sociThe picture to the right is of Polish-Jewish Socialist Sigismund Danielewicz, an early 20th century organizer and founder of the California Sailor’s Union. He was the lone opposer of the exclusion of Chinese from Pacific labor unions. He was opposed virulently by the San Francisco Jewish establishment and was last seen in 1910 heading back, on foot, to the East.
The San Francisco Jewish scene has long been at the corroded fault-line of established Jewish communal politics and a fresh, rebellious underground cadre of Jewish culture workers. We’ve got Jews on the far left, and some of them keep Shabbos. We’ve got exceedingly experimental forms of non-traditional Jewish practice – and sometimes I hear Israelis speaking Yiddish in my neighborhood. Today, the Bay Area, which encompasses SF, Berkeley, Oakland, and Palo Alto, and everywhere in between, is a very distinctive and fresh corner of the exile. Here’s a sample of current offerings:

  1. The Contemporary Jewish Museum in SF is a non-collecting institution that offers up exhibitions of current Jewish art, performance, and sound. The museum’s current offerings include the Soferes Julie Seltzer writing a sefer Torah in an tweaked performance of our male-dominated scribal art. Upcoming exhibitions will feature the life and work of Oakland Jew Gertrude Stein and a display of work by designer and illustrator Maira Kalman.

  2. The Mission Minyan Purim Party, a fresh traditional reading of Megilas Esther followed by a costume party that showcases some of the craziest-looking Jews I have ever seen.

  3. The Jewish Farm School‘s Oz Farm in Mendecino County is offering, in partnership with Hillel, Jewish youth the opportunity to participate in a week-long farm immersion experience. During the six programs, they will be working on sustainable farms located on the East and West coasts.

That is right, Jews workin in the verdant, fertile land. I feel all like A.D. Gordon just thinking about it. Blessings from the Bay.