HomeJuly 2023A Shul for You

A Shul for You

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner of Beth Jacob

Beth Jacob Congregation, Irvine, CA

Background: Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine (Beth Jacob) began in the summer of 1986 with a small group of Jews who wanted to establish a modern community based on traditional Jewish values. From storefronts to bowling alleys these Jews wandered in search of a permanent home to call their own. Today, Beth Jacob proudly stands on 3900 Michelson Drive, Irvine, as testimony to a dream fulfilled. With an ever-growing, diverse membership, Beth Jacob enjoys a blend of Jews with different backgrounds: Americans, Brits, Europeans, Israelis, Persians, Mexicans, South Americans, and South Africans, creating a unique flavor in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect. This is Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine -promoting traditional Judaism in Orange County and defining Orthodoxy for the next generation and beyond.
    Beth Jacob is the only shul in Orange County that has worship services up to three times a day, 365 days a year. Shabbat and Holiday services are especially enjoyable because of the talented choir. Beth Jacob offers a variety of services, resources, and activities to meet the religious, educational, cultural, and social needs of its diverse, multi-generational community members. Beth Jacob’s mission is to provide warm, traditional services and programming to Jews of all levels of knowledge and observance. There is a full range of Ashkenazi and Sephardic services and programming in addition to Torah learning for all levels, youth and teen programming.
    Rabbi Yisroel Ciner joined Beth Jacob in 2008. The president is Adam Teitcher, and the vice president is Ashley Nahum. There are about 200 member families.
What are the most popular programs or services?
    On Shabbat morning there are warm, welcoming, traditional services, engaging youth programing culminating with the youth leading the last part of services, followed by a sit-down full Kiddush luncheon for all. Throughout the year congregants enjoy a variety of activities just for fun such as holiday dinners, Simchat Torah Bash, bowling, Comedy Night, a baseball game with a kosher tailgate party, and wine tastings.
What programs or services do you think capture the synagogue’s underlying philosophy?
    Beth Jacob looks to build community by offering services, classes, pastoral counseling, and many social activities. There are many welcoming portals of entry for people with all backgrounds, knowledge, and observance. Orange County’s multicultural society poses huge challenges to maintaining Jewish identity. Beth Jacob meets this challenge head on with an array of creative and insightful programming for adults and youth. Enrichment classes, B’nai Mitzvah preparation, youth programs, Scholars in Residence, conversion programs, networking, seminars, and NCSY are geared toward enhancing Jewish knowledge and identity in an innovative and enthusiastic way. Beth Jacob has developed programming, such as Shabbatons and other events, that is fun and offers hands-on experiential learning.

Ark at Beth Jacob

What are some of the unique aspects of the congregation?
    Beth Jacob is young and vibrant with most board members in their 30’s and 40’s. All members are respected and made to feel at home. Members are the backbone of Beth Jacob’s success. Their commitment and devotion to Bikkur Cholim (visiting the sick), women’s events, welcoming new arrivals, kosher catering, Chesed (acts of Kindness), simcha baskets, and Shabbat Kiddush help to make Beth Jacob a warm and caring community.
What would you say to encourage someone to join your congregation?
    Don’t be intimidated by our being a Modern Orthodox shul. All who do attend are very pleasantly surprised. Swing by on a Friday night, a Shabbat morning or anytime during the week. I, Rabbi Ciner, and our office staff would love to meet you and show you around!  

ILENE SCHNEIDER has been chronicling Jewish life in Orange County for five publications since 1978. She has served as a communications consultant for a number of Jewish organizations. She is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.

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