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We recently moved up here from Los Angeles, and have noticed there isnt a very big jewish population up here...at least compared to LA. We went to the SF JCC and we were told we needed to ''seek it out'', meaning joining a temple. I am more of a cultural jew...meaning I speak a little yiddish, eat bagels and lox/deli on sundays, and I dont eat pork, unless it is well hidden in something like pepperoni (;-), and celebrate passover and chanukah, with the occasional fast on yom kippur. (Im sure you get the point) And like most cultural jews, I married a catholic who is open to conversion and raising our 4 month old daughter jewish.
We want to join a reform temple with mixed couples and chavurah in contra costa county. Our goal with the temple is to meet other families like us, and have a place for our daughter to learn about jewish culture. I know there are a few out here in Lafayette, WC, and Danville. I just dont know which one is right for us.
We are in our late 30's, professionals, love to go out to
dinner, travel, go to the theater, drink wine, attend sports
events, shop etc. Which temple would we fit into?
But, you really need to make some appts. and go out Shul Shopping. Call the offices and tell them you are new and want to check out the temple and meet the rabbi. I am sure any where you call will fall over backwards to accommodate you.
When I lived out your way, I used to visit Temple Isaiah in Lafayette. I liked it a lot, but knew I was moving so I did not join. I also have visited Temple Sinai in Oakland, which I love to death, but it is not convenient to me.
Anyway, welcome. I am sure there is the perfect match out there for you.
You mention a chavura - you want to find out which ones are actively forming chavurot.
VERY important - if your husband is seriously considering conversion, he needs to be with a rabbi that he feels very comfortable with as the process is an intimate and powerful one.
I refer interfaith couples to Jewish connections all the time. Here are some options: 1. call me at Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples at 510-663-8350 and we can talk about your desires and requirements. 2. You might like to be on my eletter to more than 700 other interfaith folks in the bay area - events and info specific to interfaith (see previous letters at www.jewishinterfaith.blogspot.com) 3. Your husband may enjoy looking at a bay area site that is getting started by and for seekers and Jews by Choice at www.becomingjewish.net (that's .NET not .com) Cheers! Dawn Kepler
We're moving to Oakland soon and are looking for a reform or similar synagouge or congregation to join that is friendly to and includes a diversity of Jewish people and beliefs, as well as interfaith couples and families, and same-sex couples and their families. Any suggestions? anon
I would venture that we hold diverse opinions on matters of belief and politics, although somewhat to the left of the national average. Netivot is affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, but you might find it closer to your expectations of a Reform synagogue than to a typical East Coast Conservative synagogue.
I hope you will visit Netivot and see if it is right for you and your family. If you have children, please check out one of our nationally recognized programs for children (call ahead for the schedule: 510-549-9447 ext. 101). I would also be happy to talk to you personally. Shana Tova! David
Or give Temple Beth Abraham a call. They are the Conservative shul. They too have a diverse membership and a charming rabbi who leads Rock n'Roll Shabbats. 832-0936
Or call Beth Jacob, the Orthodox shul - but I must say a truly unorthodox Orthodox shul. They are small & intimate. Their rabbi teaches a lot to the general community and has a large following of devoted students. 482-1147 If you want more information feel free to call me. I work for the Jewish community as a whole. Dawn Kepler, Building Jewish Bridges, 510-839-2900 x347 dawn@Jfed.org
I've been drawn to the Jewish faith for some time, yet steps toward conversion were put on hold until my daughter was old enough to attend tot Shabbats, which I think she is now(3.5 yrs). I am looking for recommendations for child-friendly services and rabbis. I've already taken an intro class and read many books, but I'd love it if there were a class for people who want to convert. I am interested in more liberal synagogues. Thanks dawn
Bridget Wynne Rabbinic Director JGate: Your Gateway to Jewish Life 409 Liberty Street El Cerrito, CA 94530 Phone/Voicemail: 510-559-8140 E-mail: rabbiwynne at earthlink.netJGate is an independent, grassroots group that reaches out to Jews, their families, and all who seek connections to Jewish life and community. We welcome you for Shabbat dinners and holiday celebrations, salons on Judaism and social justice, Jewish study sessions, and rabbinic mentoring. We are ready to help you find your “home” in the Jewish community
I'm looking for a radical church--I am open to the type of spirituality, we're open to Christian, religious science, etc. I do care that the language is gender inclusive, that the theology is positive and affirming and non-orthodox. I'd like to start attending church w/ my 2 year old daughter to have her develop a sense of community, but many churches I've tried are a little too staid or too orthodox for our tastes. Someplace with really good music would definitely be a bonus. Thanks for your help. anon
Good luck, Rachel
Also, not only is there lots of music and singing, sometimes we have awesome Israeli folk dancing after services! Check out bethelberkeley.org for more info, or bring your daughter to one of our Tot Shabbats (next one is Friday September 15 at 5:30 - dinner is free and served before a brief child-friendly service).
