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2005-09-21—Four moments in S.D. Jewish History
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2005 blog


San Diego Jews taking root; 
Four moments of history celebrated

                                                            San Diego Jewish Times, September 21, 2005

By Donald H. Harrison

I'm detecting a growing feeling of pride and a sense of rootedness in the San Diego County Jewish community—as indicated by the confluence of four events.

Temple Solel dedicated a new synagogue following a mile long march of the Torahs on Friday, September 10.  On the same weekend, Congregation Beth Israel unveiled a permanent history exhibit focusing on each of the three homes it has occupied since 1889.

The coming High Holidays will mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of Tifereth Israel Synagogue, and the congregation is planning an entire year of commemorative events for the centennial. Meanwhile, the Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History has invited the public to attend a 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25 picnic at "Louis Rose Point" at Liberty
Station (the fomer Naval Training Center) to see where a statue of San Diego's first Jewish settler will someday be erected.

Happy, occasionally singing congregants— most dressed in special blue and white T-shirts created for the occasion— escorted  Temple Solel¹s Torahs approximately a mile from the Reform congregation's old home at 552 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas, to its new home at 3575 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff by the Sea.

How many people participated?  Myron Jucha, the congregation's president, looked over the packed new sanctuary, which had been extended into the social hall to accommodate the High Holy Day-sized crowd, and did some quick figuring.  "We set up for 500, and there is quite a bit of overflow," he said.  "I'd say somewhere between 600 and 700."  Well, how
about making the official estimate 613 then?

Jucha and others on a bima that drew its architectural inspiration from a kabbalistic story about the creation of the world smiled in agreement. "Yes, exactly," one said. "Six-hundred and thirteen—the number of mitzvot (commandments) found in the Torah."

Rabbi David Frank explained the inspiration for the sanctuary's design in a dedicatory pamphlet distributed to attendees.  "The mystics, much like our modern scientists, imagined that our universe began with a Big Bang. God poured pure light, or the seed of energy, into cosmic vessels within space.  But the light was so pure and intense, that the vessels could not contain it.

"So the vessels exploded—and their fragments scattered throughout the universe, with sparks of the light of creation clinging to the pieces.  Our job, said the Kabbalists, is Tikkun Olam—to recover those holy sparks of light, and to repair the shattered vessels of creation which we do every time we perform a mitzvah—an act of goodness, an act of holiness, an act of
justice or compssion.²

Above the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) is a biblical-looking vessel tilted in such a way as to be pouring conceptual light from above.  The doors of the Aron Kodesh are covered with symbolic sparks—as are the new covers of the Torahs inside the Ark. The theme is carried on throughout the sanctuary, and, noted Frank, "from there it is carried outward to the mezuzot on all our doorways and also on our signage, all the way down to the entrance at the street.  It is even carried on our new letterhead. Our Temple Solel logo includes these words: 'Raising up holy sparks. Repairing the world.'"

As the temple's planners soared into the spiritual realm, they did not neglect to provide for the pragmatic—most notably in creating the congregation's very own coffee shop on the temple's campus. The coffee shop, to be open during the synagogue's office hours, will provide a place for parents to mill and schmooze while their children are at school. It will encourage everyone to think of the synagogue not simply as a place where one goes to pray, but as a social center as well.  A large youth lounge below the sanctuary equipped with various indoor games reinforces that feeling, as does a commodious playground for young children.

Enthusiastic congregants accorded standing ovations to some of the people who had labored so hard to realize the new buildings and campus for Temple Solel, among them Rabbi Frank; President Jucha, Past President Scott
Goverman and Building Campaign Chairman Gary Woods.

Perhaps the most memorable ovation was for Robin Rubin, the congregation¹s executive director, who typically had been attending to some details in the rear of the sanctuary when her name was called.  "Who me?" she gestured in surprise.  "Yes you," Jucha assured Rubin over the public address system. As Rubin started the long walk from the back of the combined
sanctuary and social hall, the congregation spontaneously rose en masse to acknowledge her work with sustained applause.  It was a movie moment.

