Jewish refugees arrive in San Francisco from Shanghai on the USS General M.C. Meigs, 1949 (Photo/Courtesy U.C. Berkeley Bancroft Library)
Jewish refugees arrive in San Francisco from Shanghai on the USS General M.C. Meigs, 1949 (Courtesy U.C. Berkeley Bancroft Library)

Chinese food Kiddush and more as B’nai Emunah celebrates 70th anniversary

Congregation B’nai Emunah, a San Francisco synagogue founded by Jewish refugees from Shanghai, will celebrate its 70th anniversary with a weekend of events Dec. 20-22 including, fittingly, a Chinese food Kiddush.

Established in 1949, the shul began its life as a community of mostly German Jews who had fled to Shanghai during World War II, and then made their way to California.

A lot has changed over the years. Early on, services were held in German for the founding families; Rabbi George Kantorowski was among the 23 members of the shul who had come to San Francisco through Shanghai. For many years the synagogue held High Holiday services in the Druids Temple and the Scottish Rite Auditorium, finally finding a permanent home in 1975 on Taraval Street, two blocks from Ocean Beach.

in the painting, a row of five founders hover above a scene of fog and the golden gate bridge. behind them is a world map with lines in different colors traced on it.
This painting, which hangs in the social hall of Congregation B’nai Emunah, shows five of the synagogue’s founding generation and traces their routes from Germany to Shanghai to San Francisco. Painting by Anne Ruth Isaacson (c) 2016

In 1968, Rabbi Ted Alexander, himself a Shanghailander from Germany, took over the pulpit. From then on, services were in English, continued by Rabbi Mark Melamut in 2008 and by Rabbi Pam Frydman starting last year.

Anniversary events planned by the Conservative synagogue of 125 families include a Shabbat service with stories of old times, the Chinese Kiddush, dinner and dancing at a local restaurant, and a family Hanukkah sing-along. RSVP is requested by Dec. 13; more information can be found at bnaiemunahsf.org.