November 16, 2018

My 72 Hours: Leadership in Times of Tragedy

My 72 hours started on the afternoon of Nov. 8, when I wrote my bimonthly email: “Thank G-d for the Jewish Federation.” This was said to me by a woman at one of the National Solidarity Shabbats, organized by our federation and The Jewish Federations of North America in response to the horrific attack on the Tree of Life synagogue. It detailed the work of our Community Security Initiative (CSI), as we ensure the safety, security and vibrancy of our Jewish community. It covered the hours after the attack and calls I received from our mayor, chief of police and sheriff.

Soon after, I received word about the start of the Woolsey Fire. CSI immediately began monitoring the fires and sending updates to Jewish organizations in the affected areas. I woke up in the middle of the night, saw that the fire was already impacting the Jewish community, and began plans to convene our staff the next morning.

On Nov. 9, our Chief Program Officer Becky Sobelman-Stern turned her program staff retreat into a crisis response session. We reached out to every organizational leader and rabbi in the area. We set up a hotline — (323) 761-8100 — staffed by a professional from our Caring for Jews in Need strategic initiative. The platforms we have in place, CSI and the Ezra Network, provided the infrastructure to do what was needed. I rewrote my e-mail to let the community know that we were directing our full attention and staff resources to address the immediate and long-term impact of the fires. I began to contact political leaders. Numerous calls offering help and support poured in from many national colleagues.

We immediately created our L.A. Wildfire Relief Campaign to raise funds for impacted individuals and organizations.

Rabbi Jon Hanish invited me to speak at Kol Tikvah’s Friday night services, shared with another impacted congregation, Valley Outreach Synagogue. I expressed our readiness to help in any and every way possible.

The night of Nov. 9 I kept waking up to add items to my to-do list and monitor the fires. Very early on the morning of Nov. 10, it became clear that the fire was moving toward three of our cherished summer camps: the Wilshire Boulevard Camps Hilltop, Hess Kramer and Camp JCA Shalom/Shalom Institute. I couldn’t go back to sleep.

On the morning of Nov. 10, I received another flurry of emails from Israel, detailing a barrage of rockets from Gaza hitting southern Israel. I contacted partners and colleagues there to ask how we could help. Our partners at the Israel Trauma Coalition said they were already engaged, thanks to work we did together in 2012 and 2014.

“A man came up to me and said the words that made all of our work worthwhile: ‘Thank you and the federation.’”

At 8 a.m., I began a series of in-person meetings with representatives from the organizations most impacted by the fires. I spent the rest of the day and night on conference and individual calls with the leaders in the impacted areas.

After another sleepless night, it became clear that the three camps had been destroyed by the fires.

At 8 a.m. on Nov. 11, I began a series of meetings with people from Jewish organizations. I spent hours supporting and strategizing with Camp JCA/Shalom Institute’s Rabbi Bill Kaplan and his staff. I joined a now daily conference call with rabbis, leaders of organizations and individuals.

At 1 p.m., I attended the memorial service our federation organized for the family of Bernice and Sylvan Simon, the couple murdered at the Pittsburgh synagogue. I spoke about how their lives truly were a blessing. Afterward, I offered support to Rabbi Steve Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The federation then created a crisis center at our offices in Tarzana and offered space to any organization or synagogue that needed a place to call home.

At 7 p.m., I addressed more than 500 campers and alumni of Camp JCA Shalom at de Toledo High School in West Hills. I shared our commitment to rebuild what was lost and told them what I truly believed: The power of camp and our community was in that room.

As I left, a man came up to me and said the words that made all of our work worthwhile: “Thank you and the federation.”

He then gave me just what I needed after everything I’d experienced in those 72 hours — a hug.

Jay Sanderson is CEO and president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Moving & Shaking: ADL, Chai Center Events; Beit T’Shuvah Marathoners

From left: Rich and Sam Wildman, Michael and Kami Stone, Cory Garson, Rabbi Becky Hoffman, Temple Kol Tikvah Rabbinic Intern Elana Nemitoff, Kol Tikvah Rabbi Jon Hanish and Kol Tikvah Cantor Noa Shaashua celebrate Kol Tikvah at the congregation’s gala event. Photo by Rebecca Schulman.

Temple Kol Tikvah held its annual “Magical Evening” gala honoring several of the Reform community’s members on Feb. 24 at its campus in Woodland Hills.

