Welcome to Congregation Beth El! I have been the rabbi of Beth El since July 2007 and it is my honor and joy to lead this synagogue. At Beth El, we welcome people of diverse backgrounds and with widely different Jewish experiences and practices; together we seek to create a nurturing, engaged and meaningful Jewish spiritual community for ourselves, our families and our community. Wherever you are on your own Jewish journey, including those who are just exploring or are seeking to learn, you are welcome at our congregation. You are always welcome to join us at Shabbat – if you are coming for the first time or would like someone to sit with you or show you around, please let us know. I enjoy meeting and getting to know our members and those interested in Beth El; please call or e-mail if you would like to chat on the phone or in person. I look forward to learning, praying and celebrating together at Shabbat, Torah study, Youth and Family Education activities and the many other programs of our congregation and community.
About Rabbi Yoel Kahn
A native of the Bay Area, Rabbi Yoel Kahn grew up spending weekends and summers at Camp Swig and lived on a kibbutz in Israel during his sophomore year of high school. After graduating with honors from UC Berkeley, he returned to Jerusalem to study at the Hebrew University and begin rabbinical school. He was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1985. Upon ordination, he moved to San Francisco to become Rabbi of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav. During his eleven-year tenure, the congregation was known for its liturgical innovation and commitment to social justice. Kahn left in 1996 to complete his graduate studies, receiving his Ph.D. through the Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, in 1999. He also served as the Executive Director with the Hillel Foundation at Stanford University and as Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union. Prior to coming to Congregation Beth El, he served as the Associate Director of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and Director of its Taube Center for Jewish Life where he was responsible for Jewish education and Jewish life as well as the arts and lectures programs of the Center.
Rabbi Kahn has served on the Liturgy Committee and has been a member of the Responsa [Law] Committee, the Committee on Reform Jewish Practice and the Board of Directors and the of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. In 2010, he was elected President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. He is the former Chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council and former host of Mosaic, the Jewish community’s monthly public affairs TV program on KPIX. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay.
Kahn’s research on the history of Jewish worship was published in the award-winning book The Three Blessings: Boundaries, Censorship and Identity in Jewish Liturgy (Oxford University Press, 2011). He has published and spoken widely on Reform decision making, spirituality, and issues of sexuality, feminism, and theology. He has taught at the conferences and conventions of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the American Academy of Religion, Graduate Theological Union, Stanford University, and at synagogues and campuses around the country. His articles have appeared in Sh’ma, Bridges, CCAR Journal, Out/Look and other journals. In 2010, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity honoris causa by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination.
Rabbi Kahn and Dan Bellm recently celebrated their thirtieth anniversary and have a son, Adam.
“Get to know Rabbi Kahn” video clips
In 2007, Rabbi Kahn recorded a series of short interviews about his vision for the synagogue and his ideas about spirituality, prayer, community.