himself, a friend, and five distinguished looking elderly women demonstrating in front of San Francisco City Hall.

While living in San Francisco, Hal completed his residency and post doctoral fellowship in psychiatry at UCSF Langley-Porter Institute. He would continue to practice psychiatry for 45 years.

In 1976, Hal moved to Berkeley, where he and his wife Annette were overjoyed to later welcome two daughters, Rose and Lily, to the family. Hal passed on his curiosity, compassion, and quick wit to his daughters, as well as his love of travel, languages, reading, food, and animals. No matter how busy Hal was with his psychiatric practice, he always had time for them, and they have taken his many lessons into their lives and careers.

Hal had a passion for people. He was dedicated to his patients, family and his community. His generosity extended far and wide and he contributed to making the world a better place. He gave to international, national, and local causes, and often ended up with multiple copies of the same issue of Street Spirit.

He maintained many significant friendships throughout his life and continuously made new friends wherever he went. He had a talent for starting meaningful conversations with complete strangers, from the person in line with him at the Vine Street Peet’s Coffee or the Cheese Board, or sitting next to him on BART, the bus or a park bench. He was interested in everyone’s stories and wanted to know all about their families, jobs, and passions.


All who encountered him knew his kindness, intelligence, and wonderful sense of humor. He will always be deeply missed.

Memorial donations can be made in his name (Dr. Hal Goldberg) to the community supported radio station KPFA