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Our History

The presence of Jews in the Valley can be traced back to the period immediately after the Civil War and less than 20 years after the California Gold Rush.  According to Rabbi Max Vorspan's book, The History of the Jews of Los Angeles, two Dutch Jews, Isaac Lankershim and Isaac Newton Van Nuys, played critical roles in the development of the Valley beginning in 1869.  With the advent of the railroad, and farmland being utilized for the development of crops, the face of the San Fernando Valley began to change.  By 1907, the first Jewish family moved to the Valley and purchased 10 acres on what is now Magnolia Boulevard, very near North Hollywood Park.  Shortly thereafter, the influx of Jews began.
    After World War II, the Valley really began to boom, as Gls, many Jews among them, who had trained here decided to move their families to this sunny, warm climate, filled with orange and peach groves and farmland.  And in the decade after the war, more Jews came to the Valley from Boyle Heights, moving their families out to the suburbs.   The farmlands and fruit groves gave way to housing tracts where many Jews took up residence.    By I946, approximately 2,000 Jewish families lived in the San Fernando Valley. 
    In the fall of that year, the Valley Times ran an ad asking persons interested in starting a reform congregation in the Valley to please phone Mr. and Mrs. Bert Hillison. Thirteen families responded and came to the meeting in the Hillisons' home. With the help of Rabbi Alfred Wolf, the first director of the west coast office of the UAHC (now known as the Union for Reform Judaism or URJ), Temple Beth Hillel was born, named after the rabbinic sage Hillel.  Our charter was signed on December 11, 1946, creating – as we are officially known – Congregation Beth Hillel of San Fernando Valley.  We held our first Friday Shabbat service on December 20, 1946 in St. Michael's Church in North Hollywood. Twenty-seven families were in attendance, and we were on our way!
    By Spring 1947, the congregation had grown to 40 families. With the UAHC agreeing to subsidize the salary of a full-time rabbi, the congregation engaged Rabbi Joseph Gumbiner, as our first spiritual leader.  During that first year, services were held in various places, but religious school, High Holy Day services, and other celebrations were held at the McKinley Home for Boys at Woodman and Riverside Drive, now the location of Westfield Fashion Square. 
    In 1948, the fledgling congregation purchased the land and house at 12326 Riverside Drive. Properties east and west of the house were purchased at a later date. The congregation immediately got busy, turning the little house into a sanctuary and classrooms. By the fall, the house was ready. The library was placed on the shelves of the kitchen cupboard.  The kitchen itself served as the Temple office, the rabbi's office, and, of course, a kitchen.  In 1950, with pledges from members and help from Bank of America, we dedicated our first building constructed on the property. It was a school building containing seven classrooms, which we still use as part of our nursery school.
    In the spring of 1949, Rabbi Gumbiner left us to become the Director of Hillel at Yale University. That summer, the Temple engaged Morton A. Bauman, then the rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, to be our spiritual leader. Everyone was quite thrilled with their new young rabbi and his wife, June.  They soon became the backbone of our growing congregation.
    As the Temple continued to grow, so did our services and programs.  By 1951, we had established a cooperative nursery school. We had a cantor and adult and children's choirs, and our religious school was bursting at the seams.  Brotherhood and Sisterhood were in full swing.  Couples and singles groups were formed, and there were programs for our youth.  Fundraising was taking place on both large and small scales, and membership drives were a very important part of the Temple calendar. 
    By the time TBH celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1952, we had grown to more than 450 families and had more than 500 children in religious school.  Needless to say, our facilities were not large enough to accommodate our growing needs.  Architect Matthew La Poda was hired to draw up plans for a new building, and we needed to raise money from the members of the congregation. The plans for the new edifice were estimated at $450,000, but only $70,000 had been pledged.
    By 1953, the critical question was how to build our new "home."  If we were to accomplish this goal in a timely manner, every member would have to commit to a $750 building pledge, an equal share of the projected cost. In a historic congregational meeting on June 28, 1953, the membership passed this program overwhelmingly.  Everyone realized a sacrifice was necessary in order to ensure the continued viability of Temple Beth Hillel.  The individual needs of each member were taken into consideration so that everyone felt included in this important project. 
    After an incredible amount of hard work, we were ready to hold the official groundbreaking ceremony.  On March 20, 1955, at 3:00 p.m., ground was broken for our main building.  Prior to the ceremony, a question arose: who would turn the first shovel of earth?  Being the democratic organization that we have always been, it was decided that all who paid $5 for a "gold brick" keychain that said "I Helped Build Temple Beth Hillel" would turn a shovel of dirt and have their picture taken.   Almost 1,000 adults and children and community dignitaries participated in this historic day.  Long-time congregants remember being present and participating in this poignant moment in our Temple's history. Yet, there were still challenges to meet.  A concrete strike delayed the work on the building for three months, and we did not have sufficient funds to furnish our new home.  In an effort to meet these new challenges, the Living Gifts and Memorials Fund was established.
