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Library Events

The Jewish Community Library is located at 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, 94115; between Scott and Pierce on the campus of the Jewish Community High School.

Free garage parking; entrance on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy. For more information, contact Allison at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or 415.567.3327 x 703

Each season, the Library presents engaging cultural and literary events. 


To access our 2014 Spring/Summer Program Catalog, click here.

All events are
  • FREE
  • Open to everyone
  • Held in the Main Library, unless noted otherwise

Programs are made possible by the Friends of the Jewish Community Library. The Jewish Community Library is a member of the Jewish Book Network, coordinated by the Jewish Book Council. 


Spring Exhibition


lib_2Jews have always faced east, their ancient birthplace, point of departure and longed-for destination in the Diaspora. East (Mizrah in Hebrew) is the direction of prayer and the name for an ornament that adorns the eastern wall in home and synagogue. Modern Jewish culture has a more complicated vision of the East as the past, present, and future of the Jewish people.

These ideas have played out in Jewish art from folk crafts and synagogue architecture to political posters. For this exhibition we asked Bay Area artists to explore the East in their own contemporary idiom. The wide array of sculpture, textiles, graphic art, paintings, and collage, contributed by more than 25 participants, allow the viewer to navigate a real and symbolic east-west Jewish geography.

Click here for a complete listing of the participating artists and more information.

The exhibition is on display through August 3 and can be viewed during regular Library hours.

At right, Compass Rose by Amy Kassiola
Artist's statement: I was born and raised in New York City, so this is my tongue-in-cheek 
geographical interpretation inspired by the artist Saul Steinberg




Belomor: Criminality and Creativity in Stalin’s Gulag

belmorA Presentation by Julie Draskoczy

Stalin's White Sea Canal, or Belomor, remains one of the Soviet Union’s most infamous Gulag construction projects. Thousands of prisoners labored in freezing conditions with primitive tools to finish the canal in a mere twenty months from 1931-1933; alongside the locks, the prisoners were supposedly rebuilding their lives.

Draskoczy's new book, Belomor: Criminality and Creativity in Stalin's Gulag, offers a glimpse into the prisoners' daily experiences at Belomor by examining never-before-published archival materials. The talk will highlight Odessa, the Jewish "City of Thieves," by looking at the criminal song "Music Is Playing in the Moldavanka.” This analysis illuminates the intersection of criminality, creativity, and ideology that was emblematic of the Belomor experience.

Julie_D_-_headshot_Julie_Draskoczy1Julie Draskoczy received her PhD in Russian literature from the University of Pittsburgh in 2010 and has taught Russian history and culture at the University of Pittsburgh, Stanford University, and Patten University in San Quentin prison. She currently teaches Soviet history and literature at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay.

Co-presented by the Jewish Community High School of the Bay and the Kritzer/Ross Emigre Program at the JCCSF in conjunction with New Life newspaper 


Jewish LearningWorks’ ONE BAY ONE BOOK  

One Bay One Book is a yearlong conversation connecting Bay Area readers through shared discussions and events centering around a single book. Hundreds of Bay Area readers have already participated in lively discussions of the 2013-2014 One Bay One Book selection, Dara Horn’s A Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn, This suspenseful novel follows an American software developer to Egypt, where she is kidnapped. Inspired by the biblical Joseph narrative and interspersed with episodes from the lives of Solomon Schechter and Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed evokes questions about family, memory, technology, and much more.

Closing programs for One Bay One Book 2013 - 2014
You’ve read the book, now meet the author!
Come hear Dara Horn discuss A Guide for the Perplexed

Dara Horn in conversation with Robert Scoble 

obob3       robert_s
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 7 PM                                                                      
For ticket information go to www.paloaltojcc.org/darahorn

All ticket holders are invited to the reception. Light refreshments and wine provided by the Jewish Community Library, JHTC, and the Oshman Family JCC

Robert Scoble is a blogger, technical evangelist, and author, and is best known for his blog, Scobleizer. He currently works for Rackspace promoting breakthrough technology and startups. Scoble previously worked for Microsoft and Fast Company and is the author of Naked Conversations.

