Readers Choice 2013: Shop Till You Drop

Judaica & Books

No matter where you are in the Bay Area, Judaica items are within reach at these shops, all recommended by readers.

A large selection of tallits, menorahs, toys, books, art and decorative items handcrafted by local and Israeli artists can be found at Dayenu Gifts and Books, located in the JCC of San Francisco. That’s not all: You can also rent a chuppah (three to choose from) and an Israeli cellphone, and even buy some Israeli snacks. Dayenu, which is coming up on its 10th anniversary, is “blessed by the support of our community,” says owner Hiroko Nogami-Rosen.

At Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley, owners Nell and Chaim Mahgel-Friedman are proud to offer merchandise, classes and events that educate and support a Jewish lifestyle. Recognizing the diversity of the Jewish community, the Mahgel-Friedmans carry a range of products, including tallits, ketubahs, fine jewelry, art, gifts, books, music, toys, shofars, menorahs, housewares and ritual items. They are grateful for the support of their customers, who “keep coming back through the cycle of Jewish life … and there is nothing more special than that.”

Nurit Sabadosh describes Alef Bet Judaica in Los Gatos as an upscale gallery. “We carry mostly handcrafted items from Israel or American artists,” she says. Sabadosh and her husband, Uri, are pleased to have introduced so many customers “to the beauty of Israeli art, jewelry and religious items.” Alef Bet Judaica soon will celebrate 20 years of supplying the Jewish community with carefully selected books, art, jewelry, gifts and holiday and ritual items. The couple praise their knowledgeable and service-oriented staff and are grateful for the validation from their community.

Book Passage in Corte Madera is not specifically devoted to Judaica; however, the independently owned bookstore does carry a selection of fiction and nonfiction books related to Judaism. Readers appreciate that the bookstore partners with the Marin JCC to present Jewish-themed events, such as author readings and speakers. Luminaries who have appeared include Pulitzer Prize–winning author Michael Chabon, broadcast journalist Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now!” and Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”

The Women of Rodef Sholom Gift Shop, located in the lobby of the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, is operated by volunteers from the congregation’s Sisterhood — as it has been for more than 30 years. The shop “offers Judaica merchandise for all Jewish occasions,” says manager Ronna Voorsanger. “Our profits help support the Women of Rodef Sholom and the myriad of projects and programs for our synagogue and wider Jewish community.” So purchasing exquisite candles from Tsfat or the “child slave-free” chocolates for Hanukkah can help send a child to summer camp.

San Francisco

Dayenu Gifts and Books

JCC of San Francisco

(415) 563-6563

East Bay

Afikomen Judaica


(510) 655-1977


South Bay/Peninsula

Alef Bet Judaica

Los Gatos

(408) 370-1818


North Bay

Book Passage

Corte Madera

(415) 927-0960

Women of Rodef Sholom

Gift Shop

Osher Marin JCC

San Rafael

(415) 444-8098



People have adorned themselves with beads and other ornamentation for many thousands of years, a practice that continues today. Fortunately, jewelry stores make it easy to express ourselves with that special ring, necklace, bracelet or brooch.

The sales and design staff at Pavé Fine Jewelry Design in Berkeley and Oakland recognize that jewelry is a personal statement. Pavé focuses on custom designs, using ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones and, when possible, recycled precious metals. Custom jewelry consultations are complimentary, and the entire process is laid out step by step. In addition to the custom jewelry, both stores carry a selection of jewelry designed and created in a workshop on-site by Michael Endlich and his design team.

Johann Paul Jewelers in Greenbrae specializes in bridal designs, though the jewelry here is not just for the betrothed. Partners Johann deBlaauw and Paul Comerford design many of the pieces, but they also showcase a number of other well-known designers, including Israeli designer Nelly Cohen’s Cherie Dori line, which links Old World craftsmanship with contemporary technology. And Johann Paul wants to make sure customers can wear their diamonds without a guilty conscience — the gemstones are conflict-free.

East Bay

Pavé Fine Jewelry Design

Berkeley / Oakland

(510) 528-7300 / (510) 547-7000


North Bay

Johann Paul Jewelers


(415) 461-1866



Oprah Winfrey purportedly said, “I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes.” While shopping at these shoe stores won’t guarantee Oprah-style success, at least your feet will be looking and feeling good.

Nordstrom in San Francisco is responsible for a lot of the stylishly shod feet seen throughout the city. The store, with two locations, is known not only for its extensive selection of shoes in styles from the latest in high fashion to casual and sporty shoes — beyond the most common sizes and widths — but also for its customer service-oriented salespeople (and relatively lenient return policy).

