About Our Rabbis
With whom should you work on your journey to conversion to Judaism?
We want to put all our rabbis in the hall of fame! But we're just getting started. Check back for updates. If you converted in the Bay Area, send us your story of converting with your rabbi.
(Comments from a female convert)
I began the 'Intro to Judaism' class in the San Jose area hoping to gain a better understanding of my fiance's background and beliefs. We took the class together and were both instantly drawn to the teachings of Rabbi Dana Magat of Temple Emanu-El. After the class was completed, Rabbi Dana continued working with us in pre-marital sessions leading up to our wedding ceremony that he performed. The more we talked in our sessions, the more sure I became that I was interested in conversion. But Rabbi Dana encouraged me to complete the process after the wedding ceremony so that the process wouldn't be rushed and would be done for me rather than for "the wedding."
Rabbi Dana met with me for an additional year and a half after our wedding. Over the years I have gained an invaluable mentor, teacher, confidante, and friend. In that time I experienced grief and tragedy, as well as joy and milestones. Throughout it all, I felt the unwavering support of "My Rabbi" and the community he represents. Finally, Rabbi Dana said, "You've been Jewish since before I met you. We are ready to complete the rituals to make it official that you are." On June 6, 2014, Rabbi Dana accompanied me to the Mikvah at the JCC in Los Gatos, led the Beit Din, and presided over the ceremony that publicly confirmed my beliefs.
Before deciding to convert, I felt as though there was a part of me that was not being fulfilled. In my sessions with Rabbi Dana, I felt myself opening up and accessing that part of myself that I was ignoring in the busyness of life. I will be eternally grateful for the time Rabbi Dana has gifted to me that has strengthened my marriage, assisted in my religious education, and tapped into my spirituality. I will treasure the time I had with him while becoming a "Jew by Choice" and look forward to participating the Temple Community he nurtures.
Rabbi Dan Feder, Peninsula Temple Sholom, Burlingame
As my children were attending the Peninsula Temple Sholom preschool, I became very curious about Judaism and how to build a Jewish life for my family. I approached Rabbi Dan Feder about studying with him. He was very warm and welcoming. We had numerous meetings over the course of a couple years. (Generally the process takes about a year, but I had extended it.) Rabbi Dan would suggest that I read one or two books a month and do a brief write-up, which helped to focus my thoughts. He carefully and thoughtfully addressed all of my questions. He teaches with humor and an engaging style. As a prior religion major, I particularly loved the readings and delving into discussions with Rabbi Dan. His guidance has helped to shape my Jewish identity and frame the questions that I have as I continue this journey. I am very grateful to Rabbi Dan for his patience and guidance during the past few years of my studies.
Rabbi David Booth, Congregation Kol Emeth, Palo Alto
As my boyfriend and I became more serious in our relationship, we realized that we needed to figure out how Judaism would fit in the life we were building together. We decided to contact Rabbi Booth and were very open about the fact that I did not know whether I wanted to convert, but I was ready to start learning. We met with Rabbi Booth for an hour a week and he would have a specific topic to discuss. Topics covered upcoming holidays, important Jewish concepts like kashrut, and Jewish values that play a part in your everyday life. I felt very comfortable with Rabbi Booth and I knew he was the exact person we had needed to help us define Judaism's role in our life together. He was warm and funny and full of smiles every time we saw him. Rabbi Booth made me realize that Judaism is a modern religion that grows and evolves with its people. It is a growing, living religion to which each person contributes as they engage in study and form their own beliefs.
I left each weekly meeting with inspiring new ideas about how I wanted to live my life and excited about what I was discovering about myself. Rabbi Booth never pressed me to commit to converting, and just let me know that he would study with me until I decided one way or the other. After a few months, I realized that I loved the life I was living as a Jew and I wanted to continue to learn about and practice Judaism for the rest of my life. The entire process was an amazing experience that has changed my life forever.
Rabbi Melanie Aron, Shir Hadash, Los Gatos
"I was always Jewish but did not know it.” That’s a quote from the Union for Reform Judaism’s website that perfectly expresses my situation. From the 5th grade when I read About the B’nai Bagels, I felt a strong pull towards Judaism. I didn’t know why, I was just a kid. In college I became friends with several Jews, took some courses at Hillel and learned more about Judaism. It made so much sense to me, and I realized that all along these were my own values. Then I got busy being a young adult and put my idea of converting on the back burner. 25 years later, I felt a strong pull and decided it was time to continue my journey. I feel like I am finally home. I am proud to join the Tribe and proud to be Jewish. I want to thank Rabbi Melanie Aron of Shir Hadash for helping guide me through the process and also Rabbi Dana Magat at Temple Emanu-El in San Jose who helped teach my intro to Judaism class and was always warm and helpful.
