This weekend marks the beginning of my thirteenth year at Temple Beth El. When I arrived in San Pedro, I was the “new young rabbi” in the community. No longer. As of July 1, I am now the longest serving rabbi of our non-Orthodox South Bay congregations.
Rabbi Mark Hyman, who retired last year and Rabbi Steven Silver, who retired last month are wonderful colleagues who served our community with distinction for more than sixty years combined. However, we discovered it was hard to plan programs together. True community events were few and far between. Over the years, some rabbis chose to participate more than others and some relationships were healthier than others. Since Rabbi Schuldenfrei arrived a few years ago, we’ve known that the potential for healthy, vibrant, and mutually supportive partnerships were more likely. We are moving in this direction, albeit slowly. Beth El and Ner Tamid have increased our joint programming in recent years, and this past year has seen more community wide programs come together.
Under the steady leadership of our congregational educators, we’ve initiated a teen wellness program in the South Bay. Earlier this spring more than 250 teens and parents from our partnering congregations joined for a presentation by noted author and therapist, Dr. Wendy Mogel.
Last January, more than 200 gathered for a stimulating lecture by Dr. Micah Goodman from the Shalom Hartman Institute. TBE, CNT, CTJ and Temple Menorah all contributed funds to help bring Dr. Goodman to our community and we hope to partner more with Hartman in the months ahead.
As I begin my bar mitzvah year I still remember what it was like to be the new kid on the block. My dear friend and HUC classmate, Rabbi Leah Lewis, began her tenure last week as the new rabbi at Temple Menorah and she is a wonderful addition to our community. One year ago Rabbi Joshua Kalev joined CTJ. Rabbis Kalev, Lewis, Schuldenfrei and I are eager to work together. We “young rabbis” want to help build a greater and stronger Jewish community in our area, not only for those who are affiliated already, but also for those who have yet to find their spiritual home. I look forward to partnering and planning joint programs in the future, while helping to promote my colleagues’ congregational activities as I trust they will help promote ours.
Tonight is a great opportunity to meet Rabbi Lewis and to see our community in action. For the first time TBE, CNT and Temple Menorah will join for a community Shabbat service. (Unfortunately, this date did not work for Rabbi Kalev and CTJ). Led by Rabbis Schuldenfrei and Lewis, Cantor Rachel Goldman, Cantorial Soloist Stacy Morse and me, we will bring our communities together with song, fellowship and prayer to welcome Shabbat and to celebrate the strength of our community in a most beautiful setting, at Torrance Beach (see below for exact location).
In a recent Torah portion, the non-Israelite prophet Balaam, blessed the Israelites with these words: Mah Tovu Ohalecha Ya’akov-How good are your tents, o Jacob, your dwelling places o Israel. May our good tents be wide open to welcome all those who yearn to find dwelling places in our synagogues and to be part of a vibrant synagogue based community in the South Bay.
See you tonight.
Rabbi Charles K. Briskin