    Finally, on Friday evening, August 31, I956, our new sanctuary and building were dedicated. Rabbi Wolf, then the Associate Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, gave the dedication sermon, entitled "Dreamers, Planners and Builders."  Of course, Rabbi Bauman officiated at the service, as did Cantor Eli Cohen and the choir.  The dedication completed a five-year, half-million-dollar program.
    In spite of the beautiful new surroundings, our facilities still were not large enough to accommodate everyone for the High Holy Day services in a single seating.   Because of our expanding religious school, we were having five (yes, five!) sessions of "Sunday School" -  two on Saturdays, two on Sundays, and the high school classes on Monday evenings.
    The other major issue confronting Temple Beth Hillel in the mid-1950s was social action.   The Board of Trustees grappled with this problem and determined that no one could make a public statement unless it had been voted on by the congregation.
    With all that had happened in a single decade, the Temple joyfully celebrated its tenth anniversary in 1957 with a gala dinner dance held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. 
    In 1958, Cantor Martin Rosen joined our staff.   He was on staff for two years.
    On July 1, 1960, Samuel W. Brown became our cantor.   During his tenure, which lasted for almost three decades, he officiated at services, supervised the Hebrew and Sunday Schools, music activities, and the junior and adult choirs.   There was another staffing change that year.  Carl Friedman became the Principal of the Religious School. Mr. Friedman had been with the Temple since 1952, first as a teacher, and then as a department chair and supervisor.
    Some changes and additions to our High Holy Day observances also took place.  S'Iichot services were held for the first time and were an overwhelming success.  Also for the first time, TBH engaged the services of a second rabbi and cantor to help out with the double services.
    We were still growing, so we acquired the property east of the main building and north of the parking lot.  This had been part of the original 1949 plan, but now it was absolutely necessary to build a school wing.  With we had fewer than 900 families, we had 1463 students in the Sunday School and Hebrew School.   On April 1, 1962 the congregation approved the plans for our three-story school wing and to pay for it, authorized a bank loan, an assessment, and an increase in the building fund.  On March 17, 1963, the congregation once again gathered to celebrate a dedication, this time of our new school wing.
    In I 963, the congregation chose to give life tenure to Rabbi Bauman.  This event was celebrated at a gala dinner dance, where Rabbi Bauman was presented with his life contract.
    Although the congregation had passed a resolution in 1961 to hire an assistant rabbi, Rabbi Seymour Gittin did not join the staff until July 1, 1964.   His official installation took place on Friday evening, October 16, 1964.   On July 1, 1965, we hired another assistant rabbi. Rabbi Leonard Schoolman joined the staff, specializing in religious education and youth programs.
    In March 1966, the congregation celebrated its twentieth anniversary with the unveiling of the new mosaic mural on the south wall of the ramp.  There was a celebratory gala, complete with dinner, dancing, and entertainment.  In June, we dedicated our new Ark, which graces our bima to this day.
    In the fall of 1967, two new rabbis, Leon Kahane and David Spitz, replaced Rabbis Gittin and Schoolman.  We hired our first Early Childhood Education Department director, Annabelle Godwin.
    In the winter of that year, the campaign to finance the Activities Building began. This building was to sit on the piece of property to the west and south of the main building.  The property had been purchased in 1962 to prevent a developer from constructing an apartment building on that site.  Now the Temple needed to expand once again.  Rather than encumber the Temple with a further mortgage, we decided to raise the funds "in house."  To that end, the "Committee of Fifty” was established. Those who participated in this committee of significant donors had their names listed on a plaque outside of the new building.   That plaque still graces the exterior wall of the building, just to the right of the northern doors.
    There was a sense of stability in our staff and in the direction the Temple was moving.  During Rabbi Bauman's sabbatical, from September 1970 to June 1971, Rabbi Kahane was responsible for all rabbinic duties.
    On Friday, December 10, 1971, TBH celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with a special Shabbat service.  An inspiring cantata was prepared by our Executive Director, Aaron Weiss and his wife, Lilly, and special music was prepared by Cantor Brown and the adult and junior choirs.  The dedication of the Activities Building was held on Sunday, December 11.  The Temple culminated its twenty-fifth anniversary celebration with a dinner dance that evening.
    In  1973, Executive Director Aaron Weiss was honored for his twenty years of service at a special Friday Shabbat service.  By that year, our religious school staff was large enough to support new upper and lower division assistant principals; and we welcomed a new youth director.  By the fall, we had a new executive director, and in February, the congregation was notified that Rabbi Kahane was leaving. We were again in search of a rabbi.
