Social Justice

"It's never too late, too early, or too often to give back and make the world a better place." - Helen Diller

We invite you to explore ways you can enrich your life and deepen your connection to Judaism and the Emanu-El community through the mitzvah of helping others.


Tzedek Council
Over the first six months of 2015, a congregant and clergy task force confirmed the need for Congregation Emanu-El to raise our profile, participation, and impact in the social justice arena. From this need, a 24 member Council was created, consisting of congregants, board and staff. This Council will work towards:

Formalizing a social justice/social action mechanism that allows for multiple methods of engagement (e.g., direct service, education, advocacy efforts, financial contributions, etc.).

Ensuring that social justice/social action is a pillar of our Temple, on par with Education and Worship, and seamlessly integrated with ongoing education, worship, and congregational activities.

Increasing meaningful participation for all congregants and amplifying our impact in the greater community.

Tzedek Council Members
 First Row: Gail Nebenzahl, Rabbi Beth Singer, Susan Cole, Alana Zavett Green, Lara Ettenson (Committee Chair) Julie Levine, Sandy Rechtchaffen. Second Row: Nancy Levine, Laura Mosson, Stacey Scott, Rabbi Jason Rodich, Corey Smith, Michelle Green, Laura Gross, Paul Zarefsky. Back Row: Ben Gold-Matejka, Melissa Koeingsberg, Alan Ovson, Michael Colvin, David Shostak. Not Pictured: Anthony Witte, Margeaux Wolberg, Stuart Oppenheim, David Levine.

Social Justice Request Form

Emanu-El and its congregants have a long history of Tikkun Olam, Repairing the World. We wish to share your good works with others. If you know of a congregant using their free time to make the world a better place, please fill out our form. This congregant could be one of our upcoming spotlights.

Volunteer Opportunities


Back-to-School Supply Drive

August 1 - September 30, Temple Foyer

Help all children get a stand tall with a fresh start in school! Drop off school supply donations by September 30 in the Temple Foyer. All supplies will be distributed to our community partner, Back on Track, at Third Baptist Church.

Supplies requested include, gender neutral backpacks, spiral notebooks, markers, pens, zippered pencil pouches, highlighters, #2 pencils, colored pencils, and glue sticks.

Questions? Contact Community Engagement Director, Sandy Rechtschaffen, at or call (415) 751-2541 x 177 

back on trackTutor with Back on Track

Monday – Thursday 3:30 – 5:30 pm OR Tuesday – Thursday 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Third Baptist Church, 1399 McAllister Street


The year 2015 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Back on Track, a partnership that originated when Rabbi Robert Kirschner of Congregation Emanu-El and Rev. Amos C. Brown of Third Baptist Church, met during a 1987 civil rights march in Alabama against racial violence and the Klu Klux Klan.  Inspired by the march, they agreed to form a unique partnership and build bridges of opportunity and academic enrichment for students in San Francisco. Brown and Kirschner recognized that a disproportionate number of African American students were performing below grade level in San Francisco's public schools.  The partnership they created was the genesis of the first pulpit exchange and of Back On Track, a tutoring program that promotes both academic achievement on a one‐on‐one basis for students who are otherwise not well served and a mentoring relationship.

The unique partnership has crossed religious and cultural differences to build bridges of opportunity for K-12 students. As a non-denominational community based program, Back on Track has served over 3,000 young people from diverse multicultural populations throughout San Francisco.

Email Tiffini Jones, Executive Director, at or call (415) 346-9316.

Learn More

An Emanu-El Sukkah for All

 A committee of Emanu-El congregants has been working hard planning and designing a sukkah that will be large enough for the entire community to celebrate our most joyous of all the festivals: Sukkot!

Sukkot affirms our willingness to rejoice in the face of daily uncertainties and we make this real by building and dwelling in an impermanent shelter, the sukkah. The committee blended these principles of joy, beauty, impermanence and community with a truly elegant design, which will encompass our entire courtyard and reflect the majesty of our synagogue. We will need your help to construct the sukkah and your presence to celebrate the festival under the stars.

As is custom, the first “nail” of the sukkah is hammered immediately following Yom Kippur’s Break-the-Fast on the evening of September 23.

Join us:
Sunday, September 20, noon - 6:00 pm – Construction of sukkah roof with volunteers
Saturday, September 26, 1:00 - 5:00 pm – Erect walls and decorate the sukkah with volunteers
Sunday, September 27, 5:00 pm – Congregation-wide dinner celebration in the sukkah

As the date nears, please check the website for a more detailed schedule of sukkah gatherings. To volunteer to help, please contact Sandy Rechtschaffen, Community Engagement Director, at or (415) 751-2541 x177. All talents are welcome.

