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People of the Book

Temple Sinai's People of the Book Literacy Project was founded in the Spring of 1998 with the mission of helping Oakland's students learn to love reading and books. We partner with underserved elementary schools in the Oakland School District, providing one-on-one tutoring as well as donating thousands of books to students and libraries. We work toward our mission in many ways: 

  • Tutors meet with students each week at Greenleaf and Sankofa Schools. 
  • We give 3000 paperbacks directly to students each year at our school-wide giveaway events, and donate hundreds of books and magazines to school libraries and classrooms.  
  • Library volunteers process and shelve donated books (we have created 5 school libraries).
  • Volunteers visit classes to read stories.  
  • With generous cash donations from congregants and friends, we arrange author visits to schools.   
  • We purchase books and reading incentives like bookmarks. 
  • In cooperation with others, we provide much needed social services — conducting a holiday Adopt-a-Family project, as well as food drives for the spring and winter school breaks — participating in Career Day, Read Aloud Days, and organizing Golden State Warriors' "Get Fit Days" and Reading Recognition Days at basketball games.


People of the Book Literacy Project is helping to bring about change in the Oakland community while providing a great sense of satisfaction to its volunteers.

In both 2004 and 2005, California State Assemblywoman Wilma Chan honored People of the Book for "outstanding commitment and community service to the students of the Oakland Unified School District."

In the spring of 2008, People of the Book Coordinator Judy Zollman received the Jefferson Award for Public Service for her work organizing our literacy project. And in the spring of 2010 and 2013, People of the Book was selected for OUSD's "Volunteer Organization of the Year" award.

We are honored to have recognition throughout the Oakland community for the presence of Temple Sinai in our partner schools. Many anonymous donations have also been made to help our schools.


Share your time, your books, your ideas — or make a generous gift!  There are many ways you can help.

1. Spend time with children. A love of reading and of children is the only requirement!
Reading tutors meet weekly with students. No teaching experience is necessary; we provide both books and training.  Tutor quotes:  "This is one of the most fun things I do all week."  "I just love . . . this program.  I feel I can make a difference in a child's life." 

To learn about tutoring at Sankofa Academy, please contact or Sarah Weisman or Michael Getzell.

To learn about tutoring at Greenleaf School, please contact Jessica Pers.

2. Help get books to students.
Join the fun and help us at one of our school-wide giveaways! Or help us sort and distribute books donated by our very generous congregation. For information about helping with books, contact Jean Stein or Judy Zollman.

3. Don't have time to help out in the schools? You can still contribute to Oakland literacy with your gifts!    
Donate books! We need new or gently used children's paperbacks (in good condition only, please! No Judaica or PJ Library) — suitable for pre-K through 8th grade students for our book giveaways. A book bin is located in Temple Sinai's living room. (Update April 2023—we are not accepting books at the Temple at this time. Please check back for updates or contact Judy Zollman.)      

Give funds to the People of the Book Literacy Project. Your donations go directly to the schools!  Commemorate a special event, such as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a wedding, birth, birthday, or memorial donation with a gift of books or money in honor of someone who loved books.

4. Donate gifts or funds to the Adopt a Family project which annually supplies holiday gifts to needy families at Greenleaf School.  
Contact Debbi Berenberg or Rodolfo Perez at Greenleaf School.



Educator Quotes  
"My students cherish and appreciate the special relationships they develop with their tutors. They are always...excited about their sessions. It builds their confidence as well as helping with their reading and language skills." 
"You need a human being who cares and has some knowledge about how to work with and relate to the child. Children learn when they feel safe." 
"The presence of Temple Sinai is the single most important thing about our school." 


Student Quotes  
"Thank you because you come and help kids that need help just like me. You guys are the best." 
"I love reading with my tutor; you can't give her a different student!" 
"Can I keep this book for my very own?" (about a new book at one of our book giveaways)  


Donor Quote
“We are delighted to be able to the project this year. We love the work you do in the Oakland public schools, the way it changes the lives of both the children and the volunteers and the long-term investment in building a diverse and vibrant community."

For general information about Temple Sinai's People of the Book Literacy Project, contact us at 

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784