Archived Q&A and Reviews
Re: Seeking diversity-friendly reform congregation
Visit Temple Sinai! It is that simple...tons of diversity - interfaith, inter-racial, same-sex...just a wonderful & welcoming place to belong. We could not be happier! Loving Temple Sinai
Hi-- Temple Sinai might be just what you're looking for! Officially, the congregation affiliates with the reform movement, but they really do have something for everyone. Especially the things you requested-- study groups, great Shabbats (they have family Shabbats, Tot Shabbats, traditional, and ones with extra music...),and among other things... a very active Social Action group that does a lot of great mitzvot on a regular basis. They also have some really amazing programs for kids, including a top-notch preschool. I would recommend calling the temple to get in touch with one of the membership chairs, who can introduce you to various aspects of the diverse and dynamic Sinai community. We almost didn't join the temple a few years back, but we're so glad we did! J.E.
We used to be members of Kehilla and left to join Sinai, so I can offer you perspectives on both. Let me say that they both have positives and negatives- there is no perfect place- but for us right now in our lives, Sinai works better. We have young children and didn't find Kehilla to be very young children friendly (now that they their own building, that may change, who knows). Primarily, they don't have a preschool, and we wanted to send our kids to a Jewish preschool. Sinai has a great one, and a strong, friendly community is built around that that makes it seem like a smaller, more manageable place. You don't say how old your kids are, so it may not be an issue for you. Sinai does the ''new member thing'' better- we felt very welcomed into the congregation with many calls and invitations to events, etc. This is not Kehilla's strong suit. It seemed like a hard community to ''break into.'' We are not wealthy and as you point out, many at Sinai are. We also have plenty of friends at Sinai who aren't and haven't felt too out of place in that regard, but I can see the potential to feel that way depending on what your interests are. In terms of the spiritual life and the services, we love tot shabbat at Sinai, but were left cold by their high holiday services (we ended up going to Kehilla for Yom Kippur!)- some find comfort in the traditional, non participatory services (churchlike choir and all) but we had become so accustomed to Kehilla's meaningful, musical, involved services. Next year we will probably skip Sinai altogether and go to Kehilla! The community at Sinai seems progressive and diverse, but not like Kehilla's (which sometimes could feel a bit over the top politically as you are concered about)- I miss being part of such a cutting edge, outspoken Jewish community. In terms of not having a strong Jewish background and feeling out of place, my husband does not have a strong Jewish background and has felt comfortable in both places, and there are many intermarried couples in both places. Kehilla's services seem to be more instructional, however, and the prayerbooks have a lot more to offer someone who doesn't read Hebrew or just wants a different, alternative perspective on things. I have been to Bar/Bat Mitzvahs at both places and again, I found Kehilla to be much more personal and meaningful. I think both Rabbis (David Cooper at Kehilla and Steven Chester at Sinai) are great- they are different and have different strengths, but I really like and respect both of them. So Sinai works for us now, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of going back to Kehilla when our kids are older. It all depends on what are the most important things for you and your family right now. Hope that helps! anon
I highly recommend Temple Sinai in Oakland. Try to make an appointment with Rabbi Chester or Rabbi Singer. The congregation is multicultural but not ''hippie''. It's a very progressive forward thinking group of people...lots of community service stuff going on too. kr
Re: Looking for a child-oriented Jewish congregation (Feb 1999)
I, also, have an almost four year old. My husband and I joined Temple Sinai in Oakland at the same time she started the wonderful preschool there. My husband is not Jewish- in fact there are many mixed/interfaith families in the congregation- but he has been made to feel most welcome and very much a part of the community. I can't imagine a more child-oriented temple. The two rabbis, the cantor and the temple administrator all spend time in the preschool classes each week and Head Rabbi Steven Chester knows the name of each child in the preschool as well as being terrifically engaging at the High Holiday children's services and the monthly tot-shabbats. At Purim he dons full drag and becomes Queen Esther Chester! The fours preschool class is full for next year however there are many holiday-centered activities which are available to kids who are not in the preschool. I really feel the groundwork is being laid for my daughter to feel a part of the temple and the Jewish community at large because of her involvement at Temple Sinai. It is truly a very special community. Gemma