Beth Jacobs mitzvah needs copycats

By opening its doors to provide overnight shelter to homeless families, Temple Beth Jacob is putting its Jewish vision into action, setting an example for all Bay Area congregations.

The Conservative Redwood City synagogue is hosting the homeless families for a week every couple of months, with volunteers providing dinner, breakfast and overnight supervision.

Over the years, other Bay Area synagogues and Jewish community organizations have reached out to the homeless, providing food and advocacy. In addition, the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children's Services has established Dream House, a shelter for women and children.

But while many synagogues have opened their hearts, few have opened their doors overnight.

Fortunately, Beth Jacob is not going it alone. It is working with the national Interfaith Hospitality Network and eight San Mateo County churches that also serve as hosts.

Other Jewish institutions are sending food, donations and volunteers to Beth Jacob. Among those involved are Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, the Jewish Day School of the North Peninsula in Foster City, New Bridges and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Women's Alliance.

But so far, Beth Jacob is the only Bay Area synagogue to house homeless families through an ongoing effort. We can only wonder why.

Sure, there is a lot to consider, including insurance and staffing. Volunteers not only have to prepare food and eat with their guests, but some have to stay overnight.

Beth Jacob found 80 committed congregants who made this all possible. Why can't more synagogues do the same, particularly when IHN expands its programs in California?

We applaud the effort of Beth Jacob and especially its rabbi, Nathaniel Ezray, who said: "This comes from my sense of the highest level of tzedakah, from supporting those who have fallen and treating people in God's image."

We hope other rabbis will follow his lead.