Our Community > Our History
page tools :

Beth Am Milestones

1930 - 1940 - 1950 - 1960 - 1970 - 1980 - 1990 - 2000

 

Building Our House

The Founding Years / Consolidation & Growth / A Time of Transition / The Rembaum Years / Building for the Future

The Founding Years

December 26, 1934, was not the best of times. But six men gathered at Abe Jacobs' home on Cashio Street, "not withstanding the commercial hardships and financial stress of our present day," as Harold Fisch recalled later, and did not establish a synagogue.

The synagogue came later. First, they made a Talmud Torah, the Hebrew Educational Institute, "so that the younger generation may be educated in Judaism and Americanism along the true lines as taught to us by our forefathers," as Samuel F. Goldman wrote on the occasion of Rosh HaShanah the next year. Goldman is usually listed as the Temple's first president, but he was actually identified as recording secretary in a 1935 publication.

By then the first two bar mitzvahs had been graduated from the fledgling Hebrew Educational Institute, and there were enough families in the new Jewish colonies of Carthay Circle and West Pico to justify the incorporation of a synagogue under the name American Hebrew Institute. It was the third Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles.

Mr. and Mrs. Fisch-he was identified as president in 1935 but dropped from later lists of Temple leaders-contributed the ark and a velour drape. The Breed Street Synagogue, then still thriving in the old Jewish neighborhood on the East Side, loaned a Torah scroll.

Space in the Carthay Center Building on San Vicente Boulevard was the new congregation's temporary home, although an abandoned market at 5870 West Pico was the site of the first High Holiday services. Kenneth C. Zwerin was the first rabbi.

There were only 21 founding families, only one of whom is surviving-Suzanne Cummings, widow of Theodore Cummings, who went on to become U.S. Ambassador to Austria. Most of them were European- or East Coast-born businessmen and their families. But by the time of the brave first "Chronicle and Year Book," a page toward the back listed 26 members, most of them with six digit telephone numbers.

Several ads in the Temple's first year book testified to the demand for kosher food. La Supreme Kosher Wines and Brandy offered slivovitz from Czechoslovakia and Carmel wines and cognac from Palestine for the festivities. "You have been wonderful in your enthusiasm and in your willingness to sacrifice your time, share with your means and, very often, risk unpleasantness in order to accomplish our aim," Mrs. M. Wolf, president of the Ladies' Auxiliary, wrote in a message to officers and members of the newly-formed Sisterhood. "You have helped to fill my heart with roseate hopes a glorious future."

Her hopes were not misplaced. And while the unpleasantness that distressed her is not obvious today, the sisterhood was clearly hard at work from the earliest days of the fledgling congregation that was to become Temple Beth Am.

They started, not surprisingly, with a series of fund-raising dinners.

"These 'Balaboostehs' did the shopping, the cooking, the baking, the serving and the cleaning, and even got the food donated," Rose Dell wrote in a history of the early days.

When it came time to buy the first piece of property on the block that now houses the Temple complex, the Sisterhood emptied its treasury~$60-to get construction started. Lox and bagel breakfasts helped raise more money.

Women rang doorbells throughout the neighborhood to recruit students for the Hebrew School, which several Sisterhood members staffed as volunteer teachers.

By 1936, the first building-later known as Brotherhood Hall, and finally as Cafe Keshet-was completed, partly with the labor of early members, and opened for services at the back of a muddy lot.

The cost was $7,000 to build the 390-square foot structure, according to Samuel J. Katz, chairman of the building committee.

It should have cost $20,000 but because he was in the business, everything was done at cost, he recalled later.

Front-row seats at an early High Holy Days set-vice went for $7.50; less honorable locations cost $5.

A Mr. Cohn offered to buy 10 of the prestigious front row seats, offering to pay $50 for the lot. Upon which Phil Sockett, one of the foun4ers, agreed, but said he would make up the $25 difference. According to a memoir dictated later by Sockett, Cohn then said, "No one pays for me," and laid out the full price.

Then on Yom Kippur, Cohn demanded six honors. Sockett agreed, declining to take any money on the spot. After the holidays, Cohn gave Sockett $650 for the honors and and told him his original $25 offer was the smartest thing he could have done.

The Yom Kippur appeal that year $3,000. That was in the 1930s, when $650 was real money, when $60 bought a grass plot with perpetual care at the Beth Olam Cemetery in Hollywood and when 95¢ bought a dozen bottles o Fruit Delight soda delivered to your door.

"To the small group of men and women who worked so diligently night and day to accomplish this purpose, it made very little difference that we had no plush seats and air-conditioned premises," recalled David S. Schwartz, who served as president for seven years. "As a matter of fact, we were happy to endure the discomfort of the hard, collapsible chairs," he said.

By 1940 the name was changed to Olympic Jewish Center, the building was expanded and an adjacent lot was bought with hopes of adding a school. Familiar names started to appear in the ad books: Familian Pipe and Supply Co., Harry Winston jewels, Inc.

