Jewish Life

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Adult education programming

Adult education programming at B’nai Israel Jewish Center in Petaluma takes on many different forms. It could be concerts featuring folksingers or Cajun zydeco concerts, guest speakers or the annual kosher cookoff competition. One of the most popular events is the Dec. 24 Chinese dinner, comedy and cabaret night for Jews who don’t have plans for Christmas Eve. “We have an adult programming group that has been very proactive in putting together concerts, speaking engagements, and programs that welcome the entire community to attend,” says kosher cookoff chairman Glenn Lurie.

At Temple Sinai in Oakland, adult education is all-encompassing. “We run a variety of programs that meet people where they are at,” says executive director Paul Geduldig. Starting at introductory-level programs “where people are trying to learn more about Judaism,” Sinai has a little something for everyone. Plus, it’s convenient: “We try to offer religious education programs the same time as kids programs, to make it easier for parents,” Geduldig says.

For a more advanced look at Judaism, the Jewish Study Network in Palo Alto is the place to be. “We really focus on offering something with a really high content value,” says founder and executive director Rabbi Joey Felsen. “People that come to our lectures are people looking for something deep.” One such recent conversation was on the destruction of the Temples in Israel and how to cry for something you have never seen.

Serving the largest membership in the city, Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco has extensive adult education programming. Programs at the Madeline Haas Russell Institute of Jewish Learning include Shabbat Morning Kollel, adult b’nai mitzvah, conversion groups, the Emanu-El Scholar, and the Tauber Jewish Studies Program. “Each of these programs is designed for students of varying levels of Judaic background, knowledge and skill,” says young adult community coordinator Mike Amerikaner said.

Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco, Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City and Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa came in second.

 

First Place

San Francisco

Congregation Emanu-El

(415) 751-2535

www.emanuelsf.org

East Bay

Temple Sinai

Oakland

(510) 451-3263

www.oaklandsinai.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Jewish Study Network

Palo Alto

(650) 493-5764

www.jsn.info

North Bay

B’nai Israel Jewish Center

Petaluma

(707) 762-0340

www.bnaiisrael.net

Second Place

San Francisco

Congregation Sherith Israel

(415) 346-1720

www.sherithisrael.org

East Bay

Beth Jacob Congregation

Oakland

(510) 482-1147

www.bethjacoboakland.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Temple Beth Jacob

Redwood City

(650) 366-8481

www.bethjacobrwc.org

North Bay

Congregation Shomrei Torah

Santa Rosa

(707) 578-5519

www.shomreitorah.org

 

Collaborative synagogue programming

Congregation Emanu-El has been a part of the Bay Area Jewish Community for over 150 years, and has been uniting it through collaboration with other Jewish organizations. One popular event has been the Sukkot-themed party “Spookot” in Dolores Park, in collaboration with the Jewish Community Center’s Hub for Jewish adults in their 20s and 30s. Emanu-El is looking forward to future events with the Hub, including a break fast after Yom Kippur this year.

“It’s important that the young Jewish community stay together and not be fractured or broken,” says young adult community coordinator Mike Amerikaner. “Events together means we keep our community together as a whole.”

Temple Sinai has taken the initiative in bringing the Oakland community together. “We believe it’s important to do things with other synagogues and other faith-based organizations,” says executive director Paul Geduldig.Sinai has worked with other faith-based organizations to sponsor holiday food drives. “We started doing it here and spread to 16 other synagogues across the Bay Area,” Geduldig says. In addition to the food drives, Sinai hosts a Night of Learning, where rabbis and educators from different synagogues come together and discuss contemporary issues.

Collaborating with a number of Jewish organizations and synagogues — including the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, Peninsula JCC and Peninsula Sinai Congregation — Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City is part of an ongoing event hosted by the Peninsula JCC called “Secrets and Mysteries of Jewish History, Tradition and Culture,” taught in both Russian and English. “We have in the past, in the Jewish community, been separated. We really think that one broader Jewish community is a richer experience,” says Beth Jacob ritual director Bill Futornick. ”The ability to interchange and program with each other adds to a real richness of the community.”

Recently, Congregation Kol Shofar congregants have volunteered with Westminster Presbyterian Church, Habitat for Humanity, and the Mill Street Shelter. But Panim el Panim is the Tiburon synagogue’s own initiative to bring together like-minded individuals for the betterment of the Marin community. “It’s about sharing our experiences, our hopes, and aspirations with each other. This helps us build a stronger community within Kol Shofar and the greater Marin community,” says Kol Shofar board member Mark Swoiskin.