    In July 1, 1973, Rabbi James L. Kaufman joined the Temple staff as Assistant Rabbi.  In a sense, Rabbi Kaufman and his wife, Sue, were returning home.  Both had been brought up in the Temple and had been very active in their teen years in our youth programs, S.C.F.T.Y, and at Camp Swig.  Rabbi Jim and Sue were introduced to the congregation that summer at a series of Sunday afternoon home socials, and his official installation was held in mid-September.
    In the fall of 1976, the congregation received the bittersweet news that Rabbi Bauman would retire at the end of the 1976-77 year.  To enable the congregation (both present and past) and his colleagues to say goodbye, a series of special events were held beginning in the spring of that year. These events included bestowing on him the title Rabbi Emeritus and naming the sanctuary in his honor.  The celebration concluded in June with a commemorative dinner dance at the Bonaventure Hotel.  Although Rabbi Bauman officially retired and moved to Northern California, he continued participated in High Holy Day services, conducted services once a month and was available upon request for Temple members' life-cycle events for many years during his retirement.
    In July of 1977, Rabbi Jim Kaufman became Senior Rabbi, and we welcomed Rabbi Stanley Meisels to our staff as Director of Education.
    In the fall of 1977, the Temple acquired a Holocaust Torah, as a permanent loan.  This Torah was among the many that were rescued from Bohemia and Moravia after World War II by the Westminster Synagogue in London. The Nazis had collected these Torahs, stored them in a warehouse and planned use them as exhibits in a “Museum of an Extinct Race.”  The Holocaust Torah is exhibited in the upper lobby, next to the Bauman Sanctuary.  Click here to learn more about The Memorial Torah Trust.
    In these years, Sisterhood continued to sponsor the popular "Hi and Flitey" Revues.  The Brotherhood sponsored its Hanukkah party and Temple picnic.  Our Havurah program continued to grow.  The Couples Club met on a regular basis.   Adult and children's choirs sang for us.  Especially notable was a wonderful concert presented by Cantor Sam Brown, in conjunction with famed violinist Glenn Dicterow and his wife, Frieda Gordon Dicterow, a concert pianist.  Cantor Brown was honored for his 20 years of service in the spring of 1979. The event was held, appropriately enough, at the Music Center.
    In 1979, Rabbi Jim and Sue Kaufman instituted their first Seder in the Desert. One hundred sixty families joined the rabbi and his wife in the desert near Barstow.  Despite very high winds, the group spent the weekend making matzos, participating Shabbat services and sharing a complete Seder. The winds did not deter either the rabbi or the congregation. This event still takes place every year and is always filled to capacity.
    Perhaps one of our busiest years, programmatically, was 1983. Our Early Childhood Education Department was rapidly growing under the direction of Yasmeen Latif Austin, who had been its director since 1976. We had outgrown our playground facilities, and we were fortunate to have a new playground that was dedicated in September of that year.
    Our Crisis Center also opened in the fall.  For the first time, we were able to offer low-cost, short-term mental health services to our community.  The center was staffed by trained volunteer para-professionals, and supervised by licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and marriage, family and child counselors. The center today continues to offer counseling for individuals, couples and children in a confidential setting. 
    TBH also began the Moses program that year.  This very special, award-winning program offered Jews with disabilities a place to actively practice Judaism.  Under the leadership of Iris Wechsler, this program not only won several awards, both locally and nationally, but also became the prototype for other synagogue programs throughout the country.
    Rabbi Jim initiated small Shabbat morning services and Torah study the first Saturday of the month, separate from the bar and bat mitzvah services.   Sisterhood, Brotherhood and school classes began participating in these services.  Isha l'lsha, Women-to-Women, was created at this time.
    Also, in 1983, our first professional from England, Michael Shire, became our Religious School Director.  We were fortunate to have him running our schools for five years before he returned home to England, where he is now a Rabbi.
    Also, in 1983, Temple Beth Hillel became one of the founding members of the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry.  Our relationship with the NHIFP continues to this day.  Our High Holy Days food drive helps to supply food in the autumn.  Our basement provides storage space.  Bins in the lower lobby collect food throughout the year.   In more recent years, we decorate our bima with fruit and grow vegetables in the Mitzvah Garden, both of which are donated to the NHIFP.
    Rabbi David Frank joined our staff in the summer of 1985, as a full time Assistant Rabbi/Program Director.  As the professional liaison to the Activities Committee, he helped create a forum for adults who are interested in contemporary issues.  Rabbi David actively worked with our youth groups and revitalized our day camp, all the while carrying out numerous rabbinic duties.
    Of course, the biggest event of 1986 was the symbolic burning of the mortgage at our Chai '86 celebration on March 23.  After thirty years, we made our final payment on the mortgage. Those participating in the celebration included our founding clergy, Rabbis Wolf, Gumbiner, and Bauman.  A special service was created and conducted by Rabbi Jim, Rabbi David and Cantor Sam, and featured the adult choir. The celebration included the affixing of a new mezuzah to our sanctuary entrance, and a commemorative poster was presented to major contributors to the Chai  '86 campaign.
