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Our History

Temple Israel began with a small group of families on one November night in 1920, with goal of establishing a Jewish Community in Alameda.

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Temple Israel began with a small group of families on one November night in 1920, with goal of establishing a Jewish Community in Alameda. In 1924 the first synagogue was built, with members of the congregation doing much of the work. During the depression, the synagogue was often closed due to lack of funds; however High Holy Day Services were still performed. Our first long-term rabbi was Rabbi Gunter Gates who served our congregation from 1947-1981. He and his wife, Gretel would endear themselves not only to the congregation but to the whole Alameda community.In 1980, the temple moved to its current site on Bay Farm Island. In 1985 the congregation formally affiliated with the reform movement. As Temple Israel Alameda wants to be welcoming to all Jews in the community, we have preserved some of the congregation’s conservative minhag.

Reform Judaism

The great contribution of Reform Judaism is that it has enabled the Jewish people to:

  • Introduce innovation while preserving tradition
  • Embrace diversity while asserting commonality
  • Affirm beliefs without rejecting those who doubt and
  • Bring faith to sacred texts without sacrificing critical scholarship

Reform Judaism affirms the central tenets of Judaism – God, Torah and Israel – even as it acknowledges the diversity of Reform Jewish beliefs and practices. We believe that all human beings are created in the image of God, and that we are God’s partners in improving the world. Tikkun Olam — repairing the world — is a hallmark of Reform Judaism as we strive to bring peace, freedom and justice to all people.

Reform Jews accept the Torah as the foundation of Jewish life containing God’s ongoing revelation to our people and the record of our people’s ongoing relationship with God. We see the Torah as God inspired, a living document that enables us to confront the timeless and timely challenges of our everyday lives.In addition to our belief that Judaism must change and adapt to the needs of the day to survive and our firm commitment to Tikkun Olam, the following principles distinguish Reform Jews from other streams of Judaism in North America.

Reform Jews are committed to the principle of inclusion, not exclusion. Since 1978, the Reform Movement has been reaching out to Jews-by-choice and interfaith families, encouraging them to embrace Judaism. Reform Jews consider children to be Jewish if they are the child of a Jewish father or mother, so long as the child is raised as a Jew.

  • Reform Jews are committed to the absolute equality of women in all areas of Jewish life. Ours was the first movement to ordain women rabbis, invest women cantors and elect women presidents of our synagogues.
  • Reform Jews are also committed to the full participation of gays and lesbians in synagogue life, as well as society at large.

Mission and Values

Temple Israel is a welcoming center of Jewish life where members, newcomers and visitors of all ages and cultural backgrounds are encouraged to participate in Jewish practices, spirituality, learning and culture. We continually strengthen our connections to each other and join together to care for the greater community, Israel, and the world.

In order to achieve this vision we are guided by these four supporting principles:

Diversity

We value the diversity that makes up our congregation.

Openness

We are open to change and seek ways to learn and grow.

Exploration

We create space for people to explore alternative expressions of Jewish life that are rooted in our history.

Commitment

We are committed to exploring and celebrating Judaism.

Leadership

Steven Chester

Steven Chester

Rabbi

Rabbi Steven Chester is married to Leona. They were married in 1969 and have two children, Adam and Shira. Adam and his wife, Keng, are the parents of Rabbi and Leona's granddaughters, Anna and…

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Brian Reich

Brian Reich

Education Director

Cantor Brian Reich is a 5th Generation Cantor, (straight down the line) and is our Director of Education for our religious school, Beit Bina. Brian has been very much involved…

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Linda Chase-Stroud

Linda Chase-Stroud

Administrator

Linda is a highly skilled and organized individual with a passion for working with people. Since joining Temple Israel’s staff, she has demonstrated her thoughtful and caring communications skills to…

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Philip Auerbach

Philip Auerbach

Board Member
Margot Gibson

Margot Gibson

Board Member
Genevieve Pastor-Cohen

Genevieve Pastor-Cohen

President of the Board