William Stern served as a rabbi of Oakland's Temple Sinai from 1934 to 1965. Before serving at Sinai, he was a rabbi at Congregation United Hebrew in Fort Smith, Oklahoma, and at Temple Beth El, in South Bend, Indiana. During his tenure at Sinai, Stern was known for his knowledge, thoughtfulness, congeniality, and patriotism, and Sinai's membership increased greatly during his rabbinate. He actively involved himself in the affairs of his community, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, immersing himself in interfaith relations and doing what he could to combat anti-Semitism. He served with various civic organizations, including the Citizens Committees for Better Schools, Better Dental Health and Urban Renewal; Travelers Aid; the Alameda County United Fund; Rotary Club; the Jewish Community Relations Council (with which he was affiliated from 1952 to 1964); the Northern California Board of Rabbis (from 1939 until his death); the Interfaith Committee on Release Time and Religious Education; the Jewish Committee for Personal Service; the Jewish Welfare Federation of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties; and the Palestine Orchestra Fund. In 1937, Rabbi Stern spoke for the Emergency Peace Campaign of Northern Foreign War Crusade. In 1942, he was elected to the executive council for the Oakland Area War Fund.
The collection includes files on William Stern's involvement with various local and national organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish; files from Stern's years at Temple Sinai in Oakland, California; correspondence, including letters of appreciation to Rabbi Stern for his efforts on weddings, bar mitzvot, funerals, and conversions; sermons and addresses, some of which were for the Jewish Chautauqua Society, about religious, patriotic, and philanthropic matters, including The California Jew in History; subject files; ephemera and clippings; certificates and commendations; and a small number of photographs.