Close to 900 people gathered on the hot Sunday afternoon to fill Temple Beth Sholom’s (TBS) new sanctuary and celebrate Retrun and Renewal. Attendees were met with a festive atmosphere a year and a half after a kitchen fire decimated the synagogue. It was a spectrum of religious diversity: the Catholic Archdiocese of Orange, Latter Day Saints, clergy from Bat Yam, Beth Tikvah, Beth El, Beth Emet, TBS Rabbi Emeritus Shelton Donnel, and former TBS Rabbi Frank Stern were present at TBS to bring the Torahs home. In addition community, civic, and state leaders expressed their commendation.
The event began with a series of hakafot, in which hundreds of people participated in the Torah procession around the synagogue’s campus. Before entering the synagogue the Torahs were announced by a blast of the shofar. The Tokea (shofar “Blaster”) paved the way for the displaced Torahs as they were marched up the center aisles of the new sanctuary and finally placed in their rightful and new dwelling. Carrying the Torahs were several congregants and staff members who rescued the Torahs the morning of the devastating fire. Keeping with modern technology Rabbi Cohen took a moment to take a selfie as the Torahs were held near the bima.
Despite the fire’s devastation, members of the synagogue and greater community rallied to rebuild the sanctuary, social hall, administrative offices, rabbi’s office, board room, gift shop and kitchen. The $11.2 million project was funded through $3.2 million in insurance and $7.3 million in private donations. Also included in the new construction are a new campus entrance, with an expansive in-door, out-door living room, a new administrative building, drought resistant plants throughout the campus, a meditation garden outside of the sanctuary and the Horowitz Family Chapel (donated by Bernie and Brad Horowitz in loving memory of wife, mother, and philanthropist, Maxine Horowitz).
“This has been a challenging, yet inspiring journey for our congregation,” said TBS president, Andrea Wasserman. “Return and Renewal was filled with overwhelming emotions. It was hopeful, it was joyous, it was a historical day for all who participated and brought us to this tremendous accomplishment.”
“The leadership of the Return and Renewal event were co-chairs, Michele Shugarman and Soni Sanberg. Our Living Legacy Committee leadership headed by Jeff Winston, Linda and Dan Weissberg, and Bernie Horowitz have, along with their committees, moved mountains in raising funds, planning and working with architects and builders to rebuild our awe-inspiring campus.” Wasserman continued.
The journey is not complete, with “We can. We will. Rebuild TBS” resonating in the ears of congregants, staff and clergy, TBS will continue to work on completing the construction, which is scheduled for completion in December 2015.
And completion goes beyond repairing damage by the fire. Says Wasserman, “Our job is not done… Our original master plan called for the rebuilding of our religious education building. It’s my dream that we all be greatly inspired and motivated to make that our very next priority, as we provide for the needs of our children and theirs…”
To find out more about Temple Beth Sholom and to contribute to the balance of the project go to www.tbsoc.com.
Lisa Grajewski, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist and adjunct Assistant Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She has been a contributing writer for Jlife magazine since 2004.