From Jerusalem to the “Great Fringe of the Diaspora”, as my hostess calls it, in just 28 hours on harrowing travel.

I’m in the always-beautiful City by the Bay, staying the weekend at Beit Lefton and attending the sure-to-be-fabulous Feast of Jewish Learning.

After a marathon Shabbat of Mission Minyan activities and meals I’m duly shocked to still be awake. Nonetheless, the day proved that there are Jews in San Fransisco who actually identify as such. The dirty little secret however, is that most of them are actually East Coast transplants. Fellow guests included DJ Handler and Y Love, who is performing at the aforementioned feast later today.

The shock of re-acclimation to Western Culture always hits me upon my first attempt to buy anything from a super market. I generally end up staring, in paralyzed wonderment at the absolutely astounding array of choices. 45 varieties of pasta, 70 tea options 125 canned or bottled drinks in the refrigerated section for your convenience. Every possible variation on a theme you could ever want and then some.

This rich choice of consumer goods contrasts starkly with the relative dearth of Jewish options in San Francisco and in the West Coast. At any grocery store here you can get about 7 varieties of cola. However, if you are out in the wilderness and you can’t find your Diet Cherry caffeine-Free Coca Cola Classic, then, well, you just grab that plain ol’ diet coke and make do with what you’ve got. If you live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you may choose to attend shabbat services at the litvish shteibel with exactly the right hashkaffah and politics that is also within the appropriate walking distance from where you live.

A multiplicity of choices allows you to be picky – even cantankerous and divisive about the exact flavor of your Jewish experience. On the West Coast though, you gotta take what you can get, and because of this, a certain kind of diversity sems to truly flourish. Jews of all stripes, from the observant to the athiests all worship and eat together in harmony.

About the author

Laya Millman


  • I hear you on the lack of Jewish choices on the west coast. Not even the Coke bottling company up here in Seattle is kosher, because there isn’t a large enough population up here to demand it.

  • I would hope that the shule experience in such circumstances would be much better that you have on the East coast. Is there still alot of talking over there? or do people have a brain?

  • this is a very good point brought out by Laya w/ the whole choice thing. I notice in Europe the same lack of choices, yet people seemed more relaxed, indeed they are always telling me to relax over there. Is is that obvious?

    Perhaps this is one of the ills of capitalism, this need to constantly please consumers w/ ‘new and improved’ customer service.

  • As I joked with Y-Love, while there are ~2 kosher establishments in all of SF, there are about that many on every *block* on select parts of NYC. :-p

    As for the “dirtly little secret” that Laya exposes: There are no Jewish neighborhoods in all of the Oy Bay Area. So there really isn’t a strong tradition amongst local Jews to be outwardly, or overtly, Jewish. Their Judaism is a more reserved, private affair. Those from the East Coast or Israel who come here are more used to living in a Jewish milieu are going to be pro-active in seeking out that Jewish invovment and connection that they grew up in.

    Take home message: we got some home-grown involved Jews, gosh-darned’it. :-p

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