    During our 1986-87 calendar year, TBH adopted Soviet "Refuseniks," Vladimir and Ana Lifshitz.  Vladamir had been held in a forced labor camp because of his Jewish activist role.   In part, as a result of letters of protest written by our congregants, Vladimir was released in 1987, and he and his family immigrated to Israel. We were fortunate to meet him and hear him speak at a Friday night service at our Temple.
    We began our scrip program in 1988.  In those days, the Temple would buy various retailers’ paper script in various denominations at a discount and then resell it to congregants at face value. Congregants would then use the script instead of cash at the store.  Over the years, the script program changed.  No longer does the Temple buy and sell paper scrip.  Instead, today, congregants can enroll in special programs, such as Amazon Smile, and their purchases are tracked electronically.  The retailer then returns a percentage of those purchases to the Temple.
    Later that year, our long-time administrator Sandra Fine left the Temple. The search committee selected our Early Childhood Director of thirteen years, Yasmeen Latif Austin, to fill the position.
    Throughout the '80s and '90s, the Social Action Committee continued to involve the Temple in several projects, including:  financial aid to Ethiopian Jews; spiritual support to Jews with AIDS; and community support for VOICE (Valley Organized in Community Efforts).  We also helped to house the homeless during the winter months.  We entered into a covenant with Faithful Service Baptist Church in downtown Los Angeles, engaging in pulpit exchanges with our rabbis and its ministers.  Because of the distance, it was hard to maintain that relationship, and we subsequently created a covenant with Parks Chapel AME Church in San Fernando that continued for several years. 
    One of our most successful programs of 1991 was the resettlement of Russian emigre families. We began with 23 families that first year and 20 host families.  With the help of our coordinator, Marjorie Coppersmith Brennglass, the new arrivals found living quarters, clothing, and jobs. Families were taught English, and adults were often retrained to work in new professions.
    On January 17, 1994, the San Fernando Valley was devastated the Northridge Earthquake. Luckily, the Temple structure sustained little damage.  But many of our congregants were less fortunate, losing their homes and/or their belongings. In the spirit of community, we banded together, providing both emotional and financial support to those in the congregation who were most in need.
    The Nineties also brought changes in the professional staff. After six years as our Associate Rabbi, and with much regret on our part, Rabbi David Frank moved to Encinitas, where he became the rabbi of a growing congregation.
    As is frequently the case, "goodbyes" are followed by "hellos." Rabbi Paul Kipnes and Cantor Alan Weiner joined our staff.  Rabbi Paul assumed, in addition to his rabbinic responsibilities, the duties of Director of Education and Activities Advisor.  Although Cantor Alan was new to TBH in his position, he was certainly not new to the Temple, having celebrated both his bar mitzvah and his confirmation at TBH.  Cantor Alan brought with him an impressive background, not only a cantor, but also as a composer and the conductor and founder of Kol Echad Chorale.
    Our elementary school, Beth Hillel Day School, began in 1994, with a founding gift from Naomi and Leonard Feldman.  It started that year with a kindergarten class.  In the fall of 1995, the school began to grow "organically," adding additional grades each year.  And, in 1994, Marsha Franklin became the Director of our Early Childhood Education Department, running our preschool.
    Our golden anniversary was a wonderful year.  Jubilee events began in 1997 with a Cantor's Concert in February, followed by a Monte Carlo Night in the spring.  Then we published the Holocaust Memorial Book, which contained remembrances of TBH members, along with articles and poems written by our religious school students and other writers in the community.  That year, we also introduced Mitzvah Day, which provided an opportunity for our congregants to perform good deeds to benefit the community, worthy causes and TBH itself.  Now, twenty years later, participants still look forward to this annual event.  Our jubilee year culminated with a daylong celebration and Service of Rededication, at which we unveiled new Torah covers, beautifully needlepointed by congregants.
    In 1998, we approved the construction of a marvelous new Sisterhood gift shop. Also in that year, we decided to recognize major donors with on-site plaques. 
    Fundraising characterized much of 1999.  There were auctions, the Purim Carnival and a special celebration honoring Rabbi Jim and Sue for their 25 years of service to the Temple. Their celebration included a picnic for families, and a special scrapbook presented to them that evening
    In July of 1999, Rabbi Paul Kipnes left to become the rabbi at Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas. In an effort to reduce the obligations on the senior rabbi, TBH became a participant in the para-rabbi program, ultimately sending three congregants for training.  One of our original participants went on to become a rabbi.
    For many years, past Temple president, George Friedman, conducted a shofar workshop during the summer months, training children and adults to sound the calls for High Holy Days. The concluding “T'kia g'dola” on Yom Kippur 2005 was George's last, but his program has lived on. Dozens of baalei t'kia now inspire us on the High Holy Days, and a generation of George's students sound the shofar here and in other congregations.