Rabbi Sarah Wolf, Beth Am, Los Altos (Reform)
I had never understood what spiritual fulfillment meant or felt like, nor been particularly curious in exploring my religious identity until I read a few books on Judaism and started the conversion process with Rabbi Sarah Wolf. Each reading seemed to perfectly capture and complement the values I had always held; and Judaism became the community and religion that I was meant to discover.
I reached out to Beth Am and Rabbi Sarah on recommendation from friends who had attended the synagogue. A warm smile and a bright demeanor greeted me when I walked into Rabbi Sarah Wolf’s office for the first time after a hard day at work. When we were setting up our first appointment, I explained to her that I worked long hours at a start-up in the Valley and may require some flexibility in how I convert. She understood my situation and worked with me to establish an evening time that I could meet with her. Throughout our conversations, I always feel a sense of ease and Rabbi Sarah’s genuine interest in how I am progressing.
As my interests and knowledge about Judaism have expanded, Rabbi Sarah never fails in appeasing my appetite for books or suggesting ways to explore my questions within the Beth Am community. I am thankful to have found such a loving and generous teacher and someone with whom I hope to remain forever close in my spiritual journey and beyond.
Rabbi Yoel Kahn, Beth El, Berkeley
Rabbi Dan Goldblatt, Beth Chaim, Danville
It was a little more than a year ago when I walked into Beth Chaim for the first time. What a life changing event that was! I’ll never forget my first conversation with Rabbi Dan when I shared how I had always felt spiritually lost and how strongly I felt that finding a spiritual home for myself was a requirement before I could share it with my children. I wanted something meaningful for all of us, not just something I forced my kids to do just because I thought they should have a religious affiliation. Rabbi Dan and I talked for about 2 hours that day. He was so accepting and encouraging and not at all shocked when I told him my husband is not Jewish, nor is anyone else in my family. In fact, my father is a non-practicing Catholic, my mother’s family is Buddhist and my husband is an atheist. Rabbi Dan very warmly encouraged me to keep reading and exploring. We’ve met regularly for over a year, I’ve become involved in the Beth Chaim community, I’m taking a Hebrew class and most importantly my family and I celebrate Shabbat every week complete with freshly baked challah, candles and blessings! My formal conversion ceremony is in June but in my heart it is already complete. I feel blessed to be a part of this community and I hope I can give back to it as much as I receive.
Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Chochmat HaLev, Berkeley (Renewal)
Rabbi SaraLeya Schley at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley was my guide for the conversion process (and also later for Bar Mitzvah). She was easy to approach and open to my conversion request, and went out of her way to ensure that my process was both rigorous and positive. I was given a list of traditional books to read, and in addition was asked to read a number of books by Jewish Renewal authors. My requirements were a year-long introductory course in Judaism, weekly Torah study for a year, keeping Shabbat and all holidays for a year, attending services regularly, and being active in the community. Rabbi Schley taught me the basics of the Siddur from ArtScroll. We met regularly, and I was asked very searching and thoughtful questions during our sessions.
Rabbi Schley convened a Beit Din and asked me to submit an essay to them. She also arranged to have a male Rabbi help me through the process for my hatafat dam brit and mikvah immersion. She did everything possible to make my conversion ceremony personal and meaningful, and since she excels at making life-cycle ceremonies profound, it was a wonderful experience.
Rabbi Janet Marder, Beth Am, Los Altos (Reform)
I had considered conversion to Judaism for many years after college--and finally, after attending several services at Beth Am, I contacted Rabbi Janet Marder. Her immediate warm welcome made me feel safe to ask her all my questions about conversion. I knew very little about the conversion process before our conversation. Among the most helpful things she did were to explain the entire process, answer my questions with sincerity and kindness, and introduce me to events and people that helped me to become a part of the congregation. These introductions were especially meaningful to me, as a single person who was converting without a Jewish partner.
My process with her included reading books she suggested and taking part in the life of the synagogue. Each of my sessions with her was uplifting and empowering. Her weekly Torah study class, open to all and one of the most popular activities at Beth Am, was another wonderful resource on my journey. Her love of Judaism, of teaching, and of welcoming people into the Jewish community were so evident throughout my conversion studies.
Rabbi Marder has all of her conversion students write an essay about their Jewish journey and keep a list of books they have read along the way. She also discusses the conversion ceremony with us beforehand, and provides opportunities for each student to select some of the prayers for their ceremony.
Rabbi Marder can be reached at 650-493-4661.