Program co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Library, JHTC (Jewish High Tech Community), and the Oshman Family JCC and co-presented by GABA (German American Business Association)



Closing programs for One Bay One Book 2013 - 2014
You’ve read the book, now meet the author!
Come hear Dara Horn discuss A Guide for the Perplexed

Dara Horn in conversation with Lori Starr
obob3      Lori_Starr


Free, but an RSVP is appreciated. To RSVP  please contact us at 415.567.3327 ext. 703 or ajgreen@jewishlearningworks.org

Lori Starr is the executive director of The Contemporary Jewish Museum.. She previously worked at Canada’s Koffler Centre of the Arts, was museum director of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and director of communications and public affairs for the J. Paul Getty Trust and J. Paul Getty Museum.

For more information on One Bay One Book, including A Guide for the Perplexed resources, go to: Onebayonebook.com or contact Allison Green at ajgreen@jewishlearningworks.org or 415.567.3327 x 703.

Co-presented by The Contemporary Jewish Museum 


Genealogy Clinic
Help with Your Family Tree: Brainstorming with the Mavens ONE SUNDAY PER MONTH, 12 NOON – 2 P.M.
Upcoming sessions are:    May 4 · June 1

Whether you’re trying to find your great-grandmother’s elusive town or your grandfather’s passenger manifest, take advantage of the Library’s extensive reference collection and Internet connection to countless searchable databases all with one-on-one guidance from experienced genealogists. Bring your materials and your questions to the Library, generally the first Sunday of the month. Registration requested, but not required; call 415.567.3327, ext. 704.


Avivah_Zornberg_photoAvivah Gottlieb Zornberg on DVD
The Pit and the Rope: Joseph and Judah
An 87-minute lecture, recorded before an audience
SUNDAY, MAY 4, 1:30 PM

The narrative of Joseph and his brothers contains contradictions that open up the depths of a history of pain. Read through the prism of the midrash and hassidic masters, as well as of Primo Levi, Paul Celan, and Claude Lanzmann, the central question turns out to be: What happened to the light in Joseph’s face?

Dr. Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg grew up in Scotland where her father was head of the Rabbinical Court. Dr. Zornberg has a BA and PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. For the past 25 years she has taught Torah in Jerusalem at Matan, Yakar, Pardes, and the Jerusalem College for Adults, and holds a visiting lectureship at the London School of Jewish Studies. Her books include Genesis: The Beginning of Desire and The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious.  



The Beyond Books Concert!

The Joy of Jewish SongSharonBernstein
Sharon Bernstein accompanied by
Carolyn Reiser, Karen Segal, and Judy Graboyes
THURSDAY, MAY 8, 7 PM / Dessert reception follows

You are invited to enjoy a special evening that explores the richness of Jewish music. Hear songs in Ladino, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Judeo-Italian, and from German cabaret and American musical theater.

Sharon Bernstein is a singer, pianist, composer and cantor. She has performed in Europe, Israel, and the Unites States, and is the cantor of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. She will be accompanied by Carolyn Reiser on piano, Karen Segal on guitar, and Judy Graboyes on drums. Sharon’s ensemble will perform selections that highlight the Library’s rich collection of sheet music and recordings.

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the Friends of the Jewish Community Library. The generous support of the Friends ensures that the Library will continue to be the vital community institution it is. This program is FREE, but we hope that you will take this opportunity to donate to the Friends of the Jewish Community Library’s new Beyond Books Fund to ensure future performances and programs. Click here to donate online via our secure website. Donations made to the fund will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $10,000, by the Board of the Friends. 

Please RSVP by emailing  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or calling 415.567.3327 x 703.

The Board of the Friends of the Jewish Community Library has underwritten this program and reception. Sharon Bernstein and the musicians have also helped to make this special celebration possible.


Secrets and Revelations: Reclaiming Our Lost Families
A conversation with Mani Feniger and Jim Van Buskirk

For two Bay Area writers, the unexpected discovery of a hidden family past sent them off in unforeseen directions. When Mani Feniger discovered a lost 1932 photograph of her mother, it led to revelations about her Jewish ancestors’ lives in pre-Nazi Leipzig and clarified the choices her mother made to survive as her privileged world shattered. After Jim Van Buskirk’s mother showed him a suitcase of his Parisian opera singer grandmother's memorabilia, he understood the role that his family’s secret Jewish heritage might have played in their saga of kidnapping, death, and divorce.

Join them in conversation as they discuss their research and transformative journeys across decades and continents.


Mani Feniger is a therapist, speaker, and author of Journey from Anxiety to Freedom and The Woman in the Photograph, winner of the 2012 Best Memoir Award from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.

