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Welcome Under Our Tent

Our sanctuary’s ceiling is composed of billowing canvas fabric representing the tent of Abraham and Sarah in which, according to Jewish tradition, all the flaps were open so Abraham and Sarah could look around in all directions to welcome in any stranger walking by, inviting them in for food, rest and friendship.

Circle of Life

A “circle of life” surrounds our sanctuary creating a seamless, flowing path from the moment one enters our building.  The bima is circular as well, emphasizing that we are all part of this eternal circle/cycle of life and nature.  Even more, our building is surrounded by natural beauty – for we are next door to the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary with its “urban forest” and “sea and sage” Audubon environment.

A Spiritual Home for All

This artistic metaphor represents the welcoming congregation that University Synagogue has always aspired to be—open to seekers from every background, to believers and skeptics, to those learned in our tradition and those not, to everyone in search of meaning, relevance and inclusive community.


We are thrilled to have four very meaningful Torahs in our Ark.  They are all special with unique stories and histories.

Our Czech Torah

Our Torah’s story is both tragic and hopeful.  Tragic, because of the 400-450 Jews who were deported from Boskovice, Czechoslovakia on March 19, 1942  – only 14 survived.  Hopeful, because the Torah of Boskovice rests safely in our sanctuary, a sacred covenant of memory and action.

When the Jews of Czechoslovakia were deported in 1942, the contents of their synagogues were sent to the Prague Jewish Museum, where they filled 40 warehouses.  Among these holy items were 1,500 Torah scrolls – more than have ever been stored in one place.  Forty years ago, philanthropist Ralph Yablon bought all of them, bringing them to London to his shul, the Westminster Synagogue, where they were lovingly repaired, and then loaned in perpetuity to synagogues around the world.  One condition was that each synagogue should learn the story of its Torah and honor the memory of its town’s murdered victims.

In a sense, we have “adopted” Boskovice, so that it will never be forgotten and those who were destroyed in the Shoah will have someone to say Kaddish for them.  Torah Scroll #5363 is a gift to us of both memory and responsibility.  The number on its “Eitz Hayim”/Torah roller is reminiscent of the Nazi tattoos burned onto the forearms of Jews.  Our Torah has, once again, become a covenant – to remember and remind the world.

The Torah We Wrote

In 2009/2010, we embarked on a quest to create a Torah of our own. Through the writing of our own Torah scroll, we are linking ourselves to the past and binding ourselves to the future; each of us had a hand in passing our most cherished traditions from generation to generation, l’dor v’dor.

Together, with the help of a Torah scribe, we had the opportunity to perform a double mitzvah – the writing of a Torah and the strengthening of our community.

Our year-long adventure was an unforgettable educational and spiritual journey. The experience challenged us, as well as energized us, personally and collectively. It strengthened our congregation and helped to ensure our future. Each adult and child who participated is able to say, in truth, that without his or her [their] personal participation, our Torah would not have been completed.

The Torah That Made Us A Schul

In our earliest days, the congregation would borrow a Torah from other local synagogues when we held services.  Thanks to Ellie and Bernie Butnik, we acquired our first Torah.

We kept it at Bruce and Karen Harris’ house, laying on a bed and covered with a tallit when we didn’t have services. Bruce would drive it around in his station wagon when it was needed.

Eventually, we moved into our building and the Butnik Torah found a permanent home in our Ark.

The Glickman / Zevin Torah

The Glickman / Zevin family donated this special Torah in 1996.  The idea of donating a Torah had long been in Jerry Zevin’s mind, as he had learned that his family had actually owned a Torah and had loaned it to their synagogue in Boston before Jerry was even born. He remembers, many years later, his father’s vain attempts to locate the Torah after that synagogue had closed its doors.

The Glickman / Zevin family dedicated the Torah in memory of Craig James Glickman and presented it on the occasion of Avi Zevin’s Bar Mitzvah.

They searched for over 2 years to find just the right Torah scroll for their dedication.  The scroll was written between 1946 and 1950 in Israel, and it is likely that this scroll was one of the first to be written in the new state.

Tue, May 28 2024 20 Iyar 5784