More than 250 guests attended the soldout event, which included dinner, cocktails, dancing and roaming magicians.

The evening’s honorees were Cory Garson, who received the Kehillah Community Award, and Simona and Rich Wildman, who received the L’dor V’dor Award. The Young Adult Leadership Award recipients were Kami and Michael Stone.

“Our honorees’ accomplishments and dedication continue to make a huge impact on Kol Tikvah and on the greater Jewish community,” said Kol Tikvah Senior Rabbi Jon Hanish. “The magic of their kindness inspires all of us.”

Kol Tikvah clergy in attendance included Rabbi Becky Hoffman and Cantor Noa Shaashua.

The event’s co-chairs were Bunny Getz, Melissa Shenkin Saunders and Rachel Rapport.

Garson has served several key roles at Kol Tikvah, including temple president and vice president of membership. She was on the board of trustees for several years.

The Stones became members in 2013 while searching

for a preschool for their daughter, Charli. Kami began volunteering in the preschool and has been a part of the education fundraiser committee every year. Michael worked with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to acquire a federal grant for Kol Tikvah to upgrade its security systems.

The Wildmans — who also recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary — became members in 1996 and consider their greatest joy to be their commitment to volunteering and the temple, according to the synagogue’s website.

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Anti-Defamation League Sherwood Prize honoree Marino Gonzalez, a sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department who was promoted from deputy sheriff since the award was announced, attend the annual ADL Sherwood Prize luncheon on March 13. Photo courtesy of Anti Defamation League.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored law enforcement personnel for combatting extremism, bigotry and hatred at the Helene and Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon on March 13 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Recipients of the prize, which was founded in 1996 to recognize law enforcement personnel, units and programs, were Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Marino Gonzalez, Laguna Beach Police Department Cpl. Cornelius Ashton, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Section and the Palm Springs Police Department’s Investigations Bureau.

“This year’s honorees have made creative and effective contributions to the fight against hate,” said Amanda Susskind, director of the ADL’s Pacific Southwest region. “The common thread shared by all the honorees is their work with the many diverse groups that make up the population of Southern California.”

The ADL recognized Gonzalez for working toward restoring public trust in law enforcement in the mostly migrant community of Cudahy in southeastern L.A. County. In his acceptance speech, Gonzalez said that undocumented residents have “nothing to fear if they call [the] L.A. Sheriff’s Department.”

In a touching moment, Vasco Possley, a student who benefited from Ashton’s intervention after a hate crime, spoke about how Ashton made him “feel safe.”

David Sherwood, grandson of the couple who founded the award that bears their names, spoke on behalf of his grandfather, who turned 101 the day before the awards ceremony and was unable to attend. Addressing the assembled law enforcement personnel, including L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Sherwood said his family was grateful for “everything you do.” He closed by repeating the epitaph on a garage wall of a local police department: “Be smart, be safe, be fair and be back.”

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: Rabbi Mendel Schwartz, Chai Center Honoree Youval Ziv and Esther Schwartz come together at the Chai Center’s 30th annual banquet. Photo by Joe Silva.

The Chai Center, a Jewish outreach organization, held its 30th annual fundraising banquet on March 8 at the El Rey Theatre in the Mid-Wilshire District.

Hosted by husband and wife Rabbi Mendel Schwartz and Esther Schwartz, the event featured Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa as master of ceremonies.

The event opened with an art exhibition, “Venezia Ghetto, 500 Years,” by artist Sarah Singer. This evening’s honoree, Youval Ziv, CEO and managing director for real estate investment company Pacific Holdings, brought 50 of his friends to the event.

The Chai Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the Jewish community in the greater Los Angeles area and beyond with Shabbat dinners, singles parties, holiday celebrations, innovative High Holy Days services at the Writers Guild Theater, Passover seders, kabbalah classes and retreats. The Chai Center serves Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jews from all backgrounds.

The Chai Center was co-founded by the late Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz — also known as “Schwartzie” — and his wife, Olivia Schwartz, the parents of Mendel Schwartz. Olivia serves as the organization’s co-director and Mendel Schwartz is its program and development vice president.

Suissa, in his remarks, described Schwartzie and dinner chairman and philanthropist Stanley Black as two people who never said no.

Black pledged an additional $25,000 toward Chai Center programing.

Beit T’Shuvah coaches Leslie Gold and Anna Johnson helped prepare Beit T’Shuvah residents and supporters for participating in this past Sunday’s L.A. Marathon. Photo by Justin Rosenberg.

