Readers’ Choice 2015:

Synagogue Life



Have a Nosh

Time to Celebrate

Shop Till You Drop

Health, Beauty & Fitness

Business & Professional

House & Home

Charitable Organization

Fulfilling the commandment to care for those in need, Jewish organizations reach out with social services, financial aid, workshops and support groups, and opportunities to volunteer.

Hebrew Free Loan, established in 1897 to help new immigrants with interest-free loans, today also assists adopting couples, first-time homebuyers, families facing emergencies, college students and small-business owners. Today, 99.5 percent of these loans have been repaid. “We will never lose sight of the heart and soul of our mission: helping people to become and remain self sufficient,” says Cindy Rogoway, executive director.

The San Francisco–based Jewish Family and Children’s Services — which also serves the North Bay and the Peninsula — calls itself “a lifeline, from cradle to rocking chair, for children, families and older adults facing transitions and personal crises.” Last year, the agency helped more than 78,000 individuals through 40-plus programs and services, including adoption, parenting, senior and end-of-life counseling, and assistance to émigrés, Holocaust survivors, people with disabilities and families in crisis.

Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the East Bay serves people of all ages, ethnicities and religious affiliations in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, with mental health services and programs for refugees, single parents, the bereaved and people in crisis. Its Café Europa serves as a gathering place for Holocaust survivors and their families, and the agency supports the physical and emotional needs of aging survivors.

Shalom Bayit, based in Oakland, serves the entire region, offering safety and empowerment to battered women and their children, teaching skills for healthy relationships and promoting public strategies to prevent domestic violence. Writes one client: “Shalom Bayit gave me and my children the tools, guidance and love to move through the most difficult passage of our life.”

San Francisco & North Bay & South Bay/Peninsula

Jewish Family and Children’s Services

(415) 449-1200


San Francisco

Hebrew Free Loan

(415) 546-9902


East Bay

Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the East Bay

Berkeley • (510) 704-7475

Walnut Creek • (925) 927-2000


Shalom Bayit


(866) 742-5667, toll-free



Jewish community centers throughout the region, all with entertainment and athletic facilities and most with aquatic centers and preschools, enable kids, seniors and everybody in between to stay fit as well as partake of cultural and educational opportunities.

The JCC of San Francisco, which has served the region since 1877, has a 45,000-square-foot fitness and aquatics center, an Arts and Ideas program providing lectures in politics, business and the arts, concerts and performances, a variety of classes, plus camps and preschools. The JCCSF has revived its Community Players performance group, hosts interfaith family activities and offers a travel program with trips to Jewish sites worldwide.

The JCC of the East Bay, with some 10,000 participants at campuses in Berkeley and Oakland, offers preschools, a summer day camp, plus fitness and cultural programs, including the Jewish Music Festival. Serving people of all ages, the JCC of the East Bay is also “a great place for older adults who seek Jewish events, culture and company in their lives,” says Leah Emdy, an active participant.

As a “multigenerational Jewish neighborhood,” with a preschool and senior residence on the extensive campus, Palo Alto’s Oshman Family JCC serves the South Peninsula with sports and swimming programs, performances and classes, as well as activities for seniors and the large Israeli- and Russian-speaking communities. “Creating community and deepening connections to Jewish life and culture are the heart of our mission,” says CEO Zack Bodner.

The Peninsula JCC serves the North Peninsula on a 12-acre Foster City campus, with an extensive fitness and aquatics facility, camps, a preschool, live entertainment, an art gallery, and transportation and activities for older adults. Volunteer programs include tutoring, assisting seniors and helping in the PJCC’s Justice Garden, growing organic produce to feed families in need.

The Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, with a swimming and fitness complex, preschools on two campuses and performances in the Kanbar Center, draws the wider community. Meanwhile classes in Jewish ethics and holiday programs help to sustain Jewish life, while the JCC’s Center for Jewish Peoplehood is also involved in programs that foster interfaith understanding.

San Francisco

JCC of San Francisco

(415) 292-1200


East Bay

JCC of the East Bay

Berkeley • (510) 848-0237

Oakland • (510) 595-9222


South Bay/Peninsula

Oshman Family JCC

Palo Alto

(650) 223-8700


Peninsula JCC

Foster City

(650) 212-7522


North Bay

Osher Marin JCC

San Rafael

(415) 444-8000