    In the new millennium, the Temple embarked on some "home improvements" – some, like the new playground on the upper lawn, that could be seen, and some, like the new plumbing, that could not.
    The religious school was awarded a grant for a new program for children with disabilities and their families. The program, know as Yachad (Hebrew for "together") program was successful.  Today, our religious school continues to be committed to providing appropriate learning opportunities for every student to become a bar or bat mitzvah at the age of 13 and a confirmand in 11th grade. 
    In 2001, new programs continued to be introduced.  We had our first Neighborhood Shabbat (a Friday night services for neighbors, held in congregants' homes), and TBH held its first golf tournament in the fall.  A new format was introduced for Friday night services.  Brotherhood sponsored our first Thanksgiving dinner for the hungry. This event has become one of the most successful in the Temple, with members donating the food and cooking the meals and our TBH families volunteering on Thanksgiving to serve the meals. 
    At the beginning of the new century, we held a great event (and a fund-raiser, too)  -  "Torah - Soul of our People," the scribing a new Torah for our congregation. Our scribe, Rabbi Shmuel Miller, was present for both the kick-off and the concluding ceremonies.  We held a "Reggae Torah" dedication service: singing, dancing, drumming, and chanting Torah while we stood as one under all the tallitot.
    Cantor Alan continued to introduce us to new and exciting ways to enjoy music in the synagogue. He formed a Shabbat band, "Members of the Tribe," with musically talented TBHers, who joined him and our choir on the second Friday night service of each month.  He helped bring us "Reggae Passover," spoofs on Purim and Hanukkah, and special services built around the music of Ami Aloni, Michael Isaacson, Jose Bowen, and Leonard  Bernstein.  He brought Cantor’s Chanters, our youth choir, into the community, entertaining at nursing homes and other venues on Mitzvah Day.  Cantor Alan has also composed many pieces of music for the Temple, especially for special events such as the Golden Jubilee and our Diamond  Anniversary
    The year 2002 saw the dedication of two important places in our building. The Social Hall was dedicated in honor of the Sands and Mallet families, two pioneering families who were primarily responsible for seeing that our little house became a big house some 55 years ago. And the Sisterhood gift shop was dedicated in memory of Milt Bremer, who was primarily responsible for overseeing the construction of the new space for gifts and Judaica.
    In the fall of 2003, directly after her ordination from Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Sarah Hronsky joined our staff. Her energy, depth of understanding, love of the congregation, and long-range vision brought a new spirit to the Temple.  She reached out to young and old alike, teaching adult education, interpreting Torah with b'nai mitzvah and working with students on trips to Washington, D.C.
    The following year saw the arrival of another TBH alum as religious school director.  Susan Levin, like Rabbi Jim and Cantor Alan, had her bat mitzvah and was confirmed here.  She brought a new energy to the school, and under her direction, it grew in size.  She expanded our adult education program and re-energized our distinguished lecture series.
    In 2005, our Beth Hillel Day School welcomed Fanny Levy as our new head of school. Accredited in 2004 and offering a broad curriculum in Jewish and general studies, our day school grew, with great ruach. 
    Our high school students have frequently traveled as part of the religious school’s curriculum, going to Washington, D.C. and to national N.F.T.Y conventions.  In 2005, our older students made a different trip, traveling to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.  Our entire Temple also helped out, by sending supplies to those hit hard by the devastating storm.
    In December 2005, another "homegrown product” of Beth Hillel joined our staff.  Rich Howard became the executive director of the Temple. 
    We experienced a new Shabbat observance in 2005, Shabbat at Sea.  Participating congregants joined together for a weekend cruise to Ensenada. 
    Our popular programs continued through 2006, including Shabbat in Your Neighborhood, Seder in Desert, Purim Carnival and our 5K Run, Walk & Roll.  Our seniors group, the Chai Liters, had a theater party. Our 15 active Haverot formed a council to help run the program.  Our Purim activities included a Megillah reading, Beatles-style.  Our covenant with Parks Chapel AME continued with a pulpit exchange and a “Make a Joyful Noise” concert.  Support for the North Hollywood Food Pantry, Mitzvah Day and support of Jewish World Watch continued to be among our social action projects.  
    In January 2006, we took time to appreciate staff and long time members.  On January 20, there was a special Shabbat service honoring long-time Temple members, Lois and Max Behm, Marcia and George Friedman, Stella and Harry Kornberg, Eleanor and Herman Kretzer, and Helen and Sam Saltzman.  The “Leaders of the Congregation” plaque was unveiled at that event.   On January 28th, we honored Cantor Alan with an evening of dinner, music and celebration.  Entertainers included Larry Goldings, Debi Derryberry and Stephen Michael Schwartz.       