Residents and supporters of Jewish rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah, which serves community members suffering from substance abuse and other addictions, participated in the Los Angeles Marathon on March 18.

Every year, Beit T’Shuvah residents and supportive community members run the marathon as part of the Beit T’Shuvah program Running4Recovery, which raises funds for Beit T’Shuvah and serves a clinical function for residents of the center.

This year, 52 individuals — including residents, residents’ friends, Beit T’Shuvah staff and board members — participated and raised more than $100,000 for the organization.

“Running the marathon helps our residents on their road to recovery,” Beit T’Shuvah Director of Advancement Janet Rosenblum said in an email.

Among those running were Beit T’Shuvah Board of Directors Chairman Russell Kern, board members Samuel Delug and Susan Krevoy, and Rosenblum’s husband, Robert Rosenblum, who participated in a 26-week training program prior to the race.

Janet Rosenblum said Beit T’Shuvah developed Running4Recovery in 2009 as both a fundraiser and a clinical program. It has raised about $1 million over its nine years,

“We know that training for and completing a marathon helps residents on their road to recovery,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work to run or walk a marathon, and the program has been incredibly valuable to the residents who participate. It also brings out our board and other community members and becomes a shared experience for the entire Beit T’Shuvah community.”

From left: Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin; FIDF Young Leadership of L.A. President Zach Zalben; Amanda Mondre; Rebecca Sahim; Francesca Ruzin; Michael Spector; Chantly Geoulla; Jennie Arad and incoming FIDF Young Leadership of L.A. President Danielle Moses attend the FIDF Roaring 20s Old Hollywood gala at The MacArthur. Photo by Justin Kenderes.

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Young Leadership of Los Angeles (YL-LA) held its 10th annual L.A. Roaring ’20s Old Hollywood Gala on March 10 at The MacArthur special events venue in the Westlake neighborhood.

The event raised more than $500,000 in support of programs for the well-being and education of IDF soldiers and drew more than 1,100 young professionals from across greater Los Angeles.

The evening honored the legacy of Zev Karkomi, who was born in Ukraine and escaped the Holocaust before moving to Israel — then the British Mandate of Palestine — in 1941.  He fought for Israel’s independence as a member of the Haganah and later served as a captain of the IDF until 1958. He immigrated to Chicago in 1960, built a thriving business there and became a supporter of the FIDF, among other organizations.

Karkomi’s grandson, Ari Ryan, an FIDF national board member and Western Region vice president, co-founded FIDF YL-LA to continue his grandfather’s legacy.

“L.A.’s FIDF Young Leadership Division is more successful than ever,” Ryan, who chaired the gala for his 10th and final year, said in a statement. “Over the last decade, more than 6,000 young L.A. professionals have gotten involved through our events and helped us to raise much-needed funds to support Israel’s brave soldiers. I am so proud of what we have accomplished, and am humbled by the passion and desire to give back demonstrated by L.A.’s young professional community.”

Attendees included FIDF YL-LA President Zach Zalben; FIDF YL-LA board member and incoming president Jennie Arad; FIDF YL-LA executive board members Robert Roig and Michael Spektor; IDF soldiers, including a former Lone Soldier (one who serves in the Israeli military without immediate family in Israel); “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” cast member Josh Flagg and his husband, Bobby Boyd, who were gala sponsors; and FIDF Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin.

Headquartered in New York City, FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to provide for the care of IDF soldiers and the families of fallen soldiers. The organization has 20 regional offices in the United States and Panama.

Lag B’Omer celebrations take place Wednesday evening throughout Los Angeles

Pico Shul and JConnect invite you to celebrate their annual Lag B'Omer bonfire at Dockweiler State Beach on Thursday, May 7. Bring blankets, food and alcohol (no glass bottles) and join this group at 6:30 p.m. for a night of music and fun! Feel free to grab your guitars, tambourines or bongos to take part in the jam sessions. Parking is $15 dollars; if you park along the highway, you risk being towed at 10 p.m. sharp. The exact location of this magical night will be posted on their website on that Thursday afternoon. For more information visit Dockweiler State Beach, 12501 Vista Del Mar, Playa del Rey.