Last winter, following the closure of a local shelter, Rodef Sholom partnered with other congregations and local churches to offer beds to those in need. Joel Gumbiner, chair of Rodef Sholom’s Tikkun Olam Committee, is hoping to channel volunteer efforts to more long-term projects in the community. “What we’re trying to do is to get congregants to seek out and design their own projects,” Gumbiner says.

In second place were Congregation Sherith Israel and Congregation Adath Israel in San Francisco, Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills and Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa.

 

First Place

San Francisco

Congregation Emanu-El

(415) 751-2535

www.emanuelsf.org

East Bay

Temple Sinai

Oakland

(510) 451-3263

www.oaklandsinai.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Congregation Beth Jacob

Redwood City

(650) 366-8481

www.bethjacobrwc.org

North Bay

Congregation Rodef Sholom

San Rafael

(415) 479-3441

www.rodefsholom.org

Congregation Kol Shofar

Tiburon

(415) 388-1818

www.kolshofar.org

Second Place

San Francisco

Congregation Sherith Israel

(415) 346-1720

www.sherithisrael.org

Congregation Adath Israel

(415) 564-5665

www.adathisraelsf.org

East Bay

Beth Jacob Congregation

Oakland

(510) 482-1147

www.bethjacoboakland.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Congregation Beth Am

Los Altos Hills

(650) 493-4661

www.betham.org

North Bay

Congregation Shomrei Torah

Santa Rosa

(707) 578-5519

www.shomreitorah.org

 

Interfaith programming

Rabbi George Gittleman embodies the interfaith programming at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa. “He is a constant and important presence in the interfaith community,” says executive director Fran Brumlik. “He is active in the professional association of other rabbis and ministers.” Working closely with churches in the community, Shomrei Torah has established a program that commemorates the victims of all genocides.

Interfaith programming at Temple Sinai in Oakland means bringing people of different faiths together to enjoy what the synagogue has to offer. “The interfaith couples and families are blessed by the blending of different cultural traditions, but often face special challenges as well,” says executive director Paul Geduldig. “Our goal is to serve as a friendly and informative for both the Jewish and non-Jewish member.” With a wide-range of programs, Sinai welcomes people of any faith who are interested in learning about Judaism.

A hub of Jewish life in San Francisco, Congregation Emanu-El serves not only the Jewish community but has extensive interfaith programming, such as “The Course,” an intro-to-Judaism program that serves as an entry point for people wanting to know more about the faith. Another innovative program is the Jewish, Arab and Muslim Women Collaboration. ”Through social justice projects, we will have a positive impact on the collective religious and cultural perceptions among our groups and in society as a whole,” says member programs director Frana Price.

Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City is involved in programs and events with other faith organization including the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which provides emergency housing for families in crisis, and Breaking Bread, which feeds people in need at the First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto.  

In addition to these organizations, Rabbi Nathaniel Ezray is part of a group of interfaith community leaders, “They get together and they talk about topical issues, things that can strengthen each other’s communities,” says ritual director Bill Futornick. Beth Jacob has done everything from having meals with other religious groups to inviting a reverend to teach a class about Jesus — it is “very much inclusive,” Futornick says.

Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco, Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek, Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills and Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael came in second.

First Place

San Francisco

Congregation Emanu-El

(415) 751-2535

www.emanuelsf.org

East Bay

Temple Sinai

Oakland

(510) 451-3263

www.oaklandsinai.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Congregation Beth Jacob

Redwood City

(650) 366-8481

www.bethjacobrwc.org

North Bay

Congregation Shomrei Torah

Santa Rosa

(707) 578-5519

www.shomreitorah.org

Second Place


San Francisco

Congregation Sherith Israel

(415) 346-1720

www.sherithisrael.org

East Bay

Congregation B’nai Shalom

Walnut Creek

(510) 832-1720

www.bshalom.org

 

South Bay/Peninsula

Congregation Beth Am

Los Altos Hills

(650) 493-4661

www.betham.org

 

North Bay

Congregation Rodef Sholom

San Rafael

(415) 479-3441

www.rodefshalom.org

 

Israel-related programming

Last November, a group of congregants with the supporting clergy started the Israel Education Committee at Temple Sinai in Oakland. Without any political agenda, the committee set out to educate other temple members and give insight into the reform movement in Israel. “Our overriding goal is to bring Israel closer to the hearts and minds of our congregants,” says Valerie Sopher, one of the founding members.

The Israel Center in San Francisco is the driving force behind Israel in the Gardens, many speakers and musicians, college campus education about Israel and much more. Almost everything related to Israel in the Bay Area can be tracked back to the Israel Center.