For 35 years the Kershaw family has been fitting East Bay feet with fine quality walking shoes at the Walk Shop in Berkeley. Julian Kershaw says, “We know how important it is to fit you with a shoe that will give you years of comfort, function and style.” The Walk Shop’s staff is trained to fit shoes properly and will work with a customer to find shoes that accommodate any number of foot problems. Kershaw wants “to make the process of buying shoes an enjoyable one, so that you might remember us fondly each time you slip into a pair of our shoes.”

Footwear etc. is all over the Peninsula and South Bay, with locations in Cupertino, Los Altos, Palo Alto, San Carlos, San Jose, San Mateo and Sunnyvale. As it has for 26 years, Footwear etc. carries an extensive selection of stylish, comfortable shoes from myriad manufacturers for men, women and children; the stores also stock items for common foot problems such as bunions, plantar fasciitis, neuropathy and more. Director of marketing Rebecca Monarch says, “We are a full-service shoe store with salespeople who are knowledgeable about which shoes can help specific foot problems.”

North Bay shoe shoppers don’t have to travel far to find fashionable comfort footwear — Sole Desire has locations in Greenbrae, Petaluma, San Rafael, Santa Rosa and Sonoma, among others (Burlingame, Los Gatos, etc.). Dave Astobiza says his family business “strives to be a leader in customer service, because without great service we are just another store.” He goes on to say that employees are trained to measure customers’ feet on either an old-fashioned Brannock device or the technologically advanced iStep machine and to “offer customers selections based on their needs and never stop showing them shoes until they tell us to.”

San Francisco


(415) 243-8500 / (415) 753-1344


East Bay

The Walk Shop


(510) 849-3628


South Bay/Peninsula

Footwear etc.

Various locations


North Bay

Sole Desire Shoes

Various locations


Toy Store

Don’t let the kids on this “secret” — while they’re playing a board game, working a puzzle or constructing with blocks, they are actually learning critical thinking and social skills, as well as developing their creativity and imagination.

The Ark, which started out as a small shop selling high-quality wooden, educational and imaginative toys and games, has grown to include two stores in San Francisco plus one in Berkeley. The selection has grown along with the store. Well-made classic toys and games that fire up the imagination keep kids and adults entertained — and thinking. The range of choices, old-fashioned to the newest available, come from all over the world. And it’s tough to argue with The Ark’s tagline: “Great toys are just the beginning!”

At Jeffrey’s Toys in San Francisco, popular toys abound — from classic board games to the newest offerings from Legos and Nerf. But what really sets Jeffrey’s apart is the extensive collection of comic books. Aficionados know this is the place to find the newest escapades of their favorite heroes, or get up to speed by starting with the classic comic capers.

It wasn’t that long ago when Mr. Mopps’ toy shop in Berkeley almost ceased to exist. But co-owner Devin McDonald came to the rescue, and the well-loved store is now expanding: The bookstore a few doors down is under construction. “We specialize in toys that promote open-ended, creative play,” McDonald says. “We stock all types of items at all price points.” He says he isn’t sure why readers think Mr. Mopps’ is so special, “but the looks on the faces of the kids that come to Mr. Mopps’ … definitely make us feel special.”

Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World has been providing “Fun for Everyone Since 1930.” The extensive selection runs the gamut from toys from well-known brands to specialty items and an entire stock of sporting goods. The third generation of this family-run business is constantly searching out the latest trends; but classic toys and games, which remain popular, are always in on hand.

With “imaginative toys for an enchanted childhood,” Jonathan and Deborah Meyer have been captivating children and their parents at A Child’s Delight for the past 17 years. The two Marin County locations, in Corte Madera and San Rafael, have enough to keep even the most energetic children occupied and engaged. The stores are large enough to carry some 50-plus brands, but small enough to offer personalized service. From science discovery kits and musical instruments to sturdy riding toys and party supplies, A Child’s Delight has North Bay kids covered.

San Francisco

The Ark Toy Store

(415) 440-8697 / (415) 821-1257

Jeffrey’s Toys

(415) 546-6551 •


East Bay

Mr. Mopps’


(510) 525-9633 •


South Bay/Peninsula

Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World

Palo Alto

(650) 328-8555 •


North Bay

A Child’s Delight

Corte Madera / San Rafael

(415) 945-9221 / (415) 499-0736