Tarbuton is a 501c3 that was founded in 2006 to engage San Diego’s Jewish community by encouraging grassroots and lay led Jewish and Israeli cultural programs for youth and adults that educate, build community and strengthen Jewish identity. Flagship programs include adult clubs Cafe v’Ivrit, and Film and Literature groups, the annual Hagiga Ivrit festival that promotes celebration of Hebrew and Israel and Startup18 programs Jewish Engagement Lab and Jewish Educator Awards offered in collaboration with the Harold Greenspoon Foundation for work that impacts across multiple Jewish institutions and celebrating educators who offer independent cohorts and grassroots Jewish community programs.

Download Tarbuton Backgrounder 2016-2017

We make Jewish and Israel connections for San Diegans through volunteer led recurring programs, cultural groups and community events. Tarbuton reaches over 2000 households the majority of which are otherwise not engaged in traditional Jewish organizational activity.

Tarbuton serves as a cultural Jewish entry point for young adults, adults, families and youth. Programs appeal to all denominations, interfaith families and unaffiliated and build relationships between local American Jews & Israelis. 


Tarbuton has piloted programs in the community since 2006, Fueled by grants and active volunteerism.  Tarbuton offered, through 2016, an Israeli-style after school and Sunday program with as many as 140 students in 4 locations, and as many as 20 part time teachers and staff.  Tarbuton founders also offered “Tzofe San Diego” incubating what became the local Tzofim Shevet and lay leaders in the Tarbuton community actively recruited and supported the creation of a Hebrew language charter school, Kavod Elementary.

Startup18 was launched in 2016 to inspire Jewish nonprofit entrepreneurs to launch their own projects to engage the Jewish community and/or benefit the public through Jewish values. Fiscal sponsorship, workshops and more are offered to create a welcome environment in San Diego to encourage members to build for the community.  We hope by providing an address and support for Jewish nonprofit entrepreneurs we will have an even greater impact.


Our founders, wanting to build Jewish and Israeli identity in their children growing up in the US but with strong connections to Israel, began organizing Hebrew and Israeli-style activities including a Hebrew speaking playgroup, Hebrew story times and community holiday gatherings such as apple picking outings at Rosh Hashanah, hikes at area forest preserves at Tu b’Shevat and bonfires at Mission Bay for Lag Baomer.

As the children grew, a week-day and Sunday program was offered incorporating Hebrew immersion classes and enrichment, Jewish holiday classes and celebrations in English and in Hebrew year round. A dance troupe and singing group formed and performed annually at Yom Haatzmaout, Yom haZikaron and at the House of Israel’s lawn event.

The programs immersed our children in Hebrew and contemporary Israeli culture while adults enjoyed evenings with Israeli films, literature, lectures and plays and social opportunities in English and Hebrew.  We created a little Israel in San Diego that reflects the roots many of us share with family and friends there, the passion we all have for Israel from San Diego, that keeps us and our next generation connected.  We nurture the Hebrew speaking community that supports the language connection for our families and keeps Israeli culture alive in our hearts and we welcome and build programs for the community at large.