Checking out synagogues and other Jewish options

(Image: Beth Emek Story Shabbat)

I attended a Zoom meeting this week that included a person from Australia! Of course I had to look up the time difference. The Aussie was 17 hours ahead of California. The pandemic brought us the curse of being apart and the blessing of being able to be anywhere!  On the blessing side, you can sit in your what-evers in a reclining chair and bring Shabbat into your home via the internet. At the same time, if you want people, you can show up for services.

With that in mind let me share that a lot of synagogues are continuing to offer hybrid services for Shabbat. One of them is Beth Emek in Pleasanton. Join them or stream them. Every Friday night they have Erev Shabbat services from 7:15 to 8:45pm. Find them here.

Use the last weeks of summer to visit synagogues and find one that fits you. It is so easy to start online. Stream a service to get the feel of the sermons, music, and Hebrew usage. Then go visit in person to see how the members relate to you. (If you are visiting a Bay Area shul, remember that I can put you in touch with a member who can meet you, sit with you and introduce you to others.)

Temple Sinai in Oakland live streams both Friday night and Saturday morning. Of course, you can attend in person as well. Again, you can just visit their website to see services here.
Congregation Emanu-el in San Francisco streams Shabbat services and will be streaming High Holy Day services.  Check them out here
Gorgeous Sherith Israel in San Francisco streams Erev Shabbat services (Friday night) on their YouTube; get the details here.|
Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland streams all their services. See the list of them here and watch them on YouTube here.
Beth Am of Los Altos also streams; view them here.
These are just some of your options.  Let me know if you’re interested in my creating a list of all the bay area synagogues offering streaming Shabbat services.

Research has found that in America the synagogue is the “Jewish address” for Jews and non-Jews alike. Rarely do we think, “Jewish life? I’ll head over to the JCC or Federation.”  The locations that endure tend to be ones that include cradle to grave services – and religious services. But going into a synagogue, whether you’re Jewish or not, just to pray can be daunting. So try some of the summer fun options. Yes, these primarily involve some prayer, but do it outside, with a picnic dinner, with music or with babies. I will continue to look for interesting and diverse options for all of you. Don’t forget that you can TELL me if you know of an activity that you’d like to share with the rest.

NOTE: I am continuing to meet with couples via Zoom and you are welcome to email me. It’s free so you’ve got nothing to lose but your angst.

Shir Joy Shabbat (Walnut Creek and Online)
Sunset Services on the Courtyard (Pleasanton)
Accessible Havdalah Hike (Oakland)
Neighborhood Havdalah (San Jose)
Glimpsing Divine Sweetness (Lafayette or Online)
Shabbat Picnic and Family Fun (San Mateo)
Summer Sing Out Shabbat Style! (Danville)
Game Night & Havdalah (Pleasanton)
S’lichot & Why Jews Don’t Cancel (San Francisco)

Shir Joy Shabbat
The Shir Joy service is a powerful musical experience featuring Rabbi Chabon’s angelic voice accompanied by dynamic professional musicians on the bimah. This service is sure to lift our individual and collective spirits as we enter the space of Shabbat, renewed and inspired. In person and watch online here

Date:   Friday, Aug. 11
Time:   6:30pm
Place:   B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek

Sunset Services on the Courtyard
We enjoyed praying outdoors at sunset so much, we are bringing back our outdoor services. Every Friday in August, we will be praying on the courtyard. All of our August services will begin at 7:30 pm. Let’s enjoy the sweetness of Shabbat under the setting sun.

Date:   Friday, August 11, 18, and 25
Time:   7:30 – 8:30 pm
Place:   Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct., Pleasanton

Accessible Havdalah Hike
Sinai Green Committee will lead an accessible Havdalah Hike. All ages welcome. We’ll meet at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, Redwood Gate parking lots, and hike the paved Stream Trail through the trees to get to a picnic area for a singing Havdalah service and songs followed by snacks.

Please register here to let us know you’re coming. Your RSVP will help us plan appropriately, as well as allow us to contact you in case we need to cancel or provide any additional information.

Date:   Saturday, August 19
Time:   5:30pm
Meeting place: Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park
Sponsored by Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland,
Additional Dates will be September 23, 5:30pm, October 21, 5:00pm (note earlier start time)

Neighborhood Havdalah
We’re excited to share our Summer Neighborhood Havdalah. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to meet other Temple Emanu-El congregants who live near you and share in the Havdalah Experience.  You’re invited to end the week together through song, prayer, and schmoozing. This is open to both congregants and the community of all ages (kids & adults alike).  You will be matched with your host, based on your geographic area.

Date:   Saturday, August 19
Time:   6:00 – 8:00pm
Place:   Temple Emanu-El, 1010 University Ave, San Jose
Sign up here
If you have any questions, please contact the office at


I’ve signed up for this class on Psalm 27 – my favorite psalm. Rabbi Lawrence is delightful! I’m attending via Zoom. Give it a try!
Glimpsing Divine Sweetness: Psalm 27, the Psalm for Elul and the Fall Holidays
Join Rabbi Lawrence for a contemplative study session exploring Psalm 27, the psalm traditionally read during the month of Elul and the fall holidays, and how its vivid poetic imagery can nourish our spiritual preparation for the High Holy Days. The psalmist writes, “One thing do I ask of the Eternal One…” which raises the question: if you could ask God for one thing, what would it be? In the psalm’s answer – “to glimpse the sweetness of the Eternal One…” – Judaism guides us into the new year with gratitude and joy; with awe for God’s presence in our world, according to what that means for each of us; and with true respect for one another. We will sing the psalm together, bringing its words to life within us. Come feel how these ancient verses can lead us to renewal.

Date:   Tuesday, August 22
Time:   7pm
Place:   Beit Knesset room, Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Road, Lafayette
or on Zoom.
Click here to RSVP.

Shabbat Picnic and Family Fun
Join us along with songleader extraordinaire Alison Levy from PTBE for a rockin’ outdoor Shabbat with music, dancing, playing and more!

Date:   Friday, August 25
Time:   5:30 – 7:00pm
Place:   Beresford Park, San Mateo
Sponsor: The Jewish Baby Network,
Info and RSVP here

Summer Sing Out Shabbat Style!
Join Beth Chaim Community for an intergenerational Shabbat Service. This will be Jewish Summer Camp style. Pack a picknic dinner, blanket and chairs. We’ll provid the Ruach (spirit) and the ICE CREAM!  This will be an evening of musical fun led by song leader Rana Rines.

Date:   Friday August 25
Time:   5:30 to 7:30pm
Place:   Beth Chaim, on the patio, 1800 Holbrook Drive, Danville

Game Night & Havdalah
Join us for another game night as we celebrate Havdalah and then break out the board and card games. There will be lots of games suitable for all ages. Bring your favorite quick-to-learn games plus a snack and/or drink to share, and we’ll “party on”! The event is free and open for all.

Date:   Saturday, August 26
Time:   7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place:   Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Questions? Contact Suzy Maska at

S’lichot & Why Jews Don’t Cancel
Cancel culture – the silencing of unpopular opinions, and the shunning of those who voice them – is now a part of American life. It need not be. Rabbi Salkin will show us a Jewish model for disagreement, and extending diversity into different areas of life.

Date:   Saturday, September 9
Time & Schedule:       7:30 – 9:30pm
7:30 pm Havdalah and refreshments
8 pm: Why Jews Don’t Cancel with Rabbi Jeff Salkin
9 pm: Slichot service: Rabbi Jessica Graf and Rabbi George Altshuler lead a service with the ceremonial changing of our Torah mantles.
Place:   Sherith Israel, 2266 California Street, San Francisco