evening and L’Shana Tova,
Each year at
the Kol Nidre service I try in few short minutes to let you know all that has
happened to this synagogue in the preceding 12 months. This year it is
particularly apropos because we have recently celebrated a milestone of 40 plus
years existence. That's four
decades….one short of half a century. Tonight we enter year 43. That's quite Amazing! Who would have guessed!
Charley Powell said to me we are going to start a Synagogue I thought he had
gone round the bend. He said, “We are going to reintroduce Judaism to all the
wanderers who have for whatever reason drifted away. It sounded good! Bu then
Charley sold movies professionally and was hugely successful at it. He went
on.. “On the plus side we have a rabbi. He is an ordained rabbi from a family
of distinguished rabbis. He is also a standup comedian and an agent for comics.
On the minus side, we don't have a sanctuary. We also don't have any books, or
yarmulkes or taliesim. We don't even
have a torah or an ark. We have no treasury. We also don’t have an
administrative staff or even an office so we will use his dining room. And we
are going to charge only $18.00 to join.”
could go wrong?
And yet… here
we are 43 years later.
the founders of this idea and the concept that religion should be open to
anyone who wishes to worship in an atmosphere of camaraderie and companionship.
survived 15 or more venues in locations all over the west side and the valley. Even
this venue has been sold but appears to be a few years away from closing its
doors so we are secure for now.
had 10 presidents 3 of whom are here tonight Susie Ross, Barry Rubin and Howard
Fine. Their contributions to the life of
this synagogue have been immeasurable.
is a main reason of our success.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has been with us 25 years . Rabbi
Telushkin is indeed unique. His past writings have made him known around the
world and he is one of the leading Judaic scholars of our time. His wisdom and
his humor have led us for all those years. He is a master among masters, and I
love him dearly.
Judy Fox has been with us I think since she was teenager. Actually it is over
30 years but she doesn't want me to say that. So I won’t! She does so much for
every service, helping with planning -- the writing – and the organizing -- and
let’s face it, when she sings, she is awesome. Judy is also our first responder
for most of the life cycle events that occur within our synagogue family. She
is most dear to us and we treasure her.
think of any synagogue anywhere being as fortunate as we are to have this incredible
the best Board of Directors right now that we have had in all the years I have
been a member of this synagogue and served on its boards. They are hardworking
and smart and creative and supportive. They still volunteer their time and
energy to make it work. I would ask each to stand as I call their name so
you get to know and appreciate the people that make this synagogue work:
Executive Director, Cookie Miller
President of Ritual, Susie Ross
our board members:
Brand, Howard Fine, Marcy Goldman, Eddie Goldstein, Nicki Goldstein, David
Goryl, Stacey Goryl Barty, Richard Hoffman, Sheila Manning, Herb Mendelsohn,
Andrew Robinson, and Sharon Weisz.
urge you to get to know them. They are here at most services. So, if you have
ideas that you wish to let us know about or even a complaint, please talk to
one of the board members.
some have said we are not a full service synagogue, in most ways we truly are.
We do provide life cycle services whenever there is a need. We do watch over
and take care of the needs of our congregation.
few tangible assets. That’s part of our original design. We don’t have
buildings to support. Among the few valuable assets we have, you see in front
of you, the ark, the torahs, the table, the podiums, the cabinet with the names
in memoriam of past members, and inside the cabinet for all to see, stands our
Holocaust Torah. I was asked about the
torah at RH and though I have spoken of it before, some new facts have come to
light that I feel might be of interest.
