Webster Street and Fulton, San Francisco.

Our history traces back to 1898. Only forty years after its inception, the Jewish Educational Society (JES) was teaching hundreds of students on a daily and weekend basis. Recognizing its impact, the State of California incorporated JES as the Jewish community school system in 1897. By 1910, JES expanded its services to include a more diversified system of affiliated congregational schools and adult education programs.

In 1958 the Jewish Educational Society became the Bureau of Jewish Education, designed to serve as the central sponsoring, coordinating, facilitating, and consulting agency for the educating institutions and programs operating within the SF-based Jewish Community Federation area.

As times have changed, so have we. In 2012, we re-branded as Jewish LearningWorks, but our mission remains constant — to advance the kind of Jewish learning that changes lives.

Our staff and Board are deeply grateful to the countless educators, volunteer leaders, and supporters who have sustained us over the past 125 years. Each of us here today are standing on the shoulders of those that came before us – from the founders of the original Jewish Educational Society to the dozens of talented staff members who dreamed up and then created beloved programs such as the Family Education Fellows, BASIS, tikea and Shofar, or the Include initiative. Without them, none of our work would have been possible. Together we have strengthened the fabric of lifelong Jewish learning in the Bay Area l’dor v’dor – from generation to generation.

May we all continue to learn and teach, to observe and to act…with love.

Staff team in 2024.

Learn More About Our Trajectory

1898 Founded as the Jewish Education Society

1926 Building at 745 Buchanan opens

1948 Relocate to 639 14th Avenue, San Francisco, formerly the Richmond branch 

1958 Name officially changed to the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE)

1965 BJE outgrows 14th Avenue, and purchases adjacent homes from Congregation Beth Israel (now Am Tikvah)

1976 Opened a dedicated Jewish Community Library building at 60114th Avenue, formed Friends of the Jewish Community Library 

1977 Goldyne Memorial Reference Library at the Jewish Community Library dedicated

1984 Havas Children’s Library at the Jewish Community Library dedicated 

1985 Began forty-year lease with Hebrew Academy, resulting in a school at 645 14th Avenue

2003 Jewish Community Library moves to the Jewish Community High School 

2012 Rebranded as Jewish LearningWorks

2014 Sold 1333 Balboa Street property, creating a board endowment fund

2017 Leased the remaining 14th Avenue properties to the Stratford School 

2022 Moved to the new Jewish Community campus in Oakland and completed new strategic plan

2023 Jewish Community Library becomes independent, fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Study Center

1898 Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger and Rabbi Jacob Nieto, z’l founders

1949 Alexander Kohanski, ED z’l

1958 Rabbi Bernard Ducoff, ED z’l 

1978 Larry Moses, ED

1984 Howard Gelberd, ED

1992 Rabbi Sylvin Wolf, interim ED z’l

1993 Robert Sherman, ED

2007 David Waksberg, CEO

2020 Dana Sheanin, CEO 

View our Board past presidents.

1898 Founded as a centralized Talmud Torah program

1910 Expanded to serve congregational and adult education programs

1949 Launched a College of Jewish Studies 

1954 Jewish Community Library created as a resource for educators

1973 Summer in Israel Youth Program began 

1974 Launched Ben Yehuda School, later Community Hebrew School 

1988 Support for special needs learners began 

1987 LAATID training for congregational educators began

1990s Nevatim and conference for early childhood teachers launched 

1982 Battat Educational Resource Center for Jewish educators established 

1995 Feast of Jewish Learning and the Peninsula Learning Resource Center created

1996 Jewish Community Library’s Book Club in a Box program began 

1996 Havurah High program began

1999 Family Education Fellows launched 

1999 Jewish Community Library opened its first JCC pushcart

2000 Grief and Growing weekend won Federation’s Distinguished Program of the Year 

2001 Family Education fellows won Distinguished Program of the Year, tikea/Shofar fellowships began, Experiment in Congregational Education piloted with Hebrew Union College

2002 Special Needs Family Camp began 

2003 Hosted Mandel Teacher Educator Institute Bay Area cohort

2004 Launched Jewish Professionals Co-Op (which became UpStart in 2006)

2008 Launched BASIS Israel initiative for day schools, Include special needs initiative, Jewish Service Learning initiative and NESS/Nurturing Excellence in Synagogue Schools 

2012 Jewish Community Library launched One Bay, One Book

2012 Shalom Explorers and Israel Education Initiative began

2014 Kesher Concierge in Marin and on the Peninsula began

2016 Piloted On the Map Israel curricular framework

2017 Launched Voices for Good fellowship for women leaders

2020 Jewish Community Library launched new e-Book collection

2021 Jewish Community Library’s collection reaches 40,000 titles 

2023 Library becomes independent, fiscally sponsored by San Francisco Study Center

2023 Launched new, comprehensive early childhood support services

Articles of Incorporation, from 1898.

View a Celebration of Our Journey

Gathering and personal relationships have been a tenet of our work since our foundation. We are immensely grateful to the community of educators and supporters who continue to help us elevate the best of what Jewish education has to offer.

Read the community praises, and layered stories of connection shared during our 125th anniversary. You can add your personal message too!