This pro-Israel canine attended a rally demanding Hamas release hostages the Israeli hostages held in Gaza at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, Oct. 12, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
This pro-Israel canine attended a rally demanding Hamas release hostages the Israeli hostages held in Gaza at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, Oct. 12, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Looking back on 2023: Northern California Jewish life in photos

It’s harder than usual to look back on the entire year because the Oct. 7 massacre, the Israel-Hamas war and the spike in antisemitism have consumed so much of the Jewish world’s attention and energy. But throughout 2023, Jews in Northern California celebrated, protested, mourned and comforted one another.

J. captured all of it, both in words and in images. As J.’s photographer, here are my favorite images of 2023.


January

Stu Span greets a performer during Lunar New Year festivities at the Frank Residences, the newest part of the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy SFCJL)

At the newly opened Frank Residences at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, Stu Span greets a colorful dragon dance performer on Jan. 31, a week and a half before Chinese New Year. (Photo/Courtesy SFCJL)


February

A house on 22nd Avenue in the Sunset District of San Francisco exploded and collapsed on Feb. 9, 2023; the yellow house next door was rented by members at Congregation Adath Israel, who lost everything. (Photo/Sue Barnett)

A drug lab inside a house on 22nd Avenue in San Francisco’s Sunset District exploded and destroyed the residence on Feb. 9, according to police. The yellow house next door was rented by members of Congregation Adath Israel, who were not at home at the time but lost everything. (Photo/Sue Barnett)


March

UnXeptable Bay Area Rally March 27, 2023. (Photo/UnXeptable)

UnXeptable protests of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effort to overhaul the judiciary became a local fixture in 2023. The Bay Area-based group of  Israeli expatriates pivoted on Oct. 7 from demonstrating for democracy to advocating for the hostages held by Hamas. The local protests earlier in the year included this one on March 23 with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. (Photo/UnXeptable)


April

Wilderness Torah's signature annual event, Passover in the Desert, drew its biggest crowd yet to the Mojave Desert, April 5-10, 2023. (Photo/Julia Maryanska)

Wilderness Torah’s signature annual event, Passover in the Desert, drew its biggest crowd yet to the Mojave Desert from April 5 to 10. Unfortunately, the group announced in the fall that it has put the event on hold for the foreseeable future. (Photo/Julia Maryanska)


May

On the menu at Hadeem: black sesame hummus with sultanas, and pine nuts with lamb kibbeh. (Photo/Angelina Hong)

Black sesame hummus and lamb kibbeh were on the menu of Hadeem, a Jewish-Californian restaurant pop-up in San Francisco profiled by our food columnist Alix Wall. (Photo/Angelina Hong)


June

Rabbi SAM Luckey of Kehilla discusses Korach, the week's Torah portion, at the Pre-Trans March Shabbat, June 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Rabbi SAM Luckey of Piedmont’s Kehilla Community Synagogue discusses Parashat Koarch during an LGBTQ Shabbat at San Francisco’s Dolores Park on June 23 for the day of the Trans March. The gathering was led by rabbis from Kehilla, Base Bay in Oakland and Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco’s historically LGBTQ synagogue. The event included a short service with both prayers and a question on “personal revolutions.” (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)


July

The opening film of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, “Remembering Gene Wilder,” screened at the Castro Theater, July 20, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
The opening film of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, “Remembering Gene Wilder,” screened at the Castro Theater, July 20, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

The Castro Theatre was brightly lit for the opening night film, “Remembering Gene Wilder,” at the SF Jewish Film Festival on July 20. Crowds were still somewhat pandemic-shy, but in-person attendance was noticeably up from 2022. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Ewa Gavrielov demonstrates in a Hebrew T-shirt that reads "Savtot lema'an hademokratiya" — "Grandmothers for Democracy" at a protest organized by UnExptable in front of Israel's San Francisco consulate, July 25, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Ewa Gavrielov demonstrated with an Israeli flag as supporters of Israeli democracy chant outside the Israeli consulate in San Francisco on July 25. The protest, organized by UnXeptable, took place after the Israeli Knesset passed the first of several bills designed to overhaul the judiciary. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)