I'm glad that you're on a quest like this for you and your daughter, and I hope you click somewhere. Once you find the right environment, nothing else in the world feels as good as belonging -Hope you find what you're looking for
I am looking to get back to my Jewish ''roots'' and help my 2 year old daughter learn about her Jewish heritage. My husband was raised Catholic but now does not practice any religion. We do celebrate Christmas (in a very secular way),but he is open to raising our child with exposure to the Jewish faith. Could you recommend a temple either in Berkeley or Contra Costa County that would welcome an interfaith family, and that also might offer some adult education and kids activities? I'm not sure where to begin! Do I just show up for Shabbat services? Thank you. Confused Interfaith Family
On a recent high holiday children's service, the officiating rabbi invited those not Jewish to come up to the front for a special blessing and to acknowledge personal challenges that they may have faced to embrace the faith of their partner. It was actually very emotional for those standing in front of the crowd as well as those of us in the pews.
I share this to tell you that there is an understanding, an embracing and a welcoming of interfaith couples. I have met many couples where one partner is Jewish (either the man or the woman) and they have chosen to expose their children to the Jewish faith.
It is a reformed synagogue, which in my opinion is more relaxed to begin with. I don't feel beaten over the head over what I 'should' believe, yet every time I am there I feel the warmth of the faith and the people I am surrounded by.
You can attend services as a visitor--just show up. That's how we started out; going to children's high holiday services and family services which are held usually the first Friday of the month. It will give you a sense of how the clergy interfaces wtih families and children and the oneg shabbat afterward where we say the hamotzi and enjoy drinks and desserts is a wonderful and friendly social time. I hope you'll take a look! Good luck to you karen
Beth El has a nursery school and many adult education classes. Our daughter attends the nursery school and we have been very happy there. It is a good mix of Jewish, interfaith and non- Jewish families. There is a Tot Shabbat once a month with a dinner so you can get to know some of the families. The best part about Beth El is the community. We have made wonderful friends there and consider it our second home. You can check out the web site to see the calendar of events. http://ca030.urj.net/ Please feel free to e-mail me if you have more questions or would like a ''buddy'' at Shabbat services Julie
I am Jewish by birth, but my family did not belong to a synagogue growing up, nor
did I go to Hebrew school or have a bat mitzvah. I see myself as culturally Jewish -
my family celebrated Hanukkah growing up. That's about it, but somehow I grew up
feeling connected with being Jewish. My husband was raised Conservative, went to
Hebrew school, and was bar mitzvah. We celebrate Hanukkah, try to get to a seder
each year, and try to have shabbat at our house on Fridays. This is already more
than I experienced growing up, so on one hand I feel like we're doing well giving our
daughter some experiences. While my husband and I belong to the local Jewish
Community Center (Walnut Creek), other than sending our daughter to camp there
each summer, I feel like we don't have a real connection with the Jewish community
here. So I was thinking maybe we should join a synagogue. I have several friends
who belong to B'nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek and was considering that. The problem
is that we pretty much can't afford to join a synagogue. Last year I did the math and
if we wanted to join, we'd pretty much have to choose between joining or sending
our daughter to camp (camp would have to win). Anybody have any suggestions?
Also, my husband and I are both agnostic, so it's hard for me to understand which
synagogue we would feel most comfortable at, plus we adopted our daughter and
she isn't Jewish by birth. Then there is the question of Hebrew school - where we
are at is that if our daughter was interested, we'd send her, but wouldn't force her.
