Social Justice

"Wake me up, God; ignite my passion, fill me with outrage. Remind me that I am responsible for Your world. Don't allow me to stand idly by. Inspire me to act. Teach me to believe that I can repair some corner of this world." - Rabbi Naomi Levy

Congregation Emanu-El is involved with many projects related to hunger, the environment, literacy, and poverty. Emanu-El received the Irving J. Fain Award for overall social action, 2007. Irving J. Fain was a passionate proponent of social justice and served for a decade as Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. The Fain Awards, established in 1983 in his honor and memory, are awarded every two years to congregations whose work in the area of social justice is exemplary.

Our congregation’s greening program earned a “Conservation Champion Award" (Union of Reform Judaism) and a Green Oscar from Interfaith Power and Light for energy efficiency improvements.

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.

Social Justice Request Form

Volunteer Opportunities

Get Your Hands Dirty at Alemany Farm - August & September

Surfrider Beach Cleanups - August

Candlestick Point Eco-Steward Volunteers - August & September

An Evening Discussion about LGBT Issues in Israel with Ayala Katz - September 17

Back to School Supply Drive - August 1 - September 30

Alcatraz Swim for Sight - September 28

Volunteer to Save a Life and be Inscribed in the Book of Life -October 4

Get Involved with Star Community Home - ongoing

Tutoring with Back on Track - ongoing

Write a Letter to an Injured Israel Soldier - ongoing

Experience Corps: Your Experience Matters - ongoing

Hebrew Free Loan - ongoing




Alemany FarmGet Your Hands Dirty at Alemany Farm

700 Alemany Blvd, San Francisco
First and third Sundays of each month, 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Wedged between the whir of traffic on Alemany Boulevard and the homes of Bernal Heights is a little-known, 4 1/2-acre plot of land on the forefront of the nation's urban farm movement called Alemany Farm. Everyone, young or old, experienced or still learning, is welcome to join these community workdays the 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month.

Upcoming dates:

September 7
September 21
October 4

Learn More

An Evening Discussion about LGBT issues in Israel with Ayala Katz

In August 2009, Ayala Katz lost her 26 year old gay son in a shooting at the Bar Noar, a center for LGBT youth in Tel Aviv where her son worked as a volunteer counselor. Since then, Katz has been the Chairperson for Tehila, a LGBT parents' support organization, which works to promote Tehila's efforts in Israel and abroad, specifically their main project, the Nir Katz Center for Violence, Discrimination and Homophobia Reporting in Tel Aviv. 

September 17, 2014, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Congregation Sherith Israel, Bart Hall
2266 California Street, SF

Questions? Contact Tye Gregory, the Director of Programs and Development at A Wider Bridge.

Back-to-School Supply Drive

August 1 - September 30, Temple Foyer

 "Do not let him slip until he falls completely, for then it will be difficult to raise him; rather, strengthen him as he begins to fall." - Rashi, Leviticus 25:35 Cf. Torat Kohanim, Sifre Behar, Chapter 5

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 

AlcatrazJoin Rabbi Ryan Bauer in the 3rd Annual Alcatraz Swim for Sight

Sunday, September 28, 2014, 7:00 – 10:30 am

Congregants Ron and Lorie Hirson will host the 3rd Annual “Alcatraz Swim for Sight.” We invite courageous swimmers to conquer the 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz to the shores of San Francisco to help eliminate eye disease and blindness worldwide. Everyone is welcome to celebrate our efforts at a post swim breakfast at Temple Emanu-El, Two Lake Street at Arguello.

Read Lorie's story.

Register now.

All funds raised will go to That Man May See (TMMS), the fundraising arm of University of California, San Francisco, Opthalmology Department. Learn more.

Swab a Cheek, Save a Life

Saturday, October 4, 2014, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Temple Courtyard

This year we will be running a bone marrow drive in conjunction with Gift of Life. For those suffering from blood cancers and genetic diseases a bone marrow or stem cell transplant is their only hope for a cure.

Volunteer to Save a Life and be Inscribed in the Book of Life!

Volunteer for a two-hour shift on Saturday, October 4 between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm in the Temple Courtyard. Please register to volunteer at  Help congregants register for the National Bone Marrow Registry.Questions? Contact Community Engagement Director, Sandy Rechtschaffen at


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

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 2014 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 Regina Herbert, Membership Coordinator, at or call (415) 346-9316.

Learn More

Write a Letter to an Injured Israeli Soldlier

With Tisha B’Av upon us, we find ourselves in the midst of a period of national mourning in Israel. We pray that we will see no more suffering, rather redemption and celebration. Nevertheless we are fighting for resilience, for hope, and for peace. We are fighting against injury, trauma, and grief. We are fighting against the lasting effects of terrorism in our homeland. OneFamily is Israel’s leading national organization rebuilding, rehabilitating, and reintegrating the lives of Israel’s victims of terror and war providing emotional, financial, and legal assistance to injured and bereaved families recovering from terror, trauma, and grief throughout Israel. 

Over the past three weeks, One Family Together has visited each shiva home and each injured soldier to check on their well-being. They have brought care packages, arranged babysitters for siblings and children, scheduled therapies, discussed treatment plans with doctors and social workers, and have made sure each family has what they need for the days and weeks moving forward.

Please join them in lending each soldier words of comfort and strength. Please gather your community and write letters together, and we will deliver the letters on your behalf. We want to shower each soldier and each family with love. To ensure they know that they are never alone and we will be there always. Letters can be submitted online here.

Letters can be mailed to Israel: 28 Rachel Imenu, Jerusalem, Israel 93228

Experience Corps - Your Experience Matters

Experience Corps Bay Area (ECBA) engages older adults (50+) as tutors and mentors in order to increase literacy skills of children in grades K-3. We have been effective in bolstering educational practice in Bay Area schools and our volunteers have been indispensable to our success.  Through this generational exchange, children succeed, older adults thrive, and communities are made stronger.

This intergenerational exchange has been proven to not only boost students’ academic performance, but also to improve the health and well-being of older adults and build stronger communities in the process. Volunteers are asked to commit for the rest of the school year for a minimum of two hours per week. The unique experience and talent of older adults is the foundation of Experience Corps, so no prior tutoring experience is necessary, and training is provided. If you are interested in this fun and rewarding volunteer opportunity, email or call (415) 759-4223.

Hebrew Free Loan

Need a little help? Hebrew Free Loan provides interest-free loans to Jewish residents in Northern California needing assistance or pursuing life-long dreams. Loan categories include: student, adoption, business, first-time home buyer, unemployment, emergency, debt consolidation, and more. Since 1897, Hebrew Free Loan has provided vital assistance to more than 100,000 people. By offering loans rather than charity, Hebrew Free Loan helps people become, and remain, self-sufficient.

Learn More  

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