Home February 2012 Ever Evolving

Ever Evolving

Temple Judea in Laguna Woods may have started out in 1965 with the idea of serving the community of Leisure World, but like the name change and the creation of a new city, the congregation has transformed itself into a totally different family-oriented shul.
When the congregation first began, it was considered to be well ahead of its time — headed not by a rabbi, but by members who took turns leading the services and reaching out to one another for support in their pursuit of Judaism.
Rabbi Dennis Linson came aboard in 2006, and with the help of the members, he has created an affordable (membership rates are $800 a year for families) Conservative temple to not just serve South Orange County but to serve all parts of Orange County.  “We are very conveniently located off the 5 Freeway which means easy access to those in the north and south end and not too far off the 405 for those coming from the Central part of the county.  We have members as far north as Anaheim and down to San Clemente,” said Linson.
“While Temple Judea has always had one or two families with kids, and we’ve always welcomed grandkids to attend events and services, it was important for us to reach out to baby boomers with B’nai Mitzvah-age young people,” explained Linson.
He added that for the time being, “Our Hebrew School is essentially a one-room school house.  We teach kids from kindergarten age through eighth grade, including training for Bar/Bat Mitzvah, family holiday and Shabbat programming.
What was the impetus for the school? “Our community was blessed with the generosity of Steven and Teri Marsh on behalf of their mom, Celia Sterling Marsh; their brothers and sisters; and the entire Marsh family in memory of their father, Arthur Marsh, to endow the Arthur Marsh Family Education Fund,” Linson explained.  This initial funding has helped our school program get started and excel in meeting the needs of young people from wherever they are in their Judaic training when they join and moving toward acquiring skills needed to participate in our caring Jewish community.”
Temple Judea is making sure to have family programs that cover both major and minor holidays.  To name a few, they include “Exploring Forgiveness,” “Learning to Blow Shofar,” “Sukkah under the Stars,” “Jewish Ecology – Being Green Our Way,” “Mezuzah My Style,” “Understanding Jew Hatred” and “How to Celebrate as Jews.”
To get the solid teaching professionals needed, the congregation hired educator Barbara Fleisher and an enthusiastic teaching staff, including Rabbi Linson’s brother Neal Linson. “Our rabbi, cantor and cantorial soloist also assist in Judaic learning and liturgy and tefilah (prayer),” Linson added.
“We are so proud of our new Judaic-themed playground and climbing wall, which provide a welcoming outlet for our young people,” Rabbi Linson said.  “We are excited to hear the laughter of young people, their giggles, and to see their smiles all as they learn and explore in a Jewish setting.  Also we are excited to see the bonding and affection of so many in our community welcoming the new families,” he said.
For now, the congregation is made up of 375 families.  At present, four to six Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies are held a year, but Linson expects the number to continue to grow and flourish.  Interested teens will become part of a teacher’s aide program and meet on a monthly basis with the rabbi.
What has the reaction been from the community? “We have had an overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction,” the rabbi said.  “More than 200 donors raised close to $20,000 toward our new Judaic-themed playground and climbing wall we recently installed and dedicated during Sukkot 5772.”
He added, “Remember, Temple Judea began with a handful of residents who came together and volunteered their time, energy and money to build our original building and ran it as an experience-only membership.  It grew from there and the membership has ebbed and flowed according to how the economics of the county were.  That’s one of the main reasons we have kept the fees affordable.  In fact, if a family joins around the time of the High Holy Days, the membership fee is not only good for one year, but for the three months remaining on the initial dues.”
Linson wants to invite everyone to Temple Judea’s next Open House Shabbat, which will be held on February 25 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Temple Judea is located at 24512 Moulton Pkwy, Laguna Woods.  The phone number is:  (949) 830-0470.  For more information, log onto:   www.templejudealw.org or send an e-mail to the temple at templejudealw@aol.com or Rabbi Linson at dennislinson@gmail.com.  For more information regarding the religious school, contact Barbara Fleisher at barblfleisher@gmail.com.

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