Jim_Van_BuskirkJim Van Buskirk, co-author/co-editor of four books, is looking to publish his family memoir,My Grandmother's Suitcase. His writing has appeared in a variety of anthologies, magazines, websites, and radio broadcasts

Program made possible, in part, by Judy Baston

Co-presented by the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society 


Jewish Sacred Space: Designing with Light and Shadow
A visual presentation by Susie Coliverlib_1

Susie Coliver, a designer of several deeply affecting Jewish prayer spaces, will give an illustrated presentation about the design of sacred space today and discuss how attitudes about sanctuary design have evolved during the past several generations. Focusing on her own work as well as the work of those who have influenced her thinking, she will discuss the important role that natural light plays in evoking a sense of the ineffable.

Susie Coliver is a principal with Herman Coliver Locus Architecture, a San Francisco architectural practice which specializes in the design of Jewish sacred and community spaces. She spearheaded the design of Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, Temple Judea in Los Angeles, Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, the sanctuary of Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, Newman Hall at Congregation Sherith Israel and Berkeley Hillel among many others. 

Program made possible, in part, by Michael and Jane Rice

Co-presented by Congregation Kol Shofar, Congregation Beth SholomPeninsula Temple Sholom, the San Francisco Zen Center and The American Institute of Architects, San Francisco Chapter


The Library celebrates the 50th anniversary of Fiddler on the Roof!
The Man Who Gave Fiddler Its Heart: A Tribute to Lyricist Sheldon Harnick  
A presentation with film clips by Bonnie Weiss 

Bonnie_WeissSheldon Harnick’s lyrics to “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Far from the Home I Love,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Do You Love Me?” and “Tradition”  helped make Fiddler on the Roof one of Broadway’s longest running and most revived musicals.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fiddler opening on Broadway, Bonnie Weiss’ presentation will focus on Harnick, including his early years as a lyricist and his inspirations. Highlights of the program will include film clips of performances by stage and film icons Zero Mostel, Topol, and Harnick, as well as rarely seen performances from some of Harnick’s other musicals: She Loves MeThe Rothschilds, and the 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Fiorello!

Bonnie Weiss is a theatre educator, writer, radio and cabaret producer. She teaches musical theatre appreciation at San Francisco State, Dominican, and Santa Clara Universities. Weiss also writes feature stories for Stage Directions, a national magazine for theatre educators, and The Sondheim Review.

Co-presented by Lehrhaus Judaica and the 29th Jewish Music Festival

The Library has joined with other Bay Area Jewish cultural institutions to celebrate the 50th anniversary ofFiddler on the Roof.  Make this year an opportunity to read Sholem Aleichem’s stories, watch film versions of Tevye, and learn more about the world of Eastern European Jewry.  And your book club can borrow sets of both Sholem Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman and Alisa Solomon's new book Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof through the Library's Book Club in a Box program!


The Jews in France: From Exile to EmancipationRenee_Morel__-_Carpentras_Porte_nord_1838
An illustrated presentation by Renée Morel

Continuing from her previous lecture at the Jewish Community Library on Jews in the Kingdom of France, Renée Morel will give a richly illustrated presentation on the complex history of the Jews in France as the country slowly evolved into a modern state.

Morel will trace the precarious position of Jews from their expulsion from French soil in the 14th century through their gradual reabsorption, generally for economic reasons.  She will discuss the debate over Jewish emancipation at the time of the French Revolution, leading to the granting of civil rights and, for the first time, full citizenship for French Jews.

Renée Morel
, born in French Indochina, grew up in Paris near the historical Jewish Marais district. She currently teaches French and Linguistics at City College of San Francisco, and regularly lectures on art, aesthetics, history, literature, and semiotics.

Program made possible, in part, by Larry and Hélène Edelman

Co-presented by Lehrhaus Judaica and Alliance Française de San Francisco


The Mapmaker’s Daughter
A presentation by Laurel Corona  


The waning years of the fifteenth century marked the end of what had once been a successful coexistence of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Iberian Peninsula, culminating with the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

Laurel_Corona Laurel Corona’s new novel, The Mapmaker’s Daughter, tells the story of these last decades  from the point of view of a woman raised as a secret, or crypto-Jew, who makes the decision  to live openly as a Jew. Corona’s presentation will blend discussion of her novel with her  research into medieval Jewish Iberia, focusing particularly on the lives of the women who  held the community together.   Laurel Corona, historical novelist, is a professor of humanities at San Diego City College.