Rabbi Larry Raphael, Sherith Israel, San Francisco (Reform)
(Comments from a female convert)
I am what some would call a shy person. So, it wasn’t easy for me to approach Rabbi Raphael and share my hopes and dreams about converting to Judaism. Thankfully, he was open, friendly, and welcoming. During our meetings he was genuinely interested in my life and the things that led me to and kept me on my path to conversion. And the memory on this man! He remembers tidbits of information about all of his congregants. Rabbi Raphael clearly cares very much about people, their families, and their lives.
It’s also worth mentioning that Sherith Israel has the most amazing conversion program, as this is another area in which Rabbi Raphael really shines. In the program, every student is assigned a mentor to work with throughout their conversion. Over and over again I heard my fellow conversion students say that Rabbi Raphael chose the perfect mentor for them. This was definitely the case for me. Without Rabbi Raphael’s intuition, attentiveness, and sensitivity, my incredible mentor and I would still be strangers and I would have missed out on one of the most important journeys of my life.
If you want to contact Rabbi Raphael about the classes at his synagogue you can reach him at Sherith Israel (415) 346-1720.
Rabbi Judy Shanks, Temple Isaiah, Lafayette (Reform)
(comments from a female convert)
My conversion process took place over a period of almost two years. Rabbi Judy Shanks was recommended by close friends as a person who could help me explore Judaism and the possibility of converting. I wasn’t sure I was "religious" enough to do so. I had been observing the Jewish high holidays with friends and/or family for years, embracing Jewish values, and in many respects leading a Jewish life with my semi-observant Jewish husband.
Rabbi Shanks was an amazing, insightful, knowledgeable, and kind guide. She helped me to see that in Reform Judaism I could find my own niche, contribute, and participate in ways that were meaningful to me, as long as I could commit to the central tenets and values of Judaism.
We met every few weeks and I gradually came to know that I was on the right path. One day, Rabbi Shanks said to me, "I think you’re ready. Do you?" Despite the lingering feeling that I still had so much to learn, I agreed, and we picked a date for my conversion ceremony, including the mikvah. You can reach Rabbi Shanks at 925-283-8575.
Rabbi Mark Bloom, Temple Beth Abraham, Oakland (Conservative)
(comments from a female convert)
I studied for a year with the intent of converting before meeting Rabbi Bloom. Once I visited Temple Beth Abraham for Shabbat services and spoke with the Rabbi Bloom I knew I'd found a spiritual home and a course of formal study which suited me. Rabbi Bloom provides an independent course of study based on reading material, study of biblical Hebrew and regular attendance at services. Throughout the year and half I studied with Rabbi Bloom I had the opportunity to meet others studying for conversion and become involved with Temple activities. My studies concluded with an essay, meeting with the Bet Din and visit to the mikvah. Rabbi Bloom is very personable and easy to speak with and open to answering questions. I highly recommend him to anyone who is considering a conservative conversion. You can reach Rabbi Bloom at 510-832-0936.
Rabbi Camille Angel, Sha'ar Zahav, San Francisco (Reform)
(Comments from a male convert)
When I first heard about Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, I was so nervous about meeting the rabbi because 1) I wasn't sure how she would feel about my thoughts on conversion into Judaism), 2) me being Filipino, and 3) me being an openly gay man. Additionally, I wasn't sure how she would feel if I told her that I was interested in converting to Judaism on my own and not because of a Jewish partner (my partner is actually not Jewish). That's a lot ot bring to the table! When I met Rabbi Camille Angel, the qualities that impressed me were her warmth and soothing personality and her progressive attitude. She is also a wonderful teacher of Torah. We bonded immediately and that's when she introduced me to my mentor, Paul Cohen (also a member of Sha'ar Zahav). Together, Paul and I traveled on my 2-year journey into Judaism. He instructed me on everything--from taking "Judaism 101" classes to finding comfort in my multidenominational family. At Sha'ar Zahav, I found a welcoming community and a special place to worship and take pride in being both Jewish and gay. To speak to Rabbi Angel, please free to call her at: 415-861-6932.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Netivot Shalom, Berkeley (Conservative)
(Comments from a convert male)
The decision to convert to Judaism is a big one, and picking the right rabbi is critical. Rabbi Creditor is an amazing human being- his depth of knowledge, humor, and clarity make him the perfect choice for me. Rabbi Creditor teaches a Judaism that is relevant and personal, while embracing Judaism’s traditions and rich history. You walk away feeling empowered and responsible for making Judaism something you get to experience, not a chore or a ticket you punch. Rabbi Creditor’s method of getting to know the person before he begins the conversion process is only one of the ways he sets himself apart. By taking the time to get to know the person, he can shape the conversion process to the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Rabbi Creditor taught me the importance of ritual and tradition and empowered me to own my faith in a real and tangible way. His focus on social action and equality embodies the very heart of Judaism- religion in action. It has been an honor and privilege to convert under him, and I would encourage anyone who wants to feel the relevance and necessity of Judaism to seek out this amazing human being. You can reach Rabbi Creditor at 510-549-9447.