Join Nashuva for their Lag B’Omer Beach Bonfire on Wednesday, May 6 at 7 p.m. There will be BBQ, music and s’mores! Nashuva will provide hot dogs and all the makings for delicious s’mores but you are encouraged to bring other food for the kosher potluck, such as non-dairy appetizers. Also, bring some warm clothes or a blanket and your guitar if you play! Please RSVP to as soon as possible so there are enough hot dogs for all. This night is for everybody so invite your family and friends! For more information visit Dockweiler State Beach between lifeguard stations 52 and 53, Playa del Rey.

The Lag B’Omer Jewish Unity Concert is on Thursday, May 7 starting at 10:30 a.m. with performances by The 8th Day and The Twins from France. General admission tickets are $16. For school group reservations, call (310) 208-7511. Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 W Eighth Street, Los Angeles.

The Chabad of Pasadena is having a Lag B’Omer BBQ on Thursday, May 7 at 5 p.m. There will be a moonbounce, a bonfire, music and BBQ of course! This will be fun for the whole family. It is $10/person or $40/family. For more information, visit or call (626) 564-8820. 1090 East Walnut Street, Pasadena.

Chabad Israel Center is hosting a bonfire at Dockweiler Beach on Wednesday, May 6 at 6 p.m. until the beach closes at 10 p.m. There will be a BBQ with steaks, burgers and much more! For more information visit or call (310) 271-6193. Dockweiler State Beach, 12000 Vista del Mar, Playa del Rey.

Join the Chabad of Studio City on Wednesday, May 6 at 4:30 for an evening of BBQ and relay races with Rachel Victor! There will be several different competitive games including a mummy wrap and potato sack race. For more information visit or call (818) 508-6633.

Celebrate Lag B’Omer at Robertson Art Space on Thursday, May 7 from 6-9 p.m. There will be a fire pit to enjoy and vegetarian food for purchase. In the main space there will be a showcase of local songwriters featuring Josh Warshawsky, Brock Pollock and Kira Rappaport & Jennifer Paskow. There will also be artwork by Hillel Smith, Jared Ross and Ilan Laks. $10 per person. $5 for kids under 10 and kids 2 and under are free admission. For more information visit or call (424) 245-4011. 1020 S Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles.

Join the Jewish Community Center on Thursday, May 7 at 5 p.m. for an evening of fun, food, music and entertainment in Hermosa Beach. This event will feature a Bonfire and Drum Circle! For more information call (310) 214-4999. 2521 Valley Drive, Hermosa Beach.

Kol Tikvah invites all families to join for a Shabbat service with live music and a Lag B’Omer celebration on Friday, May 8 at 6:30 p.m. There will be socializing, coffee and sweet treats following the service. For more information visit or call (818) 348-0670. 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills.

Join the Kabbalah Centre Los Angeles on Wednesday May 6 for a full night of celebrating Lag B’Omer. This is an adult friendly experience where many students gather at Kabbalah Centres around the world, making it a meaningful and global experience. Doors will open at 10:30 p.m. and the event will conclude at 4 a.m. Tickets are $25, teens ages 12-17 are free. For more information visit or call (310) 657-5404. 1062 S Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles.

The 21st century b’nai mitzvah

When Isa Aron considers b’nai mitzvah today, she gets the impression that parents — and sometimes synagogues — care more about their son or daughter performing flawlessly when on the bimah than they do about their forming lasting connections to Judaism.

“The moment itself is wonderful because the kid is up there performing and all that, but Jewish value of the moment is not really in there,” said Aron, co-director of the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, an initiative launched in partnership by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) to radically change the ritual.

Those who gathered in Long Beach for the Reform Movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis convention learned more about the initiative on March 5 from Aron’s co-director, Rabbi Bradley Solmsen.

“One of the major places where we are engaging youth or disengaging youth is around the aftermath of the bar mitzvah,’” Solmsen said. “People find the bar mitzvah experience itself very fulfilling, but then they check out. It’s more a graduation ceremony than anything else.”

A study from the Avi Chai Foundation supports Solmsen’s claim. According to its 2006-07 census of Jewish supplementary schools in the United States, “The dropout phenomenon after bar/bat mitzvah is dramatic. More than one-third of students drop out after grade 7 and then the rate of decline accelerates so that by grade 12 only one-seventh of the number of seventh-graders is still enrolled.”

Tackling the issue in several ways, the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution has created a pilot cohort of 14 congregations across the country that is working on experiments to change b’nai mitzvah preparation and the ceremony itself. Los Angeles-area synagogues that are participating include Temple Isaiah and Stephen S. Wise Temple.

With assistance from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which awarded the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution an $85,000 grant, eight more area synagogues are rethinking their approaches to the ritual. They are IKAR, Kehillat Israel, Temple Akiba, Temple Aliyah, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Temple Israel of Hollywood, Temple Kol Tikvah and Valley Beth Shalom.

On a national level, the Shevell Youth Innovation and Training Fund has awarded more than $1 million to URJ youth engagement efforts, and part of those funds go to the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, Aron said.

The initiative is also attempting to change the status quo through its “Active Learning Network.” This involves 69 synagogues in North America engaging in online learning, at Professionals and lay leaders from these congregations will convene in December at the 2013 URJ Biennial in San Diego to discuss innovations and challenges.

Aron, a professor of Jewish education at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, became interested in transforming b’nai mitzvah after rabbinical students at the Reform seminary expressed challenges they faced while teaching Hebrew in religious schools. Students were focused on decoding Hebrew letters so that they would be ready for their bar or bat mitzvah, instead of learning to read and comprehend.

“For a lot of kids, it’s a pretty alienating process,” Aron said.

In response, Aron started a program several years ago called the Hebrew Project, a wiki-space for Jewish educators from across the United States who are struggling with issues related to Hebrew education in supplementary schools. When Aron and her colleagues sat down for a meeting about the Hebrew Project, they came to a realization.

“Halfway through, we took deep breath, and a bunch of people said at same time, ‘We won’t change any of this unless we can change bar mitzvahs,’ ” Aron recalled. “Parents and clergy are so hung up on performance at bar mitzvahs that it becomes a litmus test of how well religious school is doing. … If we want to change [how students learn] Hebrew, we have to change bar mitzvahs.”

Around that same time, the URJ hired Solmsen, who had served as director of Brandeis University’s office of high school programs, to develop strategies toward increasing youth engagement in Jewish life.

In early 2012, Aron and Solmsen met in person. Discussing their mutual desire to transform b’nai mitzvah, they exchanged ideas on how to accomplish this.

It turned out that they share ideas of what the b’nai mitzvah should be: a time when the young adult and family connect to the larger community of their congregation and a time of meaning for all involved. They believe in multiple approaches to the preparation and ceremony — no one-size-fits-all — and that the process must involve deep and authentic Jewish learning.

With this in mind, Aron and Solmsen launched the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution Web site last June. The next month, they selected the pilot cohort of 14 congregations, which then spent the next several months doing preparation work. In November, they convened in Baltimore to officially launch the initiative.

Here’s how it works: The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution provides a grant to each congregation and two “action research facilitators” to work with the synagogues on articulating and developing experiments toward the end goal of changing the ritual.

As of the beginning of this month, the congregations had come up with experiments that can be clustered into three groups, Solmsen said. One group is focusing on creating a mentoring process during the preparation stage of the b’nai mitzvah that involves each family meeting regularly with someone in the congregation to work on connecting who they are as a family and as individuals with who they are as congregants.

Another group is working on how to change the ceremony, using a system that would allow families to play a role in creating it, rather than being told what kind of service to lead. Lastly, a group is looking at how to connect social justice to the preparation and ceremony.

Leaders at Stephen S. Wise want to improve on a b’nai mitzvah program of which they are already proud, said Rabbi Lydia Medwin of Stephen S. Wise. The temple’s leadership is unhappy with the separation between its Shabbat minyan and b’nai mitzvah ceremonies and wants to bring them together.

As a member of the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution’s pilot cohort, Stephen S. Wise is also creating more gateways into b’nai mitzvah preparation, whether it’s the outdoors, the arts or Israel. And it is looking at ways to get parents more involved, Medwin said. 

“[We] hope that we can bring some depth and added meaning to the experience that is already a pretty powerful one,” Medwin said.

For this to happen, parents need to be open-minded, according to Aron. She pointed to a recent bar mitzvah at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills that was implemented with a high degree of collaboration between the young adult’s parents and clergy.

The parents — a Jew-by-choice and a non-practicing Jew — told Emanuel’s Rabbi Laura Geller that they were unsure if they were going to give their son, Simon, a bar mitzvah. Geller asked the mother what she wanted for Simon as he turned 13. The woman said she wanted Simon to become more independent and to do something like taking the bus alone from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.

