Then and Now: Now Zen Center, then refuge for Jewish women
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For 50 years, San Francisco Zen Center has been an international hub for Buddhist meditation and social action. Since 1969, the center has made its headquarters at 300 Page St. in Hayes Valley, inspiring rabbis including the late Alan Lew of Congregation Beth Sholom, and co-led from 1995 to 2000 by abbot Norman Fischer, author of the Jewish-Buddhist memoir “Jerusalem Moonlight.” The Bay Area has become a center for “JewBus” in part because of the presence of the Zen Center.
Conceived by the Emanu-El Sisterhood for Personal Service (an arm of Congregation Emanu-El), which was founded in 1894, the center allowed the sisterhood to expand from providing services into residential living. Over several decades, their program evolved to take in predominantly German refugees in the 1930s and then, increasingly, non-Jewish neighborhood residents. In 1969, it was determined that the center no longer fulfilled its original philanthropic mission, and the building was sold to the Zen Center.
In another Zen Center/Congregation Emanu-El connection, the first home for center founder Suzuki Roshi was the old home for Congregation Ohabai Shalome, founded by a breakaway group from Emanu-El.
This column is provided to j. by Daniel Schifrin, writer-in-residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where stories of local Jewish life are explored in “California Dreaming: Jewish Life in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush to the Present.” http://www.bit.ly/california_dreaming
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