FILM CLASS: What Animal Are You? 
A documentary portrait of Etgar Keret by Gur Bentwich
Discussion facilitated by Donny Inbar, Associate Director for Arts & Culture, the Israel Center


Etgar Keret is one of Israel’s foremost contemporary writers. For this intimate documentary portrait, filmmaker Gur Bentwich accompanies his longtime friend on a whirlwind book tour to the Big Apple. Between readings and interviews, Keret ruminates on his life as a writer and the recent death of his father and meets up with New York friends, including author Nathan Englander and This American Life’s Ira Glass. What Animal Are You? is a personal and playful journey with one of world literature’s most original voices.  2013, 58 minutes, DVD, In English and Hebrew with English subtitles

Co- sppnsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest and the Israel Center

Co-presented by Hadassah San Francisco Chapter and the Jewish Community High School of the Bay


From Enemy to Friend: Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace
A presentation by Rabbi Amy Eilberg       


Jewish tradition commands us to “seek peace and pursue it.” Rabbi Eilberg’s new book, From Enemy to Friend explores this fundamental commandment through a blend of Jewish texts on peace and conflict and real-life stories of conflict engagement. 

Using beautiful and complex Jewish texts on peacemaking, Rabbi Eilberg demonstrates how this Jewish wisdom applies to interreligious, intra-communal, and even international conflict, as well as to conflict in our own lives.

Amy_Eilberg_photo   Rabbi Amy Eilberg was the first woman ordained as a Conservative rabbi by the Jewish    Theological Seminary of America. She directs interfaith dialogue programs in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, serves as a spiritual director, and teaches at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and St. Catherine University. She also serves as a leader of the Civility Initiative of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs and teaches the art of listening and conflict engagement.

Program made possible, in part, by Tricia Hellman Gibbs

Co-presented by Lehrhaus Judaica,Congregation Beth Sholom, Congregation Kol Shofar, Congregation Ner Tamid, the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, and JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council)


Jews, Food, and Family in Twentieth-Century San Francisco
A presentation by Erica J. Peters


 In San Francisco, as elsewhere, Jews and food have a strong cultural connection.Even as early as the Gold Rush, San Francisco had its own matzah bakers. Erica J. Peters, author of San Francisco: A Food Biography, will evoke the sights and smells of iconic Jewish food havens like Waxman’s and Langendorf’s bakeries, Shenson’s kosher butchers, and Goldenrath’s delicatessen.

Prominent Jewish families known for their entertaining also contributed to the culinary history of the city, among them Albert Bender and his fabulous dinner parties, the Haas family’s popular Christmas parties, and elegant Adolph Sutro’s Cliff House. Peters has researched the local cookbooks of the twentieth century and will share some of her favorite recipes.

Erica_Peters_3 Erica J. Peters is director of the Culinary Historians of Northern California and received      her doctorate in history from the University of Chicago. Peters has taught at Stanford    University, Santa Clara University, and San Francisco State University and is the author of  Appetites and Aspirations in Vietnam: Food and Drink in the Long Nineteenth Century (2012). She is currently co-editing a collection of articles about food in French history.

Program made possible, in part, by Marc and Marci Dollinger

Co-presented by Culinary Historians of Northern California, Sourdough & Rye, Hadassah San Francisco Chapter and the Jewish Community High School of the Bay


Rirta Jahan ForuzRITA_1
A documentary film by Ayal Goldberg
Discussion facilitated by Dr. Jaleh Pirnazar,
Professor of Persian Studies at UC Berkeley

"...Rita’s music succeeds where diplomacy can’t – getting Israel and Iran to agree."  - The Guardian

Israeli pop megastar Rita Jahan Foruz, known simply as Rita, immigrated to Israel from Iran when she was eight years old. In 201, with enormous tension between Tehran and Jerusalem looming in the background, she records her first album in Farsi. The film captures her family’s deep longing for their country of birth, which is no longer accessible to them. The warm response she receives from her Iranian fans proves what is often forgotten: countries are made up of individuals, and there is nothing like music to bring them together.  2013, 75 minutes, in Hebrew, Farsi, and English with English subtitles

Co- sppnsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest and the Israel Center

Co-presented by JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa)