Acts of Faith

The Purpose-Driven Friday Night Live
His book has sold 25 million copies, his congregation has 22,000 weekly attendees, and now … he’s coming to Friday Night Live.

The Rev. Rick Warren, who inspired the evangelical church movement with “The Purpose-Driven Life” series and leads the Purpose Driven Network with 400,000 ministers and priests worldwide, will share his insights Friday, June 16, at what is the area’s most popular Shabbat service, Friday Night Live at Westwood’s Sinai Temple.

“He’s built a giant church that attracts people of all ages,” said Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe. “There is something in his message that touches the contemporary spirit — and perhaps he can help us learn how to do that.” Although the monthly Sinai service, which draws in more than 1,000 people, usually takes place the second Friday of the month, Sinai added an extra one for June.

“I hope that we can learn from him and he from us,” Wolpe said.

How it came to be that a mega-church leader is coming to speak to the Jewish community goes back some 10 years, to when Ron Wolfson was first planning Synagogue 2000, an organization dedicated to reinvigorating the synagogue movement.

“Back then, most people had not heard of Rick Warren, except a growing legion of pastors,” said Wolfson, dean of education at the University of Judaism.

He and Synagogue 2000 co-founder Larry Hoffman resolved to bring the first Synagogue 2000 conference to see Warren.

“We wanted the people in the synagogue world to learn what we had discovered — how religious organizations were responding to the new great awakening in religious life,” Wolfson said.

Fast forward a decade, and Synagogue 2000 renamed itself Synagogue 3000, with an intention to focus on leadership. Last summer the group invited 17 community leaders to a June conference, where two attendees connected: Rick Warren and Craig Taubman, the musical director of Friday Night Live.

“It’s an interfaith exchange,” Taubman told The Journal. “We’re sharing our faith and the way we practice our faith for deeper understanding of what it is.”

Friday Night Live takes place at Sinai Temple at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit

OU West Coast Honors Bridge-Builder Kalinsky
Twenty years is not a small amount of time, not when it comes to the Los Angeles Jewish community, and especially not when it comes to the Orthodox community.

In 1986, when Rabbi Alan Kalinsky first came out to Los Angeles, there weren’t many kosher restaurants and only a handful of Orthodox synagogues and day schools. Kalinsky had been sent out by the Orthodox Union (OU) to helm its West Coast branch.

“There were many people who were committed to seeing an adult presence here,” said Kalinsky, who is being honored for his 20 years of service at the OU West Coast Dinner on June 19.

His duties were to reestablish relationships between the synagogues and lay leadership from the West Coast to the Orthodox Union’s mission, which seeks to advance traditional Judaism and bring Jews closer to their heritage.

Over the years the Orthodox community, like the rest of the Los Angeles Jewish community, has grown, and along with it the number of kosher restaurants, day schools and high schools, mikvahs and synagogues, and West Coast Jewry has become more important to the East Coast-centric Jewish community.

“I think many organizations have grown tremendously in the last 20-25 years, as there’s been a shift in population to the Southeast and West Coast, and many organizations recognized that there were burgeoning populations they needed to reach out to,” Kalinsky told The Journal.

Like many Jewish organizations, the West Coast OU is looking now to identify future leaders and involve younger people in leadership positions, as well as reaching out to the greater, non-Orthodox community. For example, the OU is teaming up with The Jewish Federation to host a pre-Shabbaton for next year’s General Assembly.

Along with the growth of the Orthodox community has come some problems.

“The greatest challenge is trying to be a unifying factor, trying to bring together the different groups identifying themselves as Orthodox and making themselves conscious of one another — the umbrella is capable of embracing everyone from all the way to the right to the center to those who are somewhat to the left,” Kalinsky said. “We live in a world where people are very judgmental of one another’s position and accepting each other as different. And in the Orthodox community, there’s a lot more that unifies us than divides us.”

Also to be honored at the dinner will be Fifth District City Councilman Jack Weiss, “for his dedication to the safety and security of the citizens of his district and for his special help in protecting the Jewish community during times of crisis.”