For 10 years, the Reform Temple of Laguna Woods (RTLW) has hosted a Guest Lecture Series of dynamic Jewish scholars, writers, and intellectuals that, due to the size of its venue, has normally been reserved as exclusive to members of the temple. However, RTLW has finally obtained a venue large enough to accommodate additional attendees. To the indubitable pleasure of many community members, this year’s Guest Lecture Series will be open to the general public. The series will feature one lecture per month from October 2011 to May 2012; each lecture will run for approximately an hour, leaving extra time for questions and book signings if the speaker is an author.
October 27 will mark the kickoff date of the series with the lecture From Tajikistan to the Moon. Author Robert Frimitzis will relate the compelling drama of his personal experience escaping during WWII and ending up working with NASA on its Apollo Program.
“The goal of the lecture series is to educate and entertain,” says Joyce Alpert, RTLW’s publicity chair. “It’s difficult to pin just one theme on it. The series is so diverse, has such a dynamic slate of speakers that it promises to please people of all intellectual appetites.”
RTLW, which its organizers call a “temple without walls,” conducts a service every Friday night in a large clubhouse in the midst of Laguna Woods Village. The rabbi, cantor, bima and ark all arrive each Friday night and transform the building into a synagogue.
Rabbi Ben Kamin, when asked for his thoughts on serving an all-senior congregation, responded, “I love it. There is so much wisdom and history.”
The all-senior character of the congregation reflects the broad perspective of the Guest Lecture Series. Ranging from topics such as historical Jewish composers Rodgers and Hammerstein to the history of the relationship between past US presidents and the Jews to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to true stories of people from the three Abrahamic faiths working together for the less fortunate and more, the series offers an exciting and diverse lineup that is sure to appeal to people of all generations.
The congregation of RTLW has a history of resourcefulness and dedication to its members some might find a little (no pun intended) unorthodox. RTLW was established in a clubhouse in Laguna Woods Village in 1996 with a member base of only 35 people under a volunteer rabbi and cantor. Since then, its membership has now swelled to more than 600 and continues to grow. Because of this surge in membership, the tiny clubhouse that hosted the Reform Temple of Laguna Woods proved to be too small to serve its constantly growing congregation. So it was that, in 2007, RTLW was forced to relocate to a larger clubhouse.
The congregation’s elder members were caught between their devotion to Judaism and the physical challenge of the long distance between the two clubhouses. They developed a rather surreal solution that took form in a 12-golf cart exodus to transport both the congregation and the Sefer Torahs. The caravan came to a halt within a block of the new destination so that the congregation could hand-carry the Sefer Torahs to their new home.
The guest lecture series was also moved to a larger venue for the 2011-2012 series. “This year, with a larger venue, RTLW is delighted to invite the community to attend,” explains Alpert. “It will be a gift from RTLW.”
The lecture series offers opportunities for community members to gain considerable insight into the history of the Jewish people as portrayed in contemporary media, historical literature, how they’ve fared in foreign countries and much more. The November lecture, for example, will present Terry McDonald, who will be telling of his trip to Cuba in order to support the cultural and religious resurgence of the Cuban Jewish population.
“All of the speakers are busy professionals with complicated lives and schedules,” says Alpert. “The Guest Lecture Series coordinators and the education committee of RTLW are all very grateful that these people are giving us their time, knowledge and experience.”
Alongside the Guest Lecture Series, RTLW’s active congregation offers a plethora of other activities for its members: field trips, cultural opportunities, Singles Havurah meetings, holiday services (of course) and much more. Its Men’s Club recently held a mystery bus trip in September. There is a large Rosh Chodesh women’s group.
The Guest Lecture Series, as proven by a decade of success and membership interest, promises to be a highly informative series of events covering a wide array of entertaining topics, the likes of which one will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Considering that the Lecture Series would always sell out to its member base alone before the first lecture, interested readers are strongly advised to RSVP for tickets as soon as possible.
The eight-month Lecture Series is $40 for members and $50 for non-members. Readers interested in more information and/or tickets can reach Gloria and Marvin Stein at (949) 768-8415.
Reform Temple of Laguna Woods
Guest Lecture Series
Clubhouse 1, Thursdays, 10am
FROM TAJIKISTAN TO THE MOON
Robert Frimtzis, author, tells a compelling true story of his escape during WWII and ending up working with NASA on the Apollo program. Book signing to follow.
November 17: THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
IN CUBA – PAST and PRESENT
Terry McDonald, relates his trip to Cuba supporting the cultural and religious resurgence of the Cuban Jewish population.
RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN
Larry Maurer, founder of Timeless Melodies gives a delightful program about two Jewish composers.
January 26: ON COMMON GROUND
Ahmad Zahra, film producer, tells the story of 3 faiths overcoming their differences by building a house together for a poor family in Mexico.
AMERICAN PRESIDENTS AND THE JEWS
Dr. Don Schwartz, political science professor at Cal State Long Beach discusses the attitudes of American presidents towards Jews.
March 22: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Julia R. Lupton, professor of English at UCI will give an interactive workshop and discussion of Shakespeare’s dramatic, tragic comedy.
April 26: ORANGE COUNTY JEW: A MEMOIR
Martin A. Brower ,author and journalist relates the amazing story of the growth of the Orange County community. Book signing to follow.
May 24: HERO OR VILLAIN? THE ROLE OF LAWYER IN POPULAR CULTURE.
Jonathan Shapiro, professor, lawyer and television writer gives his take on law, media and society.
Guest lecture series registration:
Series $40, RTLW members, $50 non-members (subscription only, no single tickets). For information, call Sheila Portnoy at (949) 768-5659 or Barbara Winegrad at (949) 457-0338.