When Temple Judea of Laguna Woods celebrates its 45 years of service to the Jewish Community of South Orange County at a special 45th anniversary banquet, it will also be celebrating someone who has been a staunch supporter of the congregation for 28 of those years. Temple Judea and Lil Firestone are as intricately intertwined as can be.
The July 18 event, which will be held at Clubhouse 5, Laguna Woods Village, will honor Lillian Firestone for her lifelong service to Temple Judea and the Jewish community of Orange County. In addition to her work with the synagogue, Firestone has been active in a variety of Jewish organizations. Formerly a buyer for Bonwit Teller, Firestone discovered a new career in her 70s – as an impresario of young, talented musicians. She still serves as the manager of violinist David Lisker, who just graduated from the Juilliard School of Music and is going to Israel with Itzhak Perlman.
Lil, who currently serves as ways and means chair for the synagogue, has seen it go from the only synagogue in the Laguna Woods area to one of three, from primarily lay-led services to the hiring of Rabbi Dennis Linson, and from an independent orientation to the decision to be a Conservative congregation. “In 45 years things have changed,” Lil says, but she and others want to do everything they can to create awareness of Temple Judea and how much it has meant to them.
Lil quips that she continues to serve her congregation, “because I can still rub elbows with money and brains on the board.” She adds, “I can’t do the physical things I used to do, but I can still make a difference.”
Nobody would disagree with that statement. In addition, Lil has the distinct ability to be able to look back and forward at the congregation.
Founded in 1965, Temple Judea is a vibrant, active congregation in which traditional Jewish rituals are integrated with contemporary forms of expression. It offers inspiring religious services led by Rabbi Linson and Cantor Josef Chazan. The congregation’s membership of Jewish adults offers many opportunities to celebrate all life cycle events, and to develop new friendships. Its lecture series features speakers who address issues of current interest to the U.S., Israel, and the world at large. Members share a special feeling of community on holidays throughout the year, enhanced by the beauty and comfort of the congregation’s sanctuary and chapel. The temple’s social functions encompass traditional Jewish holidays as well as other special occasions, answering the spiritual and secular needs of an enriched Jewish life.
As the website says, “‘For everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose…’ Perhaps you have come to that season of your life when your children have grown and left, or a time when you are contemplating semi-retirement or have already retired. If that is your situation, consider becoming part of Temple Judea’s active adult congregation and enjoying an enriched Jewish life.”
Temple Judea began as a center for Jewish residents in the area to worship, congregate and socialize. It has grown to more than 1100 members, and now, a second generation is in the leadership position with forward looking ideas, assuring that the Temple will continue to meet the social, cultural, educational and religious needs of the community.
While an aging population and a difficult economy have made things challenging for many congregations, Temple Judea’s staff and lay leaders have taken creative and cost-effective approaches to maintaining the temple. The rabbi also serves as administrator, and his wife, Sima, is the office administrator. The rabbi’s brother has helped the temple to get a special automated telephone system that dials members’ numbers and notifies them of events. A grant has been procured from the Community Foundation, and the new kosher kitchen lends itself to offering dinners before Friday night services, assuring that members are well fed in body and spirit.
Also, as Lil points out, “we’ve gotten active and talented people over the last few years.” She cites Jean Janowsky, who is chairing the social committee of the 45th anniversary event, as one of the best. “We now have new people who are younger and younger in thought,” she says.
Of course, Lisker will be performing at the July 18 event. Other entertainment will include tenor Chris Campbell and an accompanist. The committee is planning an outstanding evening with hors d’oeuvres and carving stations beginning at 5 p.m., followed by dinner catered by Jolanda. Invitations for the event, which costs $50 per person, will go out in early June. For more information, call Temple Judea at (949) 830-0470.