Cantor’s Column – January 2022

Looking Forward to this Centennial Year

Cantor Ilan Davidson

As we begin 2022, I can’t help but feel the buzz of excitement of our Centennial Celebration Year. This community, which I have had the privilege to serve for more than a quarter of its existence, is about to celebrate something that few communities have the privilege to encounter…100 years of nurturing Jewish souls is a huge achievement. I can’t help but remember some of my first experiences at Temple Beth El, which formed my love and understanding for the special community we are.

I was only the Cantor of Temple Beth El for less than a month, when I received a phone call from Ida Frumes, z’l. Ida was the official historian of Temple Beth El at the time, and for good reason. Ida was among those who carried with her the longest historical connection to the Jewish community of San Pedro. She invited me to join her for lunch at Utro’s, an old San Pedro establishment, with sticky wooden tables, sawdust on the floor, and character that oozed from its very walls and floorboards. She invited me there to share the rich history of not just Temple Beth El, but of the San Pedro that she loved. Her stories were filled with dirt roads in downtown San Pedro, sailors, B’nai Brith dances, Jewish merchants, and a Jewish community, well connected to the greater San Pedro community, two communities with which she hoped that I too would fall in love. Her dream came true, as over the years, I have not only fallen in love with TBE, but indeed, our special port town… the place I proudly call HOME.

The rich and sometimes turbulent history of the Jews of San Pedro, which Ida shared with me, was one of great pride and respect. Our little community had indeed been founded by some of the builders of the greater San Pedro community. Names like Brown, Frumes, Lewis, Lande, Mandel, and Waterman, to name a few. These earlier settlers of our rough and tumble port community were founders and/or builders of the Temple Beth El community. From the start of the Jewish Sisterhood of San Pedro, to the establishment of the our first building on 19th and Cabrillo, which today is the Italian American Club, to our current location of 7th Street, Temple Beth El has been a center for learning, prayer, and community support and engagement.

As this year progresses, we will learn more about our San Pedro roots, our early founders, and those who built and sustained our community over the past 100 years. As we celebrate our history, we will look forward to our future. A future that I look forward to building with all of you, in this new year and the many years to come.