Readers’ Choice 2022: Innovative Programming

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Congregation Emanu-El 

(415) 751-2535
Founded in 1850, this historic Reform synagogue is known for innovative programs, a large-scale services and events, and smaller gatherings to foster deeper connections. The congregation is known for its social justice programs and community outreach as well as its cultural offerings, including a museum. 

Congregation Sha’ar Zahav

(415) 861-6932
Sha’ar Zahav, the Bay Area’s first gay and lesbian synagogue, embraces diversity across the spectrum of identity, including sexuality, gender, race and ability. Single members, couples, interfaith individuals and single -parent and multicultural families are all welcome. Founded in 1977, the Reform congregation offers programs that focus on Jewish experiences both authentic and transformative. 

The Kitchen
New to J. Readers’ Choice is The Kitchen. Founded in 2011 by Rabbi Noa Kushner, “The Kitchen is one part Shabbat + justice + Torah community, one part San Francisco experiment and one part tool kit for Jewish life at home,” according to the website. “We welcome Shabbat in a way that is uplifting, musical and communal.” Gatherings are nomadic, so check the website for services and events. 



Temple Beth Abraham

(510) 832-0936  •
Music often fills the temple at this Conservative synagogue in Oakland, particularly at  Rock and Roll Shabbat services, which feature the house band, and at Shabbat Unplugged, which focuses on joyful singing. A traditional Kabbalat Shabbat also is offered. Also available are adult education classes and monthly mah jongg classes.

Temple Isaiah

(925) 283-8575  •
Temple Isaiah considers itself a “Jewish neighborhood,” offering inviting programs and special events, with a focus on social justice. For over 25 years, Temple Isaiah has helped shelter and feed people through their Winter Nights program. The congregation also offers a Values in Action committee, a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion initiative and an Angel Network to help members and their families when in need. 

Temple Sinai

(510) 451-3263
This large Reform congregation welcomes “Jews by birth, Jews by choice, interfaith families and those wishing to learn more about Judaism.” The historic Beaux Arts-style building, which opened in 1914, houses an award-winning preschool and religious school and is known for progressive social action programs. Innovation is a focus here, in all aspects of Shabbat, holiday observances, adult education and events.  



Congregation Beth Am

(650) 493-4661  •
This popular Reform congregation, a longtime favorite among J. readers, is committed to live as a holy community where the study and practice of Judaism inspires and challenges members to “do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.” Women’s groups, learning cohorts and family groups are available, as is a plethora of committees. 

Peninsula Temple Beth El

(650) 341-7701  •
Honoring traditions while introducing new ways of “doing Jewish,” Peninsula Temple Beth El considers every member both a teacher and a learner. Social action programs and creative worship help members find purpose and meaning in their lives. PTBE also actively seeks to build bonds with all Jews and Jewish organizations in the community, in Israel and around the world. 



Congregation Ner Shalom

(707) 664-8622  •
Congregation Ner Shalom, new to J. Readers’ Choice this year, draws from its Reconstructionist roots and the soulfulness of Jewish Renewal to “embrace Judaism through ritual, social justice, music, learning and laughter.”  Wander this website and find what speaks to you. Religious services, a book club and adult education all are part of the offerings, and seniors are warmly welcomed to take part. 

Congregation Rodef Sholom

(415) 479-3441
As construction of the new home for Rodef Sholom is underway, the synagogue continues to help build Jewish lives that are authentic, enriching individuals and transforming the community. Social justice and climate action are focal points, with innovative pilot programs available. 

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