Thanks for any suggestions for any of the issues I've raised!
looking for a Jewish community
As for which synagogue you'd feel comfortable at...the only way to find out is to try a few. There is a huge variety of beliefs (including agnostic congregants), practice, and personalities within each synagogue. I've known people who join synagogues where the religous practice was different from their own, but the community was a good fit. Even if you decide not to join any, it can be an interesting adventure visiting a bunch of synagogues and getting a feel for each community. Elizabeth
Rabbi Asher at B'nai Tikvah is a very accessible man, soft- spoken, intelligent, non-judgmental. Being agnostic just puts you in the mainstream.
It sounds like you're already doing a lot at home. Why not give yourself the joy of extended community? Give it a try. another Jewish mom
It is expensive to run temples, and that is why they are asking for big bucks. From my own experience having a been a member of Temple Sinai in Oakland for 15 years, they are happy to accept a fraction of the asking fee. I provide volunteer services to them, but they don't require it.
Reform temples welcome agnostic individuals, and they certainly don't care whether someone was born Jewish. You would be an asset, because you are thinking of what the religion means, rather than merely being a warm body twice a year. You will probably enjoy lively discussions with fellow congregants. Stu
1) Low-budget. Most synagogues have some kind of sliding scale that you can ask for if you need it, if they don't have an explicit policy, you can ask the Rabbi. Also, you can go to a synagogue for Shabbat/many education activities without joining until you are sure it is the right community for your family.
2) Hebrew school. If your child already has a friend at the synagogue school you mentioned that would be a good starting place. You could also visit some Hebrew schools. Many are more interesting places than they were back when we were kids.
3) Hebrew school -- part 2. I look at it as imparting skills so tht my child will be comfortable in any Jewish community. My husband did not have any hebrew school, and now although he is culturally Jewish he feels uncomfortable at most Jewish events (being culturally jewish is an option on the East Coast and LA -- around here there aren't enough Jews to be Jewish without the Jewish Community.) In order to help my child learn, I participate as much as possible in her Jewish education (and have found a congregation, Netivot Shalom, that has a reasonable amount of family education, and a good hebrew school.)
4) Being Jewish without being doctrinaire; I would visit the synagogues/community groups nearby, and see what works for you. In Berkeley there are 4 groups with buildings and a number of minyans. You might want to stop by Lehrhaus/Hillel on Bancroft for info; or the Berkeley JCC (Walnut and Rose). The synagogues are Beth Israel (orthodox; has a great, welcoming preschool); Netivot Shalom (conservative; preschool Shabbat every other week); Beth El (Reform; large pre-school,and Camp KiTov for older kids); and Chomat HaLev (not affiliated; music and interest in mysticism). In Oakland, there are also a number of synagogues -- Kehillah (Grand Ave.); and Temple Sinai might be good entry points.
5) It is time consuming, but nothing substitutes for visits. I
found that the best way to get to know people was through adult
education classes, and through preschool shabbat/family education
affiliated after I had a child
Can anyone comment on differences between Temple Sinai in Oakland and Temple Beth El in Berkeley? I'm the Jewish half of an interfaith couple (with twin two-year-olds) and am looking to join a reform congregation. I'm curious to know how these two compare, both in terms of the congregations themselves and the preschools. Any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks
There are really two questions for you to ask yourself:
one, which one is closer to your home? Location is central to how easy it is for you to drop off and pick up and the ease with which you can attend services and events.
Two, which community is a ''fit'' for your family. The only person who can answer that is YOU and your spouse. You'll have to go to services, meet people, meet the rabbis and see which place feels like home.
Both congregations have a service called Tot Shabbat. These services are geared for families with children under school age. They start early and are brief so you can get the kids home early. Tot Shabbat is generally on the same Friday each month but always check because the date will be moved if there is a holiday.
Call Beth El at 510-848-3988 and Temple Sinai at 510-451-3263 to get the dates and times (usually at 6:30 to 7pm).
Best of luck with your shul shopping.
Also, if you'd like a member to met you, sit with you and introduce you to others, you can call me at work, I line up ''Shabbos buddies'' and would be happy to do the same for you.
