BZC Celebrates First Half Century

On September 30 around 200 people attended BZC’s gala Fiftieth Anniversary celebration at the Jack London Aquatic Center in Oakland.

In February 1967 Sojun Mel Weitsman, with help and encouragement from his teacher Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, rented a big house on Dwight Way in Berkeley and founded Berkeley Zen Center. Our fiftieth anniversary as a sangha also joyously celebrates fifty years of Sojun Roshi’s warm-hearted and continuing leadership. Partygoers ranged from the earliest years on Dwight Way to folks who have only recently found their way to our current Russell Street location. The energy was palpable. There was no shortage of smiles and lively warm conversations in the main hall, with pleasant live music in the background. Separate smaller rooms were set aside for viewing past images of BZC and for remembering and honoring those BZC stalwarts who are no longer with us. An outside balcony area was also a popular place to hang out during the balmy early autumn evening.

Liz reminisces about early days on Dwight Avenue.

Following a tasty light dinner, a lavish birthday cake was presented, and the speeches soon commenced. Master of Ceremonies Hozan Alan Senauke introduced a series of speakers, beginning with Sojun Roshi, whose reminiscences received a prolonged standing ovation. His wife Liz Horowitz then shared stories about early temple life with Sojun, followed by several other folks from across the decades who spoke from the heart about what BZC and Sojun have meant in their lives.

Sojun asks, “Who was there during the 1960s? Stand up!”

With speeches concluded and toasts made, people lingered to talk some more and then say their goodbyes. As they filed out they were handed a beautiful, lovingly compiled Fiftieth Anniversary booklet, full of captioned photos and insightful pieces written by dozens of our members from across the years.

(The booklet can be viewed or downloaded at

Ken Berman admits he was there.

It was indeed an evening to savor and remember. Innumerable bows to the more than fifty volunteers who contributed many long hours toward making this semicentennial event a wonderful time together!

Here are just a few photos from the event. Many more will soon be available on the BZC photo site.