Bay Area Jewish life inspires pride

There was a time when people associated American Jewish life with the East Coast and perhaps Los Angeles.

That is changing rapidly and dramatically as Jewish life in the Bay Area continues to blossom. The area is now home to a critical mass of scholars producing pioneering work in Jewish studies. Several major Jewish journals now are published here.

A demographer from Brandeis University, the nation's leading Jewish studies institution, decided to open a national think tank in San Francisco. And alternative synagogues and organizations are sprouting up like wildflowers, thriving alongside those that are more established and mainstream.

Noteworthy is the fact that the leading Jewish benefactors in the area, including the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the Koret Foundation, allocate funds to both alternative and more mainstream Jewish organizations. That evenhandedness shows an appreciation of the unique character of Bay Area life.

With its physical beauty, cultural diversity and tendency toward open-mindedness, the Bay Area traditionally has nurtured a wide range of thought and practice. Jewish life here richly reflects that.

Though some might characterize Bay Area Jewish life as on the fringe, analysts say the broad Jewish spectrum reflected here eventually will be imitated around the country.

That would only be a positive influence on the nation's Jewish future.

After all, Jews are less likely to assimilate when there are Jewish venues available to suit their individual needs.

Here, if people take the time to look, there are Jewish cultural delights to suit nearly every taste. There is the Jewish Film Festival and Lehrhaus Judaica. There are groups for Jewish vegetarians. There is Chabad on the one hand, Jewish Renewal congregations on the other, and everything in between.

As Jewish life here keeps growing and changing, it is important that we continue to encourage diversity and remain open to new possibilities. The boom in Jewish life should be a source of great pride to all of us, now and in the future.