Building Jewish Bridges 510-839-2900 x347 www.jfed.org/interfaith.html Dawn Kepler
I am eager to delve deeper into my Jewish spirituality. I'm a convert and all my experiences have been in the Reform tradition, though Reconstruction resonates with me more. The nearest Reconstructionist congregation is in Los Altos and I'm in Oakland with no desire to commute that far on a regular basis.
I'm leaning toward joining Temple Sinai and see if there are some kindred spirits there, but thought I'd also check if anyone at BPN knows of or is interested in forming a Reconstructionist oriented chavurah/group in the greater Oakland area? The kind of activities I'm interested in include: study group (Torah and otherwise), celebrating Shabbat and holidays, doing mitzvot, and getting to know more folks who live (Reconstructionist) Jewishly. Thanks for your suggestions. keira
Have you called Jewish Family and Children's Services in Berkeley and asked them if there is a group in the East Bay, or the Jewish Federation in Oakland? One of those two should be able to refer you if there is one in this area.
I am trying to get more connected to my Jewish heritage, especially now that I have two children, and am looking for (more recent) recommendations for synagogues. I am leaning towards either Temple Sinai or Kehilla (we have gone to some events at each), and would like to hear what people like/don't like about these two synagogues.
I was raised by hippie-atheist parents. We celebrated no holidays and I had no experience of being Jewish except to know I was different. My husband is not Jewish but he is open to raising our kids Jewish.
I want to find a community where I won't feel out of place because I don't know the prayers/rituals. I have already felt a bit intimidated by Sinai because it is so big and because I came from a low income family- I feel some ''class'' issues when I go to Sinai (like what to wear so I don't feel too out of place). On the other hand, I am worried Kehilla may be too political for me (I know, whatever that means...) So I welcome any thoughts. Jewish mama
I just wanted to say that you speak for me too. I was brought up without any knowledge of Jewish prayers and rituals. Now that I am trying to integrate myself into a synagogue and find my ''roots'', it's very awkward not knowing when to stand or sway or face a certain direction. I have been to both the synagogues you mention and many others. I won't offer my opinion except to say that I found warm and friendly people at both Kehilla and Sinai. See my other post about Kol Hadash or contact me for more choices. Lindy
After reading recent postings recommending diverse reform synagogues in the East Bay, I wondered if there is a place in one of them for me and my family. I am agnostic/atheist. I was raised as a Catholic but do not believe in the central tenents of Christianity, except for its charitable attitude. Also, I have a graduate degree in Philosophy, do not like to be told how to think or what to believe, and thus, am uncomfortable with organized religion. My husband grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family and has many horror stories about it, although he believes in God, I think. We have two young children who have never been in a church or temple and have no religious experiences. That said, before moving to the Bay Area and getting married, I had some experience with reform Judaism that was very positive, attending services with a former boyfriend. People discussed religious issues intelligently, they allowed for differences of opinion, and best of all, there was no preaching or proselytizing. Plus, the communities were very warm and friendly. We have only a few good friends in this area and now I wonder if a reform synagogue would help us connect with more people and give us a positive spiritual experience as well. Is there a place in one of the East Bay reform synagogues for a person like me? My only concern is that the community not be too upscale, as we are a middle-class family of teachers. Anon
I also suggest spending some time learning more about Judaism and getting involved in the Jewish community. Sabbath services are only one of many ways that Jewish spirituality is enjoyed and communicated. Check out the other events and lectures at the Berkeley JCC http://www.brjcc.org/
Or for more long term intellectual commitment, take a regular class in Judaism or Jewish concerns at Lehrhaus Judaica, which meets at the Berkeley Hillel House http://www.lehrhaus.org/about/overview.html
The main thing is that you yourselves discover where you fit in. Weekly lIturgical services are not always the best way to do this, because by nature they make newcomers feel a little out of place. They are also not as central in Judaism as they are in Christianity. Study, community service, and all varieties of related get-togethers are equally valid expressions of Jewishness, and might help you feel your way to your own identity as well.
