Emanu-El meets its congregants more than halfway

Four times a year, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco crosses a bridge — the Golden Gate to be exact.

It does so in order to conduct Friday night services for its Marin County congregants on their own turf.

"We do this, so our Marin congregants can have a Shabbat experience with the congregation without having to schlep over the bridge every Friday night," said Sydney Mintz, one of the Reform temple's rabbis.

The congregation started the services in Marin in the early 1990s. At first, they took place just once a year. They gradually built up to four times a year — in October, January, April and July. The next one is set for Jan. 28.

"A lot of families with children attend, and they really appreciate having something in their neighborhood. Coming across the bridge is such a colossal commute effort," Mintz said. "And as everyone knows, trying to get anywhere on a Friday night can be a nightmare. This is not the feeling we want to foster on Shabbat."

Emanu-El also offers Hebrew school once a week in Marin County.

Although Marin boasts its own Reform synagogue, Mintz does not believe her congregation's quarterly services at the Mill Valley Methodist Church are an infringement on anyone else's territory.

"These services are only for our members," she said. "We are in no way looking for new membership in Marin. This is not an outreach program. It is more like an in-reach program."

Between 25 and 30 congregants — "sometimes more, sometimes less" — attend the service. It usually includes a potluck and a "typical Reform Friday night service, which lasts less than an hour," Mintz said. Kiddush and a small oneg Shabbat follow.

A number of congregants, she said, "especially the older ones who have been part of the congregation for many years, started out in the city and moved to Marin during the intervening years.

"It's nice for them to have something close to home on a Friday night."

Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

A wife and mother of two grown sons, Rachel Raskin-Zrihen is a longtime Bay Area journalist, columnist and co-author of the book "Jewish Community of Solano County."