Rabbi Nathaniel Ezray, Temple Beth Jacob, Redwood City (Conservative)
I have always had a fascination for the Jewish faith, as I began to learn more about it, I realized I was also drawn to the Jewish people. I began my studies by attending Rabbi Dardik's "Everything You Wanted to Know about Judaism." That class only got me warmed up for a continual search for a spiritual home. I attended a meeting at the recreation center in Palo Alto, and saw a banner that said Temple Beth Jacob, but the Rabbi was different, and the people did not look like the group from Oakland. Later I learned Rabbi Dardik was at Congregation Beth Jacob in Oakland. This new Rabbi, Nathaniel Ezray was very welcoming, and invited me to attend services at the Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City. I remember walking in the first time to the services already in progress, and Rabbi Ezray walking off the bimah to hand me his prayerbook. He later took the time to introduce me to members of the congregation. He suggested I begin studying with the Ritual Director Bill Fortornick. Bill and I met every Monday afternoon for about an hour. I had been raised in a Catholic home, and we discussed many aspects of spirituality. I always felt comfortable, I could ask Bill or the Rabbi any question, and they did their best to answer me. Rabbi Ezray made sure I was included in the High Holy Days and treated me as a full member. I had a Beit Din at CBJ, and when it came time for my visit to the mikvah, Rabbi Ezray, Bill, and John, a member of the congregation all accompanied me to SF. I was later married by Rabbi Ezray, with Bill also participating. My family and friends were greeted warmly by my new spiritual leaders. You can reach Rabbi Ezray at 650-366-8481.
Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, Temple Sinai, Oakland (Reform)
(Comments from a female convert)
I first met Rabbi Mates-Muchin in the joint Intro class given by Beth El and Temple Sinai of Oakland. I really liked the way she introduced us to several concepts about Judaism, especially the vocabulary, and had a very warm and engaging style. I sent her an email asking her to "be my rabbi" and help me through this journey, and she set up an appointment to meet. Before long, I was totally immersed in several books, working on the questions she set before me, and attending services and events at synagogue. I would see her every 3-4 weeks, and we'd discuss what I'd read and seen, until the end of the process when she thought I was ready. She always answered my questions and made me feel welcome.
You can reach Rabbi Mates-Muchin at 510-451-3263.
Rabbi Micah Hyman, Temple Beth Sholom, San Francisco (Conservative)
(Comments from a female convert)
I finally understand why people refer to rabbis as "my rabbi" because of Rabbi Micah Hyman. Ten years lapsed between the time I decided to convert and the day I finally entered the mikvah. In that decade, I started and stopped working with three rabbis before finding him. His passion for Judaism and for you as an individual combine to create a mentor and guide who will meet you on the path to Judaism where you currently are and make you so excited to wind up at your destination--wherever that is. His classes are based on experiential learning, and he does an excellent job of catering the class to the needs of the students. He was open to meeting with me one-on-one whenever I needed to talk something out and I always felt my concerns were treated respectfully. He brings such energy to services and community events, and is really building an inter-generational congregation. I cannot speak highly enough of him--words are too limited for such things.
(Comments form a male convert)
After endless reading on all things Jewish, research into conversion with the URJ, and a trip to Israel, I knew I wanted to convert before I plucked up courage to visit a synagogue. The first service I ever attended was at Temple Sinai and it was led by Rabbi Chester, who I instantly bonded with, albeit from a few pews back. Some weeks later at a potential temple members meeting I introduced myself, told him I was signing up for the Intro to Judaism course and that I'd like to convert, took a deep breath and asked "will you be my sponsor?" To my delight he agreed, all while other people were milling around. I sometimes wonder who they were; how little did they know what an important conversation we were having!
Rabbi Chester instantly proved himself to be a wonderful find. On a scale of 1-10 of kindly, knowlegable and sincere personalities, he'd score around a 15. I never wanted our meetings to end. Each week I'd bring some topic that had arisen in my everyday life and we'd discuss it from a Jewish perspective. A significant basis of our meetings over many months was Jewish history, in other words how did we get to be where we are. What he was looking for was to see if I was genuine in my desire to convert. Apparently he was reassured because after some months we started talking about the beit din and mikvah, ie Conversion Day. He was also one of the teachers for my intro course. I'm so proud to say that Rabbi Chester was my sponsoring rabbi.
PLEASE NOTE: Rabbi Chester is Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Sinai. He's schedule is varied as he travels frequently, but he still loves to work with people who are converting. If you want to reach him contact Dawn Kepler at firstname.lastname@example.org.