Home July 2014 He Served A Lifetime

He Served A Lifetime

Finding the words to reflect on the passing of anyone can be difficult. But, finding the words to reflect on the passing of a man loved by an entire community is nothing short of daunting. Rabbi Haim Asa was such a man.  He died of complications from diabetes on May 28, 2014.
Rabbi Asa was born May 1, 1931 in Bulgaria to a Sephardic family that had escaped the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. The family was living in Bulgaria during World War II, and Rabbi Asa’s father was instrumental in saving Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust. In 1944, during the Nazi occupation of Bulgaria, Rabbi Asa and his family left Bulgaria and immigrated to Israel (at the time Palestine).
At the age of 15, Rabbi Asa was admitted into the Gadna, the youth division of Haganah (underground military unit), and was sent to Platoon Commanders School in the summer of 1947.  Rabbi Asa served in the Haganah during the War of Independence of 1948 and after honorable service went on to become one of the founders of NACHAL, a division of the IDF.
Rabbi Asa’s life as a rabbi began in 1958 after he enrolled in the Hebrew Union College-Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Before transferring to Cincinnati to pursue the last three years of studies, Rabbi Asa married his beloved wife Elaine. The couple spent three years in Cincinnati, and Rabbi Asa was ordained in 1963.
Rabbi Asa went on to serve many congregations and organizations across the world, but it was in Orange County that he spent the past 48 years of his life serving as the rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton.  Becoming the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Tikvah in 1966, Rabbi Asa was granted lifetime tenure in 1971 and actively served as rabbi until becoming Rabbi Emeritus in 1996.  He was also involved in the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis: was a past president of the Orange County Board of Rabbis and the Fullerton Interfaith Ministerial Association: and was instrumental in developing Jewish Federation Family Services of Orange County.  Miriam Van Raalte, Temple Beth Tikvah’s Administrator and Director of Education and a close friend of Rabbi Asa, said, “Within the Temple Beth Tikvah community, he helped to raise five decades of youth, encouraging a good number to go into Jewish communal work.  Rabbis, cantors, educators and social workers credit him for being instrumental in their decision to pursue their careers.”
Rabbi Asa was what one would call a “24/7 rabbi,” according to Van Raalte. In addition to serving the last 18 years as Rabbi Emeritus he recently served as a senior chaplain with the State of California Department of Mental Health serving Metropolitan State Hospital and Fairview Hospital, both inpatient facilities for the severely mentally ill.
Rabbi Asa taught in universities, worked tirelessly on issues benefitting Israel, fought injustice against Jews in Argentina, and was instrumental in the efforts acknowledging the role of the Bulgarian people and the nation in saving the entire Jewish population of Bulgaria during the Holocaust. As a survivor of the Holocaust, Rabbi Asa was driven to create a physical memorial in Orange County where people of all faiths could “remember, reflect, and resolve.”
“Haim’s influence on the formation, direction, and development of the Orange County Jewish Community cannot be overemphasized. We are all in his debt for the wise counsel he offered. His acts of loving-kindness are legion. He will truly live on in all the good he accomplished,” said Rabbi Einstein (Founding Rabbi and Rabbi Emeritus of  Temple B’Nai Tzedek).
Jlife wishes comfort to Rabbi Asa’s wife, Elaine, their four children: Aviva (Daniel) of Efrat, Israel, Ariel (Michele) of Atlanta, Ga.; Liora (Michael) of Har Halutz, Israel; Eliana (Jeff) of Los Angeles; and the 14 grandchildren.

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