[Congressional Record Volume 157, Number 58 (Tuesday, May 3, 2011)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E796]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                            HON. BARBARA LEE

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                          Tuesday, May 3, 2011

  Ms. LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the extraordinary career 
and long-time spiritual guidance of Rabbi Steven Chester as he retires 
from over 22 years at the helm of East Bay's oldest Synagogue, Temple 
Sinai, located in the City of Oakland. Under Rabbi Chester's excellent 
leadership, Temple Sinai has become even more effective in the 
promotion of worship, education, service and volunteerism within its 
large congregation, and throughout our community.
  Additionally, with the completion of the new Rabbi Steven and Leona 
Chester Campus, the Rabbi's work and his family's many contributions 
have formed a tangible legacy within Temple Sinai. Consistent with his 
many years of service, Rabbi Chester's namesake is a place of gathering 
and good works that will serve both the modern and traditional needs of 
his beloved congregation.
  Rabbi Steven Chester's multi-faceted career began long before his 
tenure at Temple Sinai. After receiving his bachelor's degree in 
History from the University of California, Los Angeles, he earned a 
B.H.L from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and an M.H.L from Hebrew 
Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He spent a seventh year of 
rabbinical studies in Israel, and was ordained in 1971. By the time of 
his ordination, Rabbi Chester was already a vocal advocate for many 
social issues, including supporting civil rights and ending the war in 
Vietnam. This early penchant for activism and the promotion of peace 
and human dignity would play a role in Rabbi Chester's spiritual 
teachings and community service throughout the span of his career.
  Spending five years of his rabbinate at Temple Beth Israel in 
Jackson, Michigan, Rabbi Chester utilized proximity to the state's main 
prison to provide weekly counseling and spiritual services to its 
prisoners as the facility's Jewish chaplain. From 1976 to 1989, Rabbi 
Chester served Temple Israel, located in Stockton, California, where he 
was also an adjunct professor in the Religious Studies department at 
the University of the Pacific.
  Over two decades ago, he left Stockton to become Rabbi at Temple 
Sinai. Founded in 1875, the Synagogue is a historic landmark that 
continues to serve the largest Jewish community in the East Bay and has 
deep roots in the Oakland community. During Rabbi Chester's tenure, he 
added a pre-school, introduced adult education programs and supported 
the congregation's return to more traditional practices, including the 
re-introduction of Hebrew into the service. He also continued the 
congregation's history of advocating for social justice by championing 
local affordable housing and health care for the underserved, 
supporting women's reproductive rights and protesting the genocide in 
  Whether participating in the Hurricane Katrina prayer service at the 
Oakland Arena, taking a bold public stance on global conflicts, or 
sponsoring a school for the poor and orphaned in Siem Reap, Cambodia--
Rabbi Chester has inspired many through his insight and actions. In 
fact, among his many accolades, Rabbi Chester was voted the 2006 
Reader's Choice for ``Minister/Rabbi/Imam with the Biggest Heart'' in 
the East Bay Express.
  On behalf of the residents of California's 9th Congressional 
District, Rabbi Steven Chester, I salute you. I thank you and your 
wife, Leona, for your countless contributions to the well-being of our 
East Bay community. Your work promoting the values and traditions of 
Judaism has served our many Jewish community members and enriched the 
amazing diversity we enjoy in Oakland. I congratulate you on your many 
achievements, and I wish you and your loved ones all the best in this 
next chapter of life.