Like many Orange County synagogues, Temple Beth Tikvah started out in a kitchen over 50 years ago. Throughout the next few months TBT will celebrate and remember the synagogue’s history, culminating with a gala on May 2.
From the first services for High Holy Days at the Fullerton Ebell Club to its current permanent home that provides regular religious services, religious school, a full service preschool, and the new Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning, TBT has provided North Orange County Jews with a place to call home. It has not always been this permanent. At one point, the community found refuge in a fraternity house in Brea and the local YMCA. The wandering became part of the synagogue’s culture.
The humble beginnings also included a church, so religious school programs had to be held on Saturdays. But, according to Miriam Van Raalte, Director of Education and Temple Administrator, “the synagogue made the best of its circumstances and saw the opportunity to provide students with an authentic Jewish experience by attending services on Shabbat.” Religious School is still held on Shabbat.
A lack of permanence did not seem to impede congregants or Religious School students the synagogue has developed rabbis, cantors, educators, and professionals in the Orange County Jewish community, and communities around the world. Says Van Raalte, “Temple Beth Tikvah has sent hundreds of students to Jewish camps and Israel programs. A good number of these students have made aliyah to Israel.” Two of TBT’s Religious School students went on to serve in the IDF, one of whom is still living in Israel.
An Intimate History
Van Raalte is a product of Temple Beth Tikvah. After moving here in the seventh grade, Van Raalte and her parents became members of the synagogue. In high school she served as the Religious School secretary, going on to become a Religious School and Hebrew teacher. She was there for the synagogue’s 25th anniversary, becoming the Religious School Director. Finally, in 2000, Van Raalte assumed the role of Temple Administrator a position she currently holds today.
The history of rabbis has been less consistent. During the early years of the synagogue two student rabbis served the congregation before Rabbi Haim Asa z”l assumed the role for 30 years (he retired in 1996). A few other rabbis have followed, Rabbi Ned Soltz took the bima for five years, followed by Rabbi Kenneth Milhander who served as rabbi for 12 years. Currently, Temple Beth Tikvah awaits their new leadership, “We look forward to a new chapter of rabbinic leadership beginning this July,” says Van Raalte.
Cantor Michael Avdee has been with the synagogue for 27 years. During his tenure he has led two generations of students through junior, teen and adult choirs; bar and bat mitzvah training; and led the congregation through High Holiday and Shabbat services. Avdee who is excited about the upcoming Jubilee and offered the following, “Mazel Tov to everybody involved, especially to the long-time congregants who have kept TBT’s spirit alive all these years. It’s been both an honor and a privilege for me to be associated with Temple Beth Tikvah!”
The synagogue provides a full-service preschool popular not only with members of the synagogue, but many families living in North Orange County as well. The preschool, led by Natalie Wirtzer, provides half and full day school and Jewish programing Monday through Friday. In addition, Temple Beth Tikvah provides once a month “Tot Shabbat” for young families that include a service, programming and dinner appropriate for the youngest congregants.
Like Moses leading the Israelites through the desert, Temple Beth Tikvah has had its own time wandering through Orange County. But it has now settled in North Orange County — ready to celebrate 50 years. Van Raalte said it was done with a lot of “luck and sweat,” but it is more than that. Tikvah means hope and hope seems a more appropriate word to explain the 50 years leading up to this event. Hard work, luck, and sweat built the dream, but hope has kept the dream alive.
A Message from
Temple Beth Tikvah
We look forward to continued growth, with a nostalgic look back, and an eye on the future. At the Jubilee we will be honoring the decades of those who have been part of the temple. We are looking for alumni to join us and hope anyone who has been part of our family will join us on May 2 for “Temple Beth Tikvah’s Golden Jubilee… Writing The Next Chapter.” The evening will include the gala, a tribute book and silent auction.
For details on the gala or to contribute the tribute book, contact Temple Beth Tikvah at (714) 871-3535.
Dr. Lisa Grajewski is a therapist with Jewish Federation & Family Services in Orange County and an Adjunct Professor at Argosy University and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Grajewski has been with Jlife Magazine since 2004.