Holocaust survivor Ben Stern (center, wearing blue shirt) leads about 200 marchers to the "Bay Area Rally Against Hate" in Berkeley, accompanied by his daughter, Charlene Stern (on right), and Rabbis Menachem Creditor of Congregation Netivot Shalom (holding Ben's arm) and Yonatan Cohen of Congregation Beth Israel (far left), Aug. 27, 2017. (Photo/Rob Gloster)
Holocaust survivor Ben Stern (center, wearing blue shirt) leads about 200 marchers to the "Bay Area Rally Against Hate" in Berkeley, accompanied by his daughter, Charlene Stern (on right), and Rabbis Menachem Creditor of Congregation Netivot Shalom (holding Ben's arm) and Yonatan Cohen of Congregation Beth Israel (far left), Aug. 27, 2017. (Photo/Rob Gloster)

Our 10 essential Bay Area Jewish stories of 2017

2017 was a challenging year. From coverage of the wildfires that tore through our North Bay community to new trends in Jewish education and religious life, we have had what to write about. So — in case you missed them — here are our top 10 essential J. stories of 2017.


Surrounded by blackened vegetation, Camp Newman's iconic hillside Star of David survived the October 2017 wildfires. (Photo/Courtesy URJ Camp Newman)
Surrounded by blackened vegetation, Camp Newman’s iconic hillside Star of David survived the October 2017 wildfires. (Photo/Courtesy URJ Camp Newman)

1. North Bay wildfires

From the beginning of the devastating October fires, we covered every aspect of their impact on the Jewish community: heart-breaking stories of Jewish families who lost everything; early Jewish community aid efforts; “miracles” in the rubble of URJ Camp Newman and reflections on its loss; efforts toward long-term healing; visceral photos and on-the-ground reflections from a JCCSF security guard who is also a volunteer firefighter; and damage to kosher winery Hagafen Cellars.

There is a long road to recovery ahead; we will be checking in on it in 2018.


the desk says "Jews are evil" with several swastikas
A desk at Alameda High School with anti-Semitic graffiti on it, 2016

2. Anti-Semitism in public schools

Throughout the year, we reported on individual incidents of anti-Semitism throughout the Bay Area, including many in schools. In particular, we followed the story of Natasha Waldorf, a student at Alameda High School who has been repeatedly harassed by fellow students.

Max Cherney (then a staff reporter here at J.) led a major reporting effort to uncover the scope of anti-Semitism in Bay Area public schools. The results were shocking to many, and worth looking at again as we hit the half-way point in the academic school year. The report was also published by Vice.


a group of protesters shout and pump their fists in the air. there is a palestinian flag. some of them are wearing keffiyehs
Protesters shut down a talk by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University, April 6, 2016. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

3. Jews and S.F. State

It has been a busy year for us in our coverage of San Francsico State University. In May, we published an extensive report on years of allegations of systemic anti-Semitism at San Francisco State University.

But that’s not all. In April, there was a near repeat of last year’s Nir Barkat debacle. And in June, following our reporting, a group of former SF State students sued the school over grievances about anti-Semitism.


Lichaa stands in the sanctuary
Shawn Lichaa holds up Karaite tzitzit to show their signature sky blue color. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

4. Meet the Karaites

The Bay Area is home to the only Karaite Jewish community of any size in North America. In  the story of the Karaite Jews of Daly City we examined their ritual practice and social history, and described their efforts to build the nation’s first Karaite cultural center.


Jewish contingent on its way to anti-hate rally in Berkeley, Aug. 27, 2017. (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)
Jewish contingent on its way to anti-hate rally in Berkeley, Aug. 27, 2017. (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)

5. Responses to hate and bigotry

From the Women’s March rallies of January to the disparate responses to the anti-hate rallies in August, Bay Area Jews had a lot to say about new policies coming out of the White House, especially on immigration. Two local Jewish agencies are part of lawsuits challenging Trump’s travel ban. We expect there will plenty more to cover in 2018.


Noily stand before a group of people speaking
Rabbi Dev Noily teaching at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, where Noily is the senior rabbi. (Photo/Natalie Schrik)

6. Queering the rabbinate

In a long-form piece in June, we explored the expanding world of transgender rabbis working in our region. “We’re not the only place by far that has out clergy who identify in that wider gender spectrum,” one told us. “But the Bay Area happens to have a high concentration of trans and gender-fluid spiritual leaders, and a high level of consciousness around queer issues and identities in general.


Muriel's balcony sukkah in S.F., with paper lanterns that recall her family tradition of celebrating the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival, which coincides with Sukkot. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
Muriel’s balcony sukkah in S.F., with paper lanterns that recall her family tradition of celebrating the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival, which coincides with Sukkot. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

7. The Jew in the Pew does Sukkot

The Jew in The Pew (aka J. Online Editor David A.M. Wilensky) went all out for Sukkot this year, doing a series of three columns throughout the eight-day harvest festival, visiting a different sukkah or Sukkot event each day. He covered it in three parts: an interfaith event and a traditional Sukkot morning service; rooftop kohelet and parallels with the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival; and photography, Sukkot in the army and the wild rituals of Hoshana Rabba.


a man in chef's whites looks over a spread of baked goods
Isaac Yosef is one of the co-owners of Frena, a new kosher Israeli bakery in S.F. (Photo/Cathleen Maclearie)

8. The kosher bakery scene

Longtime East Bay favorite Grand Bakery closed its doors at the end of 2016 — and then re-opened (sort of) in 2017. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the kosher, Israeli-style bakery Frena got rave reviews when it opened in SoMa (technically in 2016, but J. food columnist Alix Wall was still excitedly writing about it in January).


they play on stage in front of an audience of thousands
Jefferson Airplane perform at the KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival in Marin County, June 1967.

9. Summer of love

The Bay Area — including many Jews — was ground zero for the Summer of Love in 1967. This year, the 50th anniversary of that generation-defining moment of art and rebellions, saw Bay Area Jews reflecting on their role in the Summer of Love and its legacy.


five women stand in a synagogue staring up
Women gaze up at their synagogue’s collapsed woman’s balcony in a scene from “The Women’s Balcony.” (Photo/Menemsha Films)

10. Jewish film festivals

They’re all over! And we’re there, too, in San Francisco, Silicon Valley,  the East Bay and elsewhere, offering reviews, interviews and tips on the hottest events. From Long Island to Berlin to Israel, Jewish film is exploring all the innovation and creativity of our global community.

Stay tuned for 2018!

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens weekly editorials as the voice of J.