Hope this helps-- henny
I am looking for a reform/open minded synagogue to possibly join. I am Jewish (culturally--raised atheist) and am married to a non-Jew. I have a baby and most of my Jewish family has died. I'm so sad that my son will not know this heritage, will not hear Yiddish sprinkled in every conversation, and many not get that many of the teachings I give him, and many of the ways he lives are from his Jewish ancestry. I know that the old Eastern European Jewish community I grew up in is simply dying out and I won't be able to replicate this for my son. It seems like the only way to stay in touch with a Jewish community is to join a synagogue. This seems like a start, although for me it's a little hard beacuse my family was so anti-religion. I would like to explore some of the open- minded, welcoming synagogues in the East Bay and would love suggestions for which ones are diverse (my husband is African American) and which ones are easier to make connections with the members. I''m really lookign for a progressive spiritual community that is welcoming of people who have never been to a synagogue in their lives (that's me) but who identify as Jewish...Thanks. don't want to lose Jewish heritage
while I am not a member, Temple Israel of Alameda, is very open (the Rabbi is gay and I believe the cantor is a Lesbian).Check out their website http://www.templeisraelalameda.org/ Good Luck!
However, I encourage you to celebrate the Sabbath with your son and husband on Friday nights. We have a 3 month old, 3 year old and 5 year old, and since the older two were little, we've been buying challah, and lighting candles and saying the blessings over them and wine (or grape juice) every Friday night. It's a good way to just slow down the pace of the week, talk, and re-connect with each other.
We bought a few tapes of Jewish music (try Afikomen on Claremont Ave.--a place with a wierd vibe, but they do have an excellent, wide selection of Judaica), some Sabbath candles, etc., and we really enjoy this little ritual with our kids every Friday night. They know the prayers in Hebrew, and they even do the triple-cover-your-eyes-wave-thing when we light the candles. So cute.
We're gradually teaching them about the holidays (there are a ton of children's books about Judaism and all the holidays), and even at this young age, they know they are Jewish, and are proud of it, without us belonging to a synagogue (though we do have a large number of Jewish and non-Jewish friends that we celebrate ALL holidays with). I understand your desire to find a Jewish ''family'', but maybe celebrating at home also will help integrate those traditions into your lives too. Best of luck, Stay-at-Home Jewish Mama
You didn't say exactly where you live, but why not go ''shul shopping'' and drop in on Shabbat services at one or two synagogues nearby to see if feels right? If you're afraid you'll get lost, get there a few minutes early and ask to sit next to someone who will help you follow the service. Then stick around and shmooze afterward. You can ask about religious education for your son if that interests you.
A list of synagogues is at http://www.sfjcf.org/resource ; click on ''congregations.'' Note that Netivot Shalom is moving to a new building in central Berkeley in May and Kehilla recently moved to Piedmont. David
You are right that living Jewishly happens primarily in the synagogues. I work for the Jewish Federation and as important as their work is, it is the synagogues that are the heart of American Jewry. That is where you, your husband and your son will get support, education, and be able to live a Jewish life which unlike American life, is a communal life.
You don't say what city you live in. It is truly easiest to have your shul nearby. Then other members can help with carpools, share playdates, and easily get together for Shabbat and the holidays.
Every East bay congregation has interfaith couples, has Jews of color and has members from a variety of cultural, racial backgrounds. Reform & Renewal congregations will tend to have more, but the real measure of your match is, does the congregation ''fit'' you?
