Rabbi Levi Mintz of Chabad of Tiburon shares a drink with friends at the Tiburon Jewish Festival, July 30, 2023. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)
Rabbi Levi Mintz of Chabad of Tiburon shares a drink with friends at the Tiburon Jewish Festival, July 30, 2023. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)

Chabad’s summer festival in Tiburon celebrates the chai life with wine, music and vibes

A hot klezmer band, cool kosher wine and a warm haimish vibe welcomed visitors of all ages to the very first Tiburon Jewish Festival.

Drawing hundreds of attendees over the course of three hours on a Sunday afternoon, the free event on July 30 was the first of what organizers hope will be many to come.

“We want to be a place where the community comes together,” said festival organizer Rabbi Levi Mintz, who with his wife, rebbetzin Mirel Mintz, launched a Chabad community about a year ago in the picturesque Marin County town. “People want to be connected to their Judaism.”

The crowd at the Tiburon Jewish Festival gets a Chinese yo-yo demonstration. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)
The crowd at the Tiburon Jewish Festival gets a Chinese yo-yo demonstration. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)

The community certainly came together that day as festivalgoers strolled about a small lakeside park behind Tiburon Town Hall.

A bouncy castle and face-painting table for kids stood side by side with a tent staffed by Hagafen Cellars, the Napa Valley kosher winery, offering complimentary servings of reds and whites. Sizzling shwarma and falafel platters fed the crowd, while free bottles of ice water kept them cool under the North Bay sun. Onstage, the hard-rocking Ferris Wheels, a band fronted by Chabad House of Berkeley Rabbi Yehuda Ferris, and the Sonoma Klezmer Band brought the freilach, Yiddish for musical joy. (J. was the event’s media sponsor.)

“I love everything going on,” said Marin County Supervisor Stephanie Moulton-Peters, addressing the crowd from the stage. “We come together to recognize the contributions of the Jewish community in our county and our community.”

Activities for kids at the Tiburon Jewish Festival included face painting and balloon animals. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)
Activities for kids at the Tiburon Jewish Festival included face painting and balloon animals. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)

About 12,000 people live in the Tiburon-Belvedere enclave, and while the area’s precise Jewish population is unknown, Conservative Congregation Kol Shofar has been in town for nearly 40 years. Just up Highway 101 in San Rafael are Reform Congregation Rodef Sholom, Brandeis Marin and the Osher Marin JCC. And there are Chabad centers in Corte Madera, San Rafael, Mill Valley, San Anselmo, and now Tiburon.

With recently leased space on Tiburon Boulevard, Mintz plans to open Chabad of Tiburon for services, classes and other activities. Until then, he will continue hosting events at the Tiburon Lodge and the Belvedere Community Center. On Sunday, attendees praised the rabbi and rebbetzin for their efforts in the year since they got to town.

“The blessing to the community that Chabad has brought here is joyful. They brought three generations of Jews together, and they knocked it out of the shtetl,” said festivalgoer Bob Tandler, a Belvedere resident who chairs the San Francisco-Haifa Sister City Committee, among other things.

Rabbi Levi and Rebbetzin Mirel Mintz are the directors of Chabad of Tiburon. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)
Rabbi Levi and Rebbetzin Mirel Mintz are the directors of Chabad of Tiburon. (Photo/Linda Alida Photography)

His friend Peter Gillon, also of Belvedere, said the festival was “definite proof that there’s an appetite for Jewish community activities.”

Wearing a powder-blue T-shirt emblazoned with the Tiburon Jewish Festival logo, Mirel Mintz said she was thrilled with the turnout. The Santa Rosa native noted that planning for the festival began soon after December’s public Hanukkah menorah lighting in the small downtown area.

“When we’d meet someone, we’d ask, ‘What do you want?’” she recalled of the past year. “Everyone wanted a big social gathering. There’s something valuable about just showing up.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.