Rabbi Yoel Kahn

Our rabbis of old taught: “The shy do not learn and the short-tempered do not teach!” I believe in this teaching and thus there are no questions that are too silly, basic or need to be prefaced by “I should know this but…” The first question that humans are asked is: “Eiyecha? Where are you?” This is where learning and study begins; with open inquiry and from the particular place where the questioner is. Our learning is shaped and informed by where we have been, who we are and what we bring – even as all of thee are potentially transformed by study and engagement with text, ideas and a study partner.

My name is Yoel Kahn. I am a Reform rabbi living in Berkeley, California. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and found community and meaning at Jewish summer camps. I was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and served as the first full-time rabbi of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco’s LGBT outreach synagogue in the 1980s. I have served in a variety of rabbinic settings and recently became the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley where I was the Senior Rabbi for 14 years. I received my PhD in 1999 and my book about the history of Jewish liturgy was later published by Oxford University Press.

Over my rabbinate, I have written, lectured and taught about liturgy, sexuality, family, theology and Jewish decision making. I love talking about ideas, texts and stories – in particular, I enjoy exploring “how we got here” in relation to anything and everything “Jewish.” The most interesting questions, in my experience, connect to finding and making meaning; thus the historical question – “What did this mean …to the founders, to prior generations?” almost always leads to the question: “What does – or might – this mean to us?” Eiyecha? Where are you? And where would you like to go? I would be honored to accompany you on the journey.

Rabbi Yoel Kahn Favorite Subjects



Grief & Mourning


Introduction to Judaism

Jewish Calendar

Jewish Denominations / aka Streams of Judaism









The Structure of Jewish Texts

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