    We also began two new fundraising initiatives.  The first one was to replace our old prayer books with Mishkan Tefillah and to honor Rabbi Jim by dedicating these siddurs in his honor.  There were plans to dedicate the books and honor Rabbi Jim at a Shabbat service in November 2006, but due to a printing error, the books did not arrive on time.  The event was re-scheduled and held in January 2008.  
    The second fundraising initiative was to announce plans to expand the capital campaign for the remodel of our aging facilities.  Over the next several years, we continued to raise funds for this $3.5 million project.  In the summer of 2015, we were awarded a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles to cover some of the costs.  While contributions from congregants and friends of TBH, along with this grant, brought in significant funds, we were unable raise all the money needed, and ultimately, we took out a small mortgage to cover the last couple of hundred dollars of work.  The first area of work for this multi-year renovation was the Activities Building. 
    High Holy Days 2006 also began a new observance, Tashlich at the Beach.  Our congregation joins together to observe tashlich, with prayers, songs, and the symbolic casting of our sins into the ocean. The tradition continues to this day. 
    December of 2006 marked TBH’s sixtieth anniversary. For several months, our newsletter, Omer, shared stories of the first 60 years, and our adult education program focused on six great philosophers, one for each decade.   In December, our Shabbat dinner celebrated the past 60 years and honored our past presidents.   In February 2007, we held a gala dinner dance at CBS Studios.  
    In the spring of 2007, our Purim Celebration moved to the Santa Monica Pier, after a “disco” themed reading of the Megillah and Persian Feast at TBH.
    The year finished out with a trip to Israel. Rabbi Sarah accompanied a group of congregants on this tour, our first in almost 30 years.  By all accounts, it was a wonderful experience, soon to be repeated in December 2017.  
    2008 began with the introduction of a new Mission Statement, “Temple Beth Hillel is an inclusive Jewish community affiliated with the Reform movement, dedicated to prayer, study and social responsibility.  We strive to enhance the spiritual, intellectual and cultural life of each member of our Temple family.”
    2008 also marked the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, and TBH celebrated in a big way.  It began in February with a “Night in Israel.”  The social hall was set up like Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv.  There was dessert and dancing.  Entertainment, provided by Danny Maseng, was “Israel: Sixty Years of Song and Story.”  Events continued through the year, with a panel discussion on Israel through the eyes of a Jew, Muslim and Christian and a class studying the Israeli poet, Hayim Bialik.  Even Seder in the Desert provided an Israeli themed program of “Israel, our Second Home.”  The celebration drew to a conclusion in May with school celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut and Shabbat observances.
    With the capital campaign moving forward, we began work on the remodel of the sanctuary in June 2008.  In September, we finished work on the Activities Building.  The building was renovated following LEED standards, creating an environmentally friendly “green” building.  It was rededicated in October 2008 as the Feldman Horn Mercaz. 
    There were more staff comings and goings as we approached High Holy Days in 2008.  Cantor Alan retired and in June 2009, we honored him with a Shabbat service at which he was installed as “cantor emeritus.” As Cantor Alan retired, Cantor Shana Leon joined us on a part-time basis.  At about this time, Justin Stein also joined us as a song leader.  
    In 2008/2009, we undertook an environmental initiative with a theme of reuse, recycle and reduce.   Beginning with High Holy Days, we provided information to our congregants.  We replaced light bulbs in our facilities.  Reusable shopping bags and water bottles were available for congregants.  
    In September 2008, TBH realized the Great Recession was taking a toll on our members.  We added to our fundraising efforts with a special program, Tzadikim, to cover the membership costs of congregants who were feeling the effects of the economic downturn.
    Our Purim Celebration in 2009 included not only “Purim at the Pier,” a Persian feast and  a “soul” Megillah reading, but also a Masquerade Ball at CBS Studios.  The big question was whether to wear a costume or not.  In fact, the Omer ran a column on this topic, concluding that costume or not, everyone was welcome!     
    The following year, our beloved Rabbi Jim retired after 37 years.  He was honored at a gala celebration on May 8, 2010 at TBH.  Our building was overflowing with current and former congregants who had come to honor Rabbi Jim for his years of service.  The evening ended with a ceremony in the Bauman Sanctuary at which he was presented with a memory book and was installed as “rabbi emeritus.”  At this time, our chapel was renamed the Kaufman Beit Midrash.
    Despite the retirement of our cantor and senior rabbi and the loss of our executive director, TBH continued to move forward.  Rabbi Sarah, with Assistant Rabbi Josh Samuels, took over as clergy for our synagogue.  And, on November 12, 2010, Rabbi Sarah was installed as senior rabbi.  In 2011, our Mitzvah Garden began as a project of Rabbi Josh.  In March, we returned to celebrating Purim at TBH with a “rock ‘n roll” Purim Shpiel and Carnival.  The celebration was complemented by an ECE Comedy Night. 
