Readers’ Choice 2019: Innovative Programming


Congregation Emanu-El

(415) 751-2535  •

The area’s largest Reform Jewish synagogue was founded in 1850 in San Francisco. Congregation-Emanu-El often provides the unexpected: innovations such as adult education courses in Judaism and gender, including the annual Tauber SPARK — four lecture/learning sessions to deep dive into our tradition. The congregation is involved in community outreach, both through its Social Justice Action Center and a full calendar of cultural arts events. Both local and internationally known artists are featured regularly in the museum located at the temple.

Congregation Sherith Israel

(415) 346-1720  •

Recently completing a retrofit, the historic Reform Congregation Sherith Israel, founded in 1851 amid the Gold Rush, calls itself a modern congregation in a classic home.  Make a trip to see this lovely structure’s architectural splendor and stay to enjoy the services. It offers a broad range of classes for people eager to learn about Judaism, including a model volunteer program to feed the homeless and infirm, a thriving social action program, and a spiritual home for interfaith families.



Kehilla Community Synagogue

(510) 547-2424  •

The synagogue provides a participatory, musical, celebratory and democratic congregation for all ages, identities and family constellations. With a strong focus on social progressiveness and justice, this is a flagship Jewish Renewal community in Northern California. A full program of education, arts and culture are enjoyed by the entire community.

Temple Isaiah

(925) 283-8575  •

Founded in 1952, Lafayette’s Reform Temple Isaiah considers itself a Jewish neighborhood serving every age: playgroups for babies and toddlers, day camps, family Shabbats and activities for youth, empty-nesters and seniors. It also has a gift shop, thriving mental health and grief support programs, havurahs, Mussar (Jewish ethics), yoga and meditation, as well as a volunteer adult band and choir.

Temple Sinai

(510) 451 – 3263  •

Since its inception in 1875, Temple Sinai has been a strong, stable Jewish community presence in Oakland.  The years have seen many changes including a major rebuild completed in 2010, enhancing the beautiful facility that has provided for all the spiritual needs of their congregation.  Innovative social action programs have been a hallmark of Temple Sinai, just a few of which include a Teen Spring Break Food Drive for Roosevelt School, a Unity Seder – Outreach to the non-Jewish community, a Housing and Homelessness Task Force, and an award-winning Literacy Program in Oakland’s public schools.



Congregation Beth Am

(650) 493-4661  •

Since its founding in 1955, Congregation Beth Am has worked with the Reform movement to recreate and re-envision the b’nai mitzvah process. Continuing programs include Torah study, drawing more than 200 people weekly; mental health and end-of-life support groups; Oneg Israel, combining cultural presentations with Israeli food; the Equal Start initiative, supporting high-quality early learning; and interfaith outreach with other communities.



Congregation Kol Shofar

(415) 388-1818 •

This congregation has services in the round with everyone included as part of the circle. Warm and welcoming, it is known for spiritual openess and exploration in its Center for Jewish Spirituality, in addition to more traditional prayer and learning. Since 1962, this Conservative synagogue has served as a central hub for Jewish spirituality, learning and social activism in the North Bay.

Congregation Rodef Sholom

(415) 479-3441  •

Creating a sacred community in San Rafael, this congregation welcomes singles and families with open arms and open minds.  Congregation Rodef Sholom is affiliated with the Reform movement and offers many opportunities to explore Judaism through creative religious services, community events like Shabbat dinners and religious school.

View all Readers’ Choice 2019 Listings