Start by shul-shopping in your own city. You can go to www.jfed.org and look at the list of synagogues in your city. If you want to call me and talk about the make up of the congregations, their size, schools, preschools etc., feel free. (510-839-2900 x347 if you're in Alameda or 925-943-1484 if you're in CC. or email dawn[AT]jfed.org)
If you want a Shabbos buddy - that is a member who will meet you at the door, sit with you, introduce you around at oneg, answer questions, give me a call. I can get you one. My program is called Building Jewish Bridges: outreach to interfaith couples. Welcome! Dawn Kepler
Our daughter has been thriving at her first summer camp at the JCC in Walnut Creek and is now more interested in all things Jewish, including an eventual bat mitzvah (or so she says now - she is 6). We live in Walnut Creek and are currently unaffiliated. I am looking for recommendations for synagogues in Contra Costa County, preferably in or near Walnut Creek. While we lean more towards Jewish Renewal / Humanistic Judaism, I don't believe there is any group near enough to us to work with the schedules of two working parents. Given that, a local reform synagogue seems like the next best bet. Is anyone out there a member of either B'nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek or Temple Isaiah in Lafayette? One thing that would be important to us (particularly my husband) is that the focus not be on money (e.g., how much you have and the like). My husband grew up on Long Island and had a negative experience as the (Conservative) synagogue his family belonged to was apparently all about money and not much about spirituality, community, etc. My family was unaffiliated and I did not go to Hebrew school, have a bat mitzvah, etc. and I basically consider myself culturally Jewish with no religious upbringing (I did take a couple of Intro to Judaism classes about 10 years ago through Lehrhaus Judaica that I loved). I figure we had better start looking into this now so that should our daughter continue to be interested in having a bat mitzvah that we are in a position to move forward with all that entails when it is time to do so (when is that anyway...about 8 years old?). Thanks much. Lori
I asked a friend of mine to response to your quiry and she wrote this (see review of B'nai Tikvah)
The other congregation, Temple Isaiah, is in Lafayette. It's larger, and has two very approachable rabbis - Judy Shanks and Roberto Graetz. I'd be happy to talk to you about any synagogue in CC.
Memories from childhood experiences shouldn't prevent you from having a very different and rewarding experience now. We are a new generation and we've changed our institutions.
I am a member of a synagogue and have found a community that has embraced me and nurtured me, my husband and children. I certainly wish the same for you.
call me if you like, Dawn Kepler (510) 839-2900 x347 - yes, I work for the Jewish community, but don't be deterred by that, I'm a mom, a friend, a volunteer, a shlepper, just like you. :) dawn kepler
Looking for a place to attend holiday and Shabbat Services and other Jewish events where we can find a spiritual community who shares our interest in music and dance. (I have reviewed the website for comments on this topic). Anon
I'd like to find a very child-oriented Jewish congregation in the East Bay. I'm raising my almost-4-year-old child as a Jew--I'm Jewish, my husband is Catholic--but most of what we've done has been family and home-oriented (we celebrate Shabbat and most of the holidays in some way). However, we have essentially no Jewish local friends/family members with children. I feel it's time for my child to become more involved in a Jewish community, though I'm not even sure exactly what I'm looking for other than something that offers a lot for children (and a place that isn't snobby!) I grew up connected mostly to conservative synagogues, so there's a familiarity-factor that makes me interested in looking into conservative congregations, though I think we'd likely be more comfortable in a reform synagogue or even something more progressive. I'd love to hear from other Jewish parents about their synagogues.
You might want to check-out preschools at synagogues. We just started our son in Gan Sholom at Temple Beth Sholom in San Leandro. I think temple Beth Abraham in Oakland and Beth Israel in Berekely also have reputable preschools. For Hebrew schools there's a lot out there and you need to do more thinking about what kind of education you want your kid to have. You may want to check out the Conservative synagogue in Berkeley, Netivot Shalom. Sophie
Additionally, Temple Sinai in Oakland has wonderful things to offer. Rabbi Steve Chester is a real mensch of a guy, they have a new, lovely young woman associate Rabbi as well as Cantor. Lots of good role models. A more traditional approach perhaps. An absolutely great preschool run by Suzanne Goldman.
Beth El in north Berkeley is yet another wonderful reform congregation, great for families, lots going on, great pre-school. I don't know the rabbi personally but have heard good things.
A friend of mine with slightly older kids had the following advice on joining a congregation. She said to think not only of how the place welcomes the family, but the quality of the religious school, if that is the route you plan to have your child travel. She said it is in that way your family is most likely to interact with the synagogue down the road.
Just by way of background, I am Director of Jewish Programs at Jewish Vocational Service in San Francisco and have worked in the Bay Area Jewish community for 15 years. I'd be happy to answer any questions or share any observations with you. The good news is we have an abundance of great choices. Best wishes, Deborah
One other thing that may help others in their search: I found a list of synagogues in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties at http://www.jfed.org/acsyn.htm, that contained links to many congregations' own web pages (some of which were informative, some of which weren't.) I also found a page where you could request a "new to the area" packet at http://www.jfed.org/tzedakah/newarea.htm. In general, the web site for the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, http://www.jfed.org/, seems to be a good resource. Judy
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