Geller thought the bus idea was a good one. They decided that riding the bus across L.A. would earn Simon one of 13 badges in the months leading up to his bar mitzvah. To get the other badges, he would have to perform other tasks — some Jewish, some not — such as teaching his parents how to use PowerPoint and serving meals to the sick. When Simon delivered his speech during the ceremony, he connected his Torah portion, which dealt with the counting of the Israelites, to his bus experience. Simon explained how in Los Angeles, the haves count more than those who have less and have to ride the bus.

All over the country, synagogues are figuring out ways to avoid what Aron called the “assembly-line” model that sees every child following the same process — working with their tutor, meeting the rabbi, writing their speech and performing the other steps along the way to the bimah. Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, Colo., has the parents and children do project-based learning. A Philadelphia synagogue is allowing students to express what interests them when deciding on a mitzvah project. A congregation in Northern California is playing with changes to the portion of the service involving the passing of the Torah.

The 14 synagogues in the pilot cohort are required by the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution to implement some of the experiments beginning this September.

Because the initiative is just one part of a larger effort to increase youth engagement with Judaism, URJ has set a goal that by 2020 all youth will be more involved in Jewish life, while working on a definition of engagement and on ways to measure it, Solmsen said.

That comes later. For now, Aron said, “Our goal is to make our b’nai mitzvah around America a lot more thoughtful.” 

Synagogue Softball Wins for Kol Tikvah, Beth Ami, Aliyah and Or Ami

Temple Kol Tikvah of Woodland Hills avenged three in-season losses to Temple Judea in Tarzana during the Division A final of the Synagogue Softball league on June 26, posting a 22-8 victory over the defending champions.

“We had muscle, verve and desire, and we had fun,” Kol Tikvah manager Paul Thaler said.

The teams were tied 3-3 going into the fourth inning when Kol Tikvah Black broke the game open, scoring six runs each in the fourth and fifth innings.

Shortstop Ari Jacobs, son of Kol Tikvah Rabbi Emeritus Steven Jacobs, went 4-for-5 with 6 RBIs, as his team combined for 39 hits.

“They had a big inning, and we picked it up, but they had another big inning. We played deep and balls dropped in,” Temple Judea player/manager Barry Schoenbrun said.

Down 15-4 after the fifth, Temple Judea did not back down.

Elan Sieder’s two-out, three-run homer and an error by Jacobs playing a routine fly ball extended Temple Judea’s comeback hopes, but the middle innings proved too much for Schoenbrun’s team to overcome.

“We beat them three times this season, but lost when it counted,” said Schoenbrun, who started the Synagogue Softball program 16 years ago when he learned Temple Judea fielded a softball team that practiced but did not compete. The league has grown to 34 teams across Southern California, comprising more than 660 players in four divisions.

Santa Clarita’s Temple Beth Ami and Valley Village’s Adat Ari El went extra innings in their Division B championship. Tied at 4 runs apiece after seven innings, Temple Beth Ami scored five runs in the 10th inning, and Adat Ari El tried to answer but couldn’t, only managing two runs for the final 9-6 margin.

In Division C, the Aliyah A’s from Temple Aliyah of Woodland Hills continued their season-long dominance, winning their second championship in three years with an 11-4 rout of Adat Ari El II.

“Both teams were very good sports,” said Stuart Hoffman, A’s catcher and manager. “Most of us are playing for the camaraderie, not for the competition.”

Pitcher Mark Silverstein hurled a complete game, with only two earned runs, to complement last week’s 14-0 shutout of Sinai Temple in the first round of the postseason.

After Adat Ari El II scored twice to narrow a comfortable A’s lead to 5-3 in the top of the fifth, Hoffman inserted Marc Gross and Jeff Solny into the lineup in the bottom of the inning.

“The way I manage is everybody plays even if it’s during a playoff game,” Hoffman said.

That proved a smart move as Solny slammed a three-run homer to put the A’s up 8-3; Gross went 2-for-2 in plate appearances.

The Division D game between Calabasas’ Or Ami Plagues and the combined team of Ahavat Shalom and Ramat Zion from Northridge was plagued by early controversy.

After an error led to Mark Biase’s home run, helping the Plagues even the score at 3-3, Ahavat Shalom/Ramat Zion contested the official score in the bottom of the third, contending that they were actually leading, 4-3. The official at the plate denied the protest.

Trailing 10-7, Ahavat Shalom/Ramat Zion loaded the bases in the top of the seventh with two outs, but Biase made a diving catch to preserve the win.