August

(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El’s complex is under major renovation, captured here on Aug. 2. Emanu-El, founded in 1850, is the largest synagogue in the Bay Area by membership and one of the oldest in California. The massive renovation includes seismic retrofit and expansion. From the street, the mammoth building will look largely the same, with the original main entrance reopened and newly highlighted. But after stepping inside the courtyard, it will be an entirely new world. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Michelle (left) and Jeff Leopold remember their son Trevor in their home in Greenbrae, Aug 27, 2023. The Leopolds' son Trevor died four years ago at the age of 18 when he took an oxycodone pill he didn’t know was laced with fentanyl. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Michelle and Jeff Leopold remember their late son Trevor, as they stand next to an altar in his memory inside their home in Greenbrae on Aug. 27. The Leopolds lost their 18-year-old son Trevor four years ago when he took an oxycodone pill he didn’t know was laced with fentanyl. After his death, the family founded #WeAreNotAlone, a resource to connect families dealing with addiction with others going through the same crisis. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)


September

Bernal Hill, Bernal Heights, shofar Or Shalom congregants (from left to right) Corey Weinstein, Margo Freistadt, Jeffrey Brandstetter and Mary Ann Goldstein play the shofar on Bernal Hill. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Members of San Francisco’s Or Shalom Jewish Community blow the shofar during the month of Elul on Bernal Hill in San Francisco on Sep. 10, less than a week before Rosh Hashanah. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Shimrit Braun Kamin leads demonstrators during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Union Square in San Francisco, Sept. 18, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins) Netanyahu flew into San Jose earlier and met with X CEO Elon Musk, who has been criticized for promoting anti-Semitism on his social media platform. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Shimrit Braun Kamin leads UnXeptable demonstrators during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Union Square in San Francisco on Sept. 18. Netanyahu flew into San Jose earlier that day and met with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)


October

An honor guard carries Dianne Feinstein’s casket from a Sinai Chapel hearse to San Francisco City Hall. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins) Feinstein, Dianne Feinstein, death, Senator, City Hall, SF, City, San Francisco, lying in state

An honor guard carries Dianne Feinstein’s casket from a Sinai Memorial Chapel hearse into San Francisco City Hall on Oct. 5. Feinstein served as San Francisco’s mayor before becoming a U.S. senator in 1992. She passed away on Sept. 29 while still holding office at age 90. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Rabbi Shana Chandler Leon of San Francisco’s Congregation Ner Tamid prays and cries during a large community gathering following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. The event took place at San Francisco’s Congregation Sherith Israel on Oct. 8 when Jews worldwide were in shock and before the full extent of the devastation was even known. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Rabbi Shana Chandler Leon of San Francisco’s Congregation Ner Tamid prays and cries during a large community gathering following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. The event took place at San Francisco’s Congregation Sherith Israel on Oct. 8 when Jews worldwide were in shock and before the full extent of the devastation was even known. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Ralph Sinick touches his tallit to the new Torah scroll inside its case carried by Victor Khedr. The Karaite Jews of America consecrated their new scroll in Daly City on Oct. 22. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Ralph Sinick touches his tallit to the new Torah scroll inside its case carried by Victor Khedr. The Karaite Jews of America consecrated their new scroll in Daly City on Oct. 22. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)


November

Bella Barany (left) holds a “Bring Them Home Now” sign during a vigil outside Oakland City Hall on Nov. 27 before the introduction of a resolution in support of a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. The Oakland City Council voted unanimously for the original resolution, instead of an amended version that would have included a condemnation of  Hamas. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Bella Barany (left) holds a “Bring Them Home Now” sign during a vigil outside Oakland City Hall on Nov. 27 before the introduction of a resolution in support of a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. The Oakland City Council voted unanimously for the original resolution, instead of an amended version that would have included a condemnation of  Hamas. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Daniel Morgan reads a book with his sons, 7-year-old Ori (left) and 8-year-old Tomer (right), in San Mateo; they are temporarily attending Wornick. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Tomer Morgan (right), 8, reads a book with his father, Daniel, and 7-year-old brother, Ori, at his grandparents’ house in San Mateo on Nov 30. Daniel and his wife, Hadar, moved temporarily from Tel Aviv to San Mateo to give their children some relative normalcy during the Israel-Hamas war. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)


December

Civic leaders hold a torch together during a menorah lighting celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah at Union Square in San Francisco on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Civic leaders including state Sen. Scott Wiener (left, in glasses), San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins (in pale blue suit) and City Attorney David Chiu (in red tie) hold a torch during a menorah lighting celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah at Union Square in San Francisco on Dec. 13. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Aaron Levy-Wolins
Aaron Levy-Wolins

Aaron Levy-Wolins is J.'s photographer. See more of his work on Instagram @aaron_levywolins and @jewishnews_sf.