More information on Temple Solel's new home may be obtained at (760) 436-0654.

* * *
Thanks to Stuart Simmons, the executive director of Congregation Beth Israel, I was able to preview the permanent exhibit that has been placed in the foyer of that Reform congregation¹s sanctuary building.

It takes three full display cabinets to house photographs and other memorabilia of the congregation that is the oldest and largest in the county.  The first display case focuses on not only the first Temple Beth Israel (now located in Heritage Park in the Old Town area), but also upon the earlier history of San Diego Jewry, beginning with the arrival of Louis Rose in 1850.

The second cabinet deals with Beth Israel¹s second home, the historic property at 3rd and Laurel Streets now owned by Congregation Ohr Shalom, a Conservative congregation. Besides housing the Reform congregation's own activities, the Temple Center hosted the meetings of many Jewish organizations serving the entire community.

The third display case is given over to the current campus at 9001 Towne Center Drive in La Jolla with considerable attention given to the children of the congregation, who are its future.
I had only a few minutes to examine the cases before I had to go to another part of the Beth Israel complex for an interview, but one could spend much, much longer in front of any of the three exhibits. They were carefully researched and documented by Stan and Laurel Schwartz and Bonnie Harris of the Jewish Historical Society of San Diego.  I suggested to Simmons that someday his congregation might want to incorporate the images and text from the exhibit into a souvenir book.  I think many San Diegans would like to have a copy.

For more information about the exhibit, please call Congregation Beth Israel at (858) 535-1111 or the Jewish Historical Society of San Diego at (619) 232-5888.

* * *
Like Beth Israel, Tifereth Israel Synagogue is now in its third "permanent" home—and a series of commemorative lectures along with a 100th anniversary book will deal with memorable people and occasions associated with each venue. 

The lecture series begins with my own Sept. 24 discussion, (Selichot evening) about  the first facility, which had been located on 18th Street south of Market Street, and had housed the congregation during the period it was affiliated with the Orthodox

Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal will deliver a centennial sermon during Rosh Hashanah observances on Wednesday, Oct. 5.  A concert in November and a rededication service and congregational dinner in December will be followed by a lecture in January by Raphael and Jerry Levens—sons of the late Rabbi Monroe Levens.  They will focus on Tifereth Israel¹s second home at 30th and Howard Streets—at which their father served as the newly-Conservative congregation¹s spiritual leader.

In February, Ralph Barnes, a former president of the congregation, will lecture about Tifereth Israel's current home, located at 6660 Cowles Mountain Road in theSan Carlos neighborhood of San Diego.  For more detailed  information about
centennial programs, please call (619) 697-6001.

* * *
The Louis Rose Society is at the beginning of the process of raising money for that Jewish pioneer and civic leader's statue. It will be located at the foot of Womble Road in the part of Point Loma formerly known as "Roseville."

Lying along a pathway that parallels the Boat Channel and a portion of San Diego Bay, the statue will be along what I like to call the "100-Year Walk," that takes pedestrians  from Spanish Landing—where ships of Father Junipero Serra's expedition put down anchors in 1769—to a spot by Roseville which Louis Rose laid out as a town site in 1869.

The kosher picnic will reflect the area¹s 19th century Jewish and American origins with characters in period costume, singer Colette Thomas performing songs of the 19th century that are still familiar today, and even a visit by the "Louis Rose" trolley that was named by Old Town Trolley Tours of San Diego in honor of the pioneer.  There will also be Balloon Utopia
creations and face painting for the kids at this $10-per-adult, $5-per-child event.  For more information, please call me at (619) 265-0808.

 To all these organizations—Temple Solel, Congregation Beth Israel, the Jewish Historical Society of San Diego, Tifereth Israel Synagogue and the Louis Rose Society —a hearty mazal tov!