September 8, 2005

A Case for Pasadena

Most people are surprised, even flabbergasted, to learn that there is a sizeable Jewish community in Pasadena, one that has been here for well over a century.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and I had never been to Pasadena. I knew little about it — mostly that the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl were there; I had no idea how close it was to Woodland Hills, where I lived. And I certainly didn\’t think about if there were Jews there.

Pasadena is located in the San Gabriel Valley — or what locals call the \”Other Valley\” — and it\’s surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains. It sits at the foot of Mount Wilson, home to the observatory where Albert Einstein worked during his stay at Cal Tech. It\’s also home to Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system, which offers us a connection to space, science and some of the best minds in the world.

Rural Shuls Make Do Without Rabbis

There\’s been a Jewish community in Muskogee, Okla., since 1867, when furrier Joseph Sonderheim opened his import-export business.

In 1916 the first synagogue was dedicated, Congregation Beth Ahaba, a lay-led Reform congregation that served a tight-knit Jewish community of merchants and professionals.

\”As Oklahoma grew and prospered through the 1920s, so did our congregation,\” said Nancy Stolper, 77, who moved to Muskogee 50 years ago.

Beth Ahaba reached its height of 75 families in 1929 but dwindled to 40 families during the Depression, as stores shut down and people moved away to find work.

Since then, Beth Ahaba\’s fortunes have declined steadily. Its young people, including the Stolpers\’ four children, grew up and moved away.

Its last student rabbi left 15 years ago.

\”We\’re now just a group of frail senior citizens,\” said Stolper, noting that only eight to 10 members are still able to get to synagogue.

Three months ago they gave up their monthly Friday night services, and this High Holiday season, she fears, will be their last.

New Year Rings in New Role for Rabbi

Rabbi Toba August likes to accentuate the positive, and the new year is no exception.

\”Too often for the High Holidays, we\’re told about our shortcomings,\” August said. \”I want to concentrate on what we\’re doing right…. We don\’t recognize the things we do that matter. I want us to walk out of services feeling elevated and validated and renewed.\”

August has reason to focus on the positive, because this summer she was made the principal spiritual leader of Adat Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in West Los Angeles. Currently, August is one of only two women to head a longstanding Conservative congregation in Los Angeles. (The other is Rabbi Sally Olins of Temple Bnai Hayim in Sherman Oaks.) Her appointment comes just as the Conservative movement is grappling with the disparity of women rabbis in the movement.

The Circuit

Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks will conduct a very special Shabbat service highlighted by the installation of the congregation\’s new Senior Rabbi Ted Riter on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. This occasion marks the first installation of a senior rabbi at Adat Elohim in more than 20 years.\n\nGuests for the service will include Rabbi Kenneth J. Weiss (rabbi emeritus of Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso and the current rabbi of the San Diego Hebrew Homes), Rabbi David M. Frank (senior rabbi at Temple Solel — Riter\’s former congregation) and Cantor Kathy Robbins (also of Temple Solel). They will be joined on the bimah by the Adat Elohim clergy: Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe and Cantor Peter Halpern.


Letters to the Editor


Obituaries, September 8th 2005

PhD on the Flying Trapeze

Edy Greenblatt is best known in Los Angeles as an energetic, knowledgeable folk dance teacher. But in search of a more stable career, she studied organizational behavior at the Harvard Business School, in a joint doctoral program involving Harvard\’s graduate schools of psychology and sociology.

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