“Strong ties to Israel and knowledge of Israel makes us a stronger a Jewish community here,” says executive director Lital Carmel. “It deepens and widens Jewish identity of people here. Whether it’s kids, teens, young adults, students … we work with everyone.” 

Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa does not make any extra efforts to provide Israel-related programming: “The Israel program is basic to our religious school curriculum,” says executive director Fran Brumlik. “It is part of the congregation that is built in to everything we do.” Israel-related programming comes in many forms at Shomrei: At the most basic level, stories and art connect members to Israel. On the other end, the congregation takes trips to Israel.

Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City doesn’t just advocate a love for Israel — it gets its members to experience it for themselves. This past Chanukah, the synagogue sent 52 people to Israel.

“We do all kinds of pro-Israel programming.  You need many points of views to complete that.  Pro-Israel isn’t a rubber stamp,” says ritual director Bill Futornick. “It’s a whole gamut of Israel views.” The synagogue’s Israel Connection Committee has about 130 members and always brings a large constituency to AIPAC dinners.

Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland, Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City and Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon came in second.

First Place

San Francisco

Israel Center

(415) 777-0411

www.israelcentersf.org

East Bay

Temple Sinai

Oakland

(510) 451-3263

www.oaklandsinai.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Congregation Beth Jacob

Redwood City

(650) 366-8481

www.bethjacobrwc.org

North Bay

Congregation Shomrei Torah

Santa Rosa

(707) 578-5519

www.shomreitorah.org

Second Place

San Francisco

Congregation Emanu-El

(415) 751-2535

www.emanuelsf.org

East Bay

Temple Beth Abraham

Oakland

(510) 832-1720

www.tbaoakland.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Peninsula Sinai Congregation

Foster City

(650) 349-2816

www.peninsulasinai.org

North Bay

Congregation Kol Shofar

Tiburon

(415) 388-1818

www.kolshofar.org

 

Social action programming

At Temple Sinai in Oakland, social action programming is “one of the pillars of our congregation,” says executive director Paul Geduldig. Events such as People of the Book Literacy Project, Mitzvah Day, food drives and volunteering at shelters are all part of Sinai’s commitment to its community. “Part of the key is we try to do it with every age group, all the way down to the preschool,” Geduldig says.

The social action committee at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa is involved in seemingly every community project in the North Bay. From walking for Darfur and assisting the Committee for Immigrant Rights Sonoma County to fighting for marriage equality and hosting a school supplies drive, Shomrei knows how to make a difference. “We have a group of 20-plus members who are very committed to doing good work within the areas of human rights and social action,” says Larry Carlin, co-chair of the social action committee. “Personally, there is nothing more exciting than to see one of our members get really passionate about a particular project.”

Social justice programming at Congregation Emanu-El utilizes its congregants’ Jewish identities as a force to cause change in their local San Francisco community and beyond. “Social justice programming at Congregation Emanu-El educates, inspires, and empowers congregants to a lifetime of leadership, service, and advocacy on behalf of the Jewish people and society at large,” says social justice coordinator Sandy Rechtschaffen.

Congregation Beth Jacob offers a variety of ways to get involved in the community in a positive way. Opportunities include being a part of the Beth Jacob Cares Committee, being involved in the Interfaith Hospitality Network, volunteering at the Maple Street Shelter and donating blood at the Beth Jacob Blood Drive. Beth Jacob is “all about including people, whether or not they are members of the community. There’s a lot here that can affect your life in a positive way,” says ritual director Bill Futornick.

In second place were Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco, Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon and Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael.

First Place

San Francisco

Congregation Emanu-El

(415) 751-2535

www.emanuelsf.org

East Bay

Temple Sinai

Oakland

(510) 451-3263

www.oaklandsinai.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Congregation Beth Jacob

Redwood City

(650) 366-8481

www.bethjacobrwc.org

North Bay

Congregation Shomrei Torah

Santa Rosa

(707) 578-5519

www.shomreitorah.org

Second Place

San Francisco

Congregation Sherith Israel

(415) 346-1720

www.sherithisrael.org

East Bay

Congregation Netivot Shalom

Berkeley

(510) 549-9447

www.netivotshalom.org


Kehilla Community Synagogue

Piedmont

(510) 547-2424

www.kehillasynagogue.org

South Bay/Peninsula

Congregation Beth Am

Los Altos Hills

(650) 493-4661

www.betham.org

North Bay

Congregation Kol Shofar

Tiburon

(415) 388-1818

www.kolshofar.org

 

Congregation Rodef Sholom

San Rafael

(415) 479-3441

www.rodefshalom.org