    During the 2011/2012 year, we held several memorable events.  We held another successful Comedy Night.  We had a hoedown square dance, and we honored congregants who had been TBH members for 18 years or more with a Chai dinner.  Our Purim celebration included a reading of the Megilla “pirate style.”  In May 2012, we added a Shabbat drumming experience for families with young children.  Unfortunately, we had to give up our popular 5K Walk, Run & Roll, due to new city regulations that made it cost-prohibitive. 
    In March 2012, the Caring Across Generations initiative began, with a drive to support AB 889, the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.  This committee, headed by Rabbi Jim, has grown to include not only TBH, but also other synagogues, churches and organizations.
    Fanny Levy, the Head of the BHDS Elementary School resigned at the end of the 2011/2012 school year to move to Sacramento.  Erica Rothblum took on the mantle of head of school for the BHDS Elementary School, a position she held for three years. 
    Expenses were a serious issue for TBH in these years.  Sadly, we had to say good-bye to Rabbi Josh in June 2012, because of budgetary constraints.
    In the fall of 2012, two rabbinic interns, Keara Stein and Jeremy Simons, joined our staff to help fill the gap left from Rabbi Josh’s departure.  Today, Keara Stein, now Rabbi Stein, sometimes comes by TBH to teach a class or visit.
    The 2012 High Holy Days introduced the entire TBH community to “TAG.”  Over course of the year, congregants, children and adults, earned points for engaging in acts of tzadakah, avodah and g’milut hasadim (charity, worship and good deeds).  Participants were acknowledged with the award special kippahs. 
    2012 was a red-letter year for our BHDS Elementary School.  It was the school’s “chai” or 18th year and was celebrated with several events, including a Shabbat service that honored the school’s alumnae.
     In the fall of 2012, we introduced some changes in our religious school.  We began offering a one -or two-days-a-week option for 4th through 6th graders.  K through third grade students came once a week on either Sunday or Tuesday afternoon.  And we began a “high school” night for 7th through 12th grade students, which included special programming and social time, in addition to classes. 
    We began held The Show, in January 2013, a luncheon and fashion show, including fashions for children.  Our TBH “little ones” looked absolutely adorable!  “The Show” continued as a popular event for 2 years.  
    In February 2013, we joined with Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, Jewish Federation and other Los Angeles synagogues to participate in the Six Million Coins campaign.  We helped to raise funds for Holocaust survivors. As part of our Yom Ha’Shoah remembrance, our students recited the names of those who died. This recitation was broadcast as part of the campaign.
    We continued to celebrate joyful holidays.  The 1960’s-style theme for our Purim celebration was “Peace, Love & Purim.”  Our Yom Ha’autmaut observances grew in these years.  We held birthday parties for Israel in our parking lot for all to attend, complete with falafel and cotton candy!
    And again, there were changes in our senior staff in the 2012/2013 year.  Marsha Franklin, director of the Early Childhood Education Department, retired.  She was honored with a “magical” afternoon, attended by children and adults alike.  And Susan Levin, the director of our religious school and adult education program, moved to Northern California.
    Thankfully, the remodel of the Sanctuary was completed in time for High Holy Days, 2013.   It was modernized with an up-to-date audio-visual system and improved handicapped access.  The space was also reconfigured with moveable chairs to allow seating in the round and a raised space directly below the bima that could be used for more intimate services and events.  The Sanctuary was re-dedicated during services at Shabb-a-Que in August 2013.  The remaining work included removal of the electrical transformers by the classrooms, refurbishing the rest rooms on the lobby level, updating the ramp and installing a new passenger elevator, all of which were accomplished over the next couple of years.
    Our Temple’s theme for the 2013/2014 year was “Kehilla” or community.   And many of our programs over the year helped to create a stronger sense of community. 
     In 2013, our Sisterhood changed its name to Women of TBH.  They continue to provide vital support for our Temple, not only through their programs, but also by operating the gift shop, and providing for our Oneg Shabbats.
    Our Isaac Ishmael Program with Muslims for Progressive Values had been going strong for a couple of years.  Together, we studied sacred texts, performed acts of charity and prayed. On February 7, 2014, we joined together for Shabbat services at TBH, praying to Allah and to Adonai.  The worship service was featured in the Jewish Journal.
    In March 2014, our elementary school proudly announced that they were among the top 3 schools nationwide for their integration of STEAM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) into the curriculum.   The recent addition of the Maker Space in 2015 further supports STEAM education in our elementary school.
    Our Purim Shpiel, Les Mégillah, was performed wonderfully by staff and congregants, as a parody of Les Misérables.
    In the summer of 2014, we welcomed our new rabbi and director of the religious school, Eleanor Steinman.  Claudine Douglas, a long time staffer in the ECE, became director of that department. Seth Pozzi also took over as principal of the BHDS Elementary School after the departure of Erica Rothblum.