Earlier this year in the Jewish Journal, there was a splendid article
written by Eitan Arom on the origins of the Holocaust Torahs. Here are some of the facts that I learned
morning in February 1964 in London England, a pair of trucks pulled up to the
Westminster Synagogue while members waited anxiously in the damp air to unload
more than 1000 scrolls, a collection believed to be the largest ever gathered
under one roof.
one they were carried into the synagogue and placed on the checquered marble
floor of the hall. Higher and higher the pile rose, spreading out across the
floor like shrouded bodies, and treated with the reverence that such bodies
of 1564 torahs had lately been discovered in a rundown warehouse in Prague. In
the early 1940’s, the Nazi occupiers of what was then Czechoslovakia had forced
Jewish archivists to bring together the scrolls from the districts of Bohemia
and Moravia and catalogue them. Bohemia and Moravia are areas in the eastern
part of what is now the Czech republic but no longer exist as independent
states. At one point they demanded a showing for the SS and the Museum of the
Jews was planned as an exhibit of an extinct race.
the scrolls were partially burned or bloodstained and most were in dire need of
repair and care. The soffers ( men who literally write the Torahs) spent the
next 2 decades repairing the scrolls,
readying them to be shipped for ritual use or memorial display around the
world. The majority of the Torahs found
their way across the Atlantic with several finding their way to southern
California. It was Charles Powell who heard of the Westminster project and applied
for the SFTPA to become a trustee. That's how this torah came to our being.
a few interesting facts about these scrolls. As much as each Torah is identical
with the same words and text, each one is also individual and has an individual
in each one is identical down to the proportions. The lines on each panel are
no longer than three times the length of the longest word. Ten letters are
written larger than the rest, and each scroll has a unique set of blemishes and
1964 all but 130 scrolls have found new homes with congregations, schools,
museums, synagogues and jewish organizations. The remaining 130 are held in a
small museum in London. One scroll is in the care of Queen Elizabeth II, and
lives in the Royal Library.
scrolls were in various states of disarray. Some were tied shut with prayer
shawls, two were secured with ladies corsets, seven had at some point been
buried. When the Soffers began examining the Torahs in London, a note fell out
of one that read, “Please God help us in these troubled times”.
Torah that is in our care originated in Moravia and the scroll was written in
1880 – 136 years ago and long before
anyone in the room was even born. It is in a fragile state. It is torn
and abused on many pages and it is probably unable to be restored fully to a
kosher state. The society who gave us this torah requires that the scrolls be
displayed in a permanent way but we have been given a dispensation by them,
since we don't have a permanent building, to display the scroll on the High Holidays
and special occasions.
to me this scroll has always been a symbol, an icon that has touched me deeply.
This Torah has seen and experienced things that most of us could not imagine.
And yet, it still exists in its tattered state to inspire us and tell its story. To me it is one of the many reasons this
synagogue exists, so that the message and story of this scroll won’t be
the reason, that each year I reach out to implore you to help keep this
synagogue alive and afloat. We will never be rich as that's not our charter.
But to exist and serve our community - that is our prime purpose. It is not
easy -- at least for me -- to ask each year that you contribute funds to help
us. I don’t ever want to appear to be the boy who cried wolf. And if you don’t
remember that fable from your childhood, it tells the story of a boy who cried
wolf for the fun of it and each time the villagers stopped their work and raced
to save the boy only to find him laughing and saying “just kidding” or the
equivalent. Until the day there really was a wolf and the boy truly in danger
cried out once again but no one believed him and no one came to help him.
have been careful not to exploit our fiscal situation ever when I ask for help,
but if you are very quiet and take a deep breath you might hear the wolf
scratching at our door this year, and unlike the boy in the story this isn’t a
synagogue has always needed your help… Because our expenses rise in the normal
fashion of expenses… Because things are more expensive each year… Because the
phrase “non profit” is our lot in life… Because our investments don’t always
return what they are expected to, and… Because our dues are held in check by
the desire not to burden you, our congregation, with higher fees. This year for
some reason, maybe because of all of the above, we are particularly in need of your
help. We sit on the cusp of a great
shortfall if we cannot reach our goal. We will really be in trouble if we don't
make our goal. So I ask you this time round – this year -- to please find a way
to donate to us great or small. Great
would certainly be better but any amount and every donation will be truly
appreciated. I would hope this dire
state of affairs will not carry beyond this year. But it might. Our need will
always be there but hopefully not as dire as we find ourselves this year.
Please think about these services that we provide, how beautiful and
inspirational they are.
board members will pass out envelopes as you leave. Please, please use them
wisely. As I have said before, there is no other guy. YOU are the other guy and we need you this
year more than ever.