About Our Rabbis
With whom should you work on your journey to conversion to Judaism?
This page is always changing. Rabbis come and go from bay area congregations and we constantly update. We want to put all our rabbis in the hall of fame! So if you converted in the Bay Area, send us your story of converting with your rabbi.
(Comments from a female convert)
For me, becoming Jewish wasn't so much a decision, as it was a "calling" or "a coming home". Having said that, fundamental for me in the conversion process was the importance of finding a rabbi, whose outlook, attitude, and vision resonated deeply in me. I wanted to study under people who make the many aspects of Judaism come alive! Important for me was relevance, humor and an openness to entertain ideas, to question deeply. My journey was both rigorous and joyful and I continue to study under both Rabbi Corey Helfand and Rabbi Lavey Derby both in Foster City.
It is my good fortune to have two such wise, kind and truly gifted teachers who each received and answered my endless questions and suffered my early ignorance nonplussed. They guided me through illness and deaths in my family, as well as celebrating with me throughout the calendar. We share a lot of laughs and good humor!
Cantor Doron Shapira and all of the kind, generous and smiling people of Peninsula Sinai Congregation contributed to my feeling welcomed, included and embraced. It is an amazing place; I am proud to be Jewish and to be part of a growing, well rounded and learning community
I have now added Rabbi Aubrey Glazer to my educational "crew" as I transition some of my Jewish learning up to San Francisco where I relocated in August last year.
I continue to study under these three rabbis as I prepare for my anticipated upcoming Bat Mitzvah in December this year. My rabbis are great guys!
(Comments from a female convert)
Finding Rabbi Heath was the last piece of the puzzle in my journey to conversion. After nearly eighteen years of marriage to a Jewish man, making a Jewish home for our sons, and visiting Israel, I knew I was ready to convert, but felt hesitant and shy to approach a rabbi. As my older son’s Bar Mitzvah approached I realized regretfully that I would not have an aliyah during his service and felt the intense desire to formalize the life that I had been living and truly identified with as well as to be recognized by the Jewish community. In his kind, gentle, and often humorous way, Rabbi Heath (with whom my son was studying) was right there to help me sort out these feelings and to clarify some parts of the process that I had mistakenly thought I might take issue with. From the start, his very authentic manner put me at ease. Rabbi Heath made the process enjoyable in so many ways: he identified my interests in theology and liturgy as the best starting point and then let my requests direct the process; he listened with genuine interest and openness to everything I had to say; and his enthusiastic teaching always deepened and challenged my own thinking. At the end of the process, Rabbi Heath conducted a lovely and personal ceremony for me and my family and I felt it so fitting that he was the first to call me by my Hebrew name. I am so grateful that his guidance, support, and wisdom were and will remain a part of my Jewish life.
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.
Peninsula Temple Sholom is a Reform synagogue in Burlingame. Find Rabbi Feder here.
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.
Congregation Kol Emeth is a Conservative synagogue in Palo Alto. Find Rabbi Booth here.
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.
Shir Hadash is a Reform synagogue in Los Gatos. Find Rabbi Aron here.
Rabbi Sarah Weissman, 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.
Beth Am is a Reform synagogue in Los Altos. Find Rabbi Weissman here. (Scroll down to her name.)
(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.
Temple Emanuel is a Reform synagogue in San Jose. Find Rabbi Magat here.
Rabbi Yoel Kahn, Beth El, Berkeley
I was studying with a Rabbi at another congregation until my family found it's way to Beth El in Berkeley. My wife and I were initially introduced to the Torah Study group by another congregant, and we quickly were drawn to the community's warm welcome. After hearing Rabbi Kahn speak at Torah Study and also during the High Holiday services, we decided to meet with him as a couple. I had been immediately drawn to Rabbi Kahn's intellect, but our meetings with him as a couple revealed a very caring side, and also a high degree of emotional intuition for some of the feelings and challenges we were experiencing at the time. Specifically, Rabbi Kahn was very sensitive to our unique situation with me converting while my wife was choosing not to. It became obvious for me to ask him whether we could study together, and whether he would be willing to help me navigate my way home. I enjoyed his way of challenging my thinking and emerged from every meeting with new thoughts and questions. He also made himself extensively available and was deeply caring throughout the process. My course of study took me in many directions, from reading many books (and building quite a Jewish library, of course!), to traveling to Israel, learning biblical Hebrew and attending Torah study and services. Also, thanks to Rabbi Kahn's advice on how to navigate divergent ideas on observance within a couple, our family life was able to evolve in a happy way toward a fun Shabbat and other holiday observance. Like everything else in life, my initial encounter with Rabbi Kahn was the combination of a series of small random events, but my life would be much poorer if I had not followed the small clues that led me to Beth El, and Rabbi Kahn.
Beth El is a Reform synagogue in Berkeley. Find Rabbi Kahn here.
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.
Beth Chaim is a Renewal synagogue in Danville. Find Rabbi Goldblatt here.
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.
Beth Am is a Reform synagogue in Los Altos. Rabbi Marder can be found here.
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.
Temple Beth Abraham is a Conservative synagogue in Oakland. You can find Rabbi Bloom here.
Rabbi Nathaniel Ezray, Congregation 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.
Congregation Beth Jacob is a Conservative synagogue in Redwood City. Find Rabbi Ezray here.
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.
Temple Sinai is a Reform synagogue in Oakland. Find Rabbi Mates Muchin here.
(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. His 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.