Volunteer to Shop at the San Francisco Food Bank

Commit to shopping once every month on Friday mornings from approximately 8:00 am - 9:00 am at the SFFB warehouse, 900 Pennsylvania Ave in Potrero Hill

Over 350 partner agencies visit the Food Bank’s warehouse on a regular basis to select fresh produce, packaged food, bread, and dairy or meat items for their clients. This range of choice allows agencies to meet the varied nutritional needs and cultural preferences of the client communities they serve. Each Friday morning, Emanu-El volunteers shop for food, which is then distributed at our Healthy Children Pantry at Roosevelt Middle School.

Contact Donna Neumark with questions or to sign up.

Volunteer and Provide Compassionate Service to Your Community with Seniors at Home

Training starts October 13 and runs through October 29

Seniors At Home, a division of Jewish Family and Children’s Services is seeking individuals who wish to become palliative care volunteers. Palliative care aims to provide extra layers of support to people with serious illness—acute or chronic, from day of diagnosis through the end of life. Volunteers gain the skills and knowledge necessary to provide compassionate service to those who are ill as well as their families. Through this training, people obtain valuable insights about life and death; learn how to best offer companionship and support to our clients; and provide respite for family caregivers. Our comprehensive, 30-hour training starts on October 13, 2015. The training islocated at our office on 2150 Post Street in San Francisco. No medical experience is necessary. To learn more, contact Rabbi Daniel Isaacson, Director of Spiritual Services at 449-3879 or

Download the PDF.

Institute on Aging Seeks New Volunteers

The Institute on Aging (IOA) is one of Northern California’s largest community-based nonprofit organization providing comprehensive health, social, and psychological services for seniors and adults with disabilities. IOA depends on volunteers to enhance its various programs. There are many diverse and flexible volunteer opportunities with IOA and we are currently seeking new volunteers across our program areas.

Volunteering with IOA’s Adult Day Programs is perfect for those individuals who enjoy socializing in a creative atmosphere.  With operation Monday through Friday, 9:30 am - 3:30 pm, volunteers can come in for a full day or three hour shifts.  Our program utilizes direct service with an older adult population afflicted by dementia to enhance the quality of life through engagement.  Volunteers converse with participants and actively participate in the day’s activities.  We are actively seeking friendly visitors that are looking to connect with others.  IOA is also very interested in volunteers with creative talents you wish to share with the center (music, art, etc.).

If you would like to explore the possibility of volunteering with the Institute on Aging, please contact Susanne Revutsky, IOA Volunteer Coordinator at 415-750-4102 or email:

The Friendship Line at Institute on Aging is the nation’s only accredited 24-hour toll-free hotline for older adults and adults with disabilities. Trained volunteers at The Friendship Line make and receive calls to and from individuals who are either in crisis or just in need of a compassionate voice. For many individuals, the Friendship Line is the only connection they have. Help us be that lifeline of hope for those who are often forgotten.Upcoming training dates for Friendship Line volunteers are:

September 11th 6-9pm (full training)
September 12th 10-5pm (full training)
September 13th 10-5pm (full training)

NOTE: before attending a training, a one on one interview is required with Volunteer Coordinator, Tim Riel,



JCRC Seeks Pro-Bono Attorneys and Translators

We have seen harrowing news about thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Children of all ages, including toddlers,  who endure horrific experiences on their journey to the United States. They come in hopes of finding their families and searching for a life without fear and violence. Once in the United States they need legal assistance as they go through the scary and confusing process of trying to get refugee status in order to stay in the United States.

As Jews, our own legacy as immigrants, frequently as refugees, coupled with our values of tikkun olam and welcoming the stranger propel us to take action. Hundreds of kids right here in the Bay Area need our help as they await deportation hearings in court.

Our partners at Legal Services for Children need pro bono attorneys and translators. Please email for more details.

Provide Respite Care at the Star Community Home in the Richmond District!

Tuesdays 7:00-8:00 pm

The Star Community Home is an 18-month project to address the critical community need of providing housing and services to homeless single mothers with children at the former convent at Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco. Spend quality time with the Children of Star Community Home while allowing mothers some time for themselves. If you are experienced and willing to work with infants, toddlers and young children, then this is the volunteer opportunity you’ve been waiting for! Contact Diana Contreras at (415) 379-8690.

Learn More

Volunteer to Cook Sunday Dinners at G-House 

Sundays, 5:00 – 7:00 pm

This Larkin Street Youth Services site in the Richmond District, helps former foster youth and homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24 to make successful transitions into adulthood and into living independently. Each Sunday, congregants from Emanu-El plan, cook, serve, and eat dinner for and with the G-House residents. 

Contact Sandy Rechtschaffen to sign up.


© 2012 Congregation Emanu-El 2 Lake Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 751-2535
Fax: (415) 751-2511