    In September 2014, we announced our theme for the year, “Panin el Panim” (face to face).  As described by Rabbi Sarah, we want to “unite as one strong community, accepting and embracing the unique individuals who make up our warm Temple.”   
    As part of our High Holy Days observance, TBH created a video “We are Here.”  The video was displayed on the URJ website, which described us a committed congregation.  High Holy Days 2014 also marked a new fundraising initiative, the Mitzvah Circle.  Congregants who made a donation to High Holy Day Appeal in a certain amount became members of the Mitzvah Circle.  $100 of their donation was put in a special fund.  Later in the year, a special brunch was held and Mitzvah Circle members voted on how that fund would be spent for the benefit of TBH.
    Our Comedy Night, Stand Up for TBH was a big success.   The Purim Shpiel, “A Tale of Two Queens,” was a wonderful parody of  “Wicked,” well performed by our congregants and staff.  And in May, we honored Cantor Shana on her ordination as a rabbi.
     In September 2015, our theme for the year was announced: “Sharing Our Stories,” the stories of great thinkers, stories in Jewish parables, stories of our people and our congregants.  Our High Holy Days observances were rounded out with a new and very successful Sukkat celebration, Sukkah Palooza, complete with food trucks, picnicking, study and of course, a well-decorated sukkah along with the ceremonial lulav and etrog.  
    Also in the fall of 2015, the BHDS Elementary School, along with the entire Temple, welcomed Kathryn Jensen as head of school. 
    There were many memorable events in the 2015/2016 year.   Our comedy night “Stand Up for TBH” continued to be a popular and successful fundraiser.  February brought the return of Shabbat in the Neighborhood, a Shabbat observance very much enjoyed by all participants.   In April, several congregants traveled to Cuba with Rabbi Ellie.  And for Purim, our Megillah reading was “Shushan Wars: the Jews Awaken.”  Again, it was a stellar performance by congregants and staff.
    In 2015, we added further beautified our facilities with new artwork.  A mosaic was added to the back wall of the lower lobby and a new mural was added to the eastern wall of the preschool building.
    Yet, the most memorable event of the year was the celebration of Rabbi Sarah’s bat mitzvah year in May 2016.  A 1980’s-themed gala was held at the Temple.  Guests came in 80’s attire, and everyone had a wonderful time.
    In August 2016, there were exciting developments for our Temple.  Our staff was rounded out with the arrival of Al Welland, who joined us as executive director.  And our preschool’s license was increased from 93 to 140 children.  The E.C.E. Department was also one of six preschools selected to be part of The First 36 Project, a professional development program to further develop our teachers’ knowledge and skills.
    September 2016 was the start of our 70th Anniversary observance.  We began the year with the adoption of new High Holy Day prayer books, Mishkan Ha Nefesh.  The year has included special adult education and other programs and the adoption of a Strategic Plan by the Board of Trustees.  The Women of TBH have created a beautiful, quilted wall hanging to memorialize this milestone. The celebration is concluding with a gala held in our recently remodeled social hall.
    The Fernando Valley is a far different place today than when Temple Beth Hillel was founded.  In 1946, very few Jews lived in the San Fernando Valley.  Prior to the founding of TBH, the only organized Jewish institution was the conservative synagogue, Adat Ari El, then known as Valley Jewish Community Center. In 1953, seven years after the founding of TBH, only 9% of Los Angeles’ Jews lived in the San Fernando Valley.   However, by 1997, the San Fernando Valley’s share of the Jewish population of Los Angeles was 46%.   And, in 2017, the Jewish Geneological Society of Los Angeles listed over 20 Jewish houses of worship in the East San Fernando Valley (Burbank, North Hollywood, Studio City, Sherman Oaks).  These included Reform, Reconstructionist, Independent, Conservative, Orthodox, and Sephardic synagogues.  
    As we look back over the past 70 years, we can see how our Temple has developed and grown over the years.  There have been many changes.  Yet, from it’s early days, founded by Jews moving to sunny Southern California suburbs and raising the baby boomer generation, to today, with a membership noteworthy for its diversity and its welcoming nature, TBH continues to be a place where Reform Jews can join together to practice their faith, to appreciate their heritage, to learn, to educate their children and to enjoy their community.

As we approach the culmination of our Diamond Anniversary, we look with pride at what we have accom­ plished over the last 60 years, and with hope toward what will be our legacy in the generations to .come. Programs that we developed have not only succeeded but have grown. Our schools are full, and the building is alive with activity every day and most evenings. We feel confident · that tl1c commitment our founders made is being passed down to our children and grandchildren . And like those members who broke ground to build this building, we, too, look to conclude our 60th year celebration with a "groundbreaking" of our own. Not on a new building, though that will come, but "vith a newly remodeled sanc­ tuary and social hall. May we continue to grow "L'Dor V'Dor"-from  generation  to generation.

Sat, June 22 2024 16 Sivan 5784