Recently, Jlife Magazine had the chance to sit down with several members of Congregation B’nai Tzedek (CBT) in Fountain Valley to hear about CBT’s 40-year history and their individual experiences being part of the congregation: Stephen Einstein, Founding Rabbi Emeritus (SE); Steven Lesser, First and Second-year President and 40-year member (SL); Joe Rotcher, 3-term President of New CBT and 40-year member of CBT (JR); Pam Rosen Director of Religious School Education (PR); and Rabbi David Young, Head Rabbi for the past 3 years (DY).
Jlife: How do you see the role of temple when it comes to Jewish education?
DY: What has impressed me since my first interview at CBT is the congregation’s commitment to continued Jewish education. There are classes at CBT every Tuesday evening, there is Torah study every Saturday morning, we have an active book club, we are starting an Adult B’nai Mitzvah Class after the High Holy Days this year, and we often gather for extra study sessions based on the needs of the community or the availability of amazing speakers and presenters. It helps keep me learning, too, partly because I teach many of the aforementioned classes, and the best way to learn something twice as well is to teach it once. Most of our classes have no prior knowledge required, and even though we have a solid cadre of regular learners, new people are always welcome.
PR: A big part of the role of temple and Jewish education is the connection to other Jews that live in the area. Here most kids don’t go to school with a lot of other Jews unless they’re in a private school.
JR: That’s what inspired us to start the shul. So that they would have an identity in the community and those that continued had an identity and their children would have the same thing.
PR: Even though most synagogues have a religious school component each school is very different. They are different and what they offer is different. There are differences in how flexible they are with what they offer, the various programs they have and just like a synagogue has its own personality so too do the religious schools.
SE: In some places the kids don’t even know the rabbi. Here they do. They knew me, they know Rabbi Young. We’re in there with them and we teach them. And it’s not like they are the kids and we are the ones doing important stuff. For us, the kids… they are the important stuff.
In what ways do you try to make learning fun?
PR: Well we’re really into technology. Now Jewish education is finally catching up with technology. We have large-screen televisions in several of our classrooms. We actually allow the kids, especially the older children, to use their cell phones. If you can’t beat them you join them. I have a lot of programs that I bring in that are hands-on to make it fun. Artists come in as well. Last year, we had Mordechai Rosenstein and we will be doing a program with Gary Rosenthal. I encourage my entire teaching staff to do really basic hands-on stuff that the kids will remember. We have an Israeli Hebrew teacher who teaches the kids Israeli songs. They celebrate certain holidays by making roasted potatoes and marshmallows over the fire pit. And now they know what the holiday is for no other reason than that we went to the head through the stomach, but it works.
SE: From the very beginning we have emphasized that education is a lifelong process and we’ve had ongoing classes. When I was leading the congregation I taught three ongoing weekly adult education classes. And Rabbi Young has continued to do that and we have a number of members of our congregation who are learned people. They come up with ideas and the rabbi always says, “Yeah go for it!” So we have lots of different learning opportunities going on all the time every week.
SL: We’re also going to be building an outdoor prayer center where part of the parking lot is now and a legacy wall. We have tiles there that members can personalize. Members of the congregation came in and painted their own tiles to be part of the legacy wall. A lot of the kids came and made tiles as well so the legacy wall will have all kinds of different bits and pieces of the congregation.
PR: We’re going to use it for services and it’ll be a place where you can study.
What is your favorite part of being involved in this congregation?
PR: The people.
JR: That it’s a family, this is where I’ve lived, my kids married here my grandchildren have been bar mitzvah’d here. To me it’s a real sense of family.
SL: It’s family to us too.
For a more information about Congregation B’nai Tzedek or to get more info on all the great 40th Anniversary events coming up please cbtfv.org.
SAVE THE DATES
Mark your calendars. These are services you don’t want to miss!
Oct. 21, (Friday):
Oct. 22, 2106 (Saturday):
A festive gala will take place at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach
Nov. 18, (Friday):
The Music of CBT
Dec. 23, 2016 (Friday):
Education at CBT, with
former and current teachers
and former students of CBT
Feb. 3, 2017 (Friday):
The Future of CBT, featuring the students of SJE Religious School
Note: All of these special Shabbatot will feature a Proneg
at 7:00 PM, service at 7:30 PM
and Oneg following the service.
For more information please contact Debbie Biebelberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rose Lesser at email@example.com.