In 1942, the Temple was big enough to have 56 men in the Armed Forces. The Sisterhood did sewing for the war effort. A War Bond drive yielded $1 million.

"Upon us, who form the cultural army, falls the burden of preserving the civilization that has been evolved, developed and handed down to us, " Rabbi Max H. Kert wrote.

"Not the lack of enthusiasm of our community, nor the lack of support, but the blight of this war has temporarily hindered our plans," Schwartz added. "We know that tomorrow's peace will find us ready...

Indeed, a school building was finally built and dedicated in 1948 and the library opened with 200 books the following year. On April 1, the temple celebrated the first birthday of the state of Israel with a Purim masquerade ball.

Kert left the staff in December of 1949, but the post-war population surge that transformed Southern California found Temple Beth Am well placed for a boom of its own under the leadership of Rabbi Jacob Pressman, who came to Los Angeles as an assistant rabbi at Sinai Temple.

Having lured the young rabbi over to La Cienega Boulevard to conduct a Bar Mitzvah, Temple president Martin Belousoff buttonholed Pressman in the middle of the Torah service and implored him to take the pulpit-permanently.

"Rabbi, you must come with us, " Pressman recalls Belousoff as saying. "Sinai has two rabbis and we have none."

By 1950, Pressman's first year, the name had changed again-to Olympic Jewish Temple and Center- to avoid confusion with the newly opened Westside Jewish Community Center.

His first sermon was preached on March 1. The theme, "Do we need a Haman?"

Programs included a nursery school, bar and bat mitzvah programs, junior congregation, a summer day camp, an orchestra and social opportunities ranging from an Over-Thirty Club to the TallTowers, "for the taller-than-average young people."

But that was only the beginning...

Consolidation & Growth

With the arrival of Rabbi Jacob-and Marjorie-Pressman, Temple Beth Am grew from a small and struggling congregation to become one of America's leading synagogues.

Its sanctuaries and schools took over virtually an entire city block and membership increased from 200 families to more than 1,000.

"We always acted as if we were important and people believed it," Pressman recalls.

It wasn't always easy. Its proximity to Beverly Hills and the presence of some show business personalities and prominent businessmen-may have created the impression of prosperity.

But the congregation has been struggling with money problems since its earliest days.

"This has always been a bargain basement place," Pressman said recently. "When we started, we had no wealthy people. We had ex-G.I.'s and old folks."

Indeed, the records that remain from those days show frequent problems with cash flow and bank loans. But some- how the money was found.

"Had we been parents in Europe, we would have spilled our life's blood for 'Our children, as many did," the new rabbi said in his first Yom Kippur sermon in 1950. "We would have done anything to save the Jew who was oppressed across the ocean. Will we say no tonight to a plea for the kind of program which can give self-respect, spiritual guidance, and sustaining faith to our children and ourselves'"

Later that year, a giant Hanukkah menorah was installed on the roof and adjacent lots were bought to make room for expansion.

In 1951, three women were appointed to the board for the first time, in addition to the Sisterhood president and Sisterhood ways and means vice president, both of whom held their seats ex officio. They were Anna Belousoff, Frances Rissman and Edith Harris.

Other innovations followed: A nursery school in 1951, Friday night youth services, a Purim parade, a family seder service and a Pesach service on the "In God We Trust" television show, all in 1952.

Despite the bland image of the decade, the '50s were not without excitement--or controversy.

One day, a desperado walked into the Temple building.

"The kidnaper, dressed in a khaki uniform, entered the rabbi's office with a .45 automatic and a snarl: 'I need help,' " the old Daily News reported. "He went on: 'I'm desperate. I need $5,000. I was over to your house earlier. You have a lovely wife and children. You wouldn't want anything to happen to them, would you?'"

After forcing the rabbi into his car and driving him around at gunpoint for an hour, the thug accepted $400 and escaped.

Then, at the height of the Red Scare of the McCarthy era, the board was faced with the requirement to sign a loyalty oath in order to qualify for its nonprofit tax exemptions. After a debate that included arguments by an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, the board passed a motion to sign the oath- under protest.

There were challenges of a Jewish nature. Once, some liberal-minded members questioned the make-up of a new ritual committee.

"The majority [of the committee] are Orthodox-inclined whereas our congregation is Conservative, " the board secretary noted.

Others--or perhaps the groups overlapped complained about the cantor's "new" melodies for the High Holy Days, but the cantor wasn't having any of it.

He declared that all his melodies were 100 years old. "If the congregation wants Orthodox-type service, he cannot stay with us" the board was told.

And what's more, if he was to stay, he need an increase of salary­to $9,500 a year­ and tenure.

He stayed.

Although regular services were held in the building that later housed the chapel, the congregation gathered for the High Holy Days at now-vanished, movie palaces like the Fox Wilshire, the Circle and the Lido.

When the board decided in 1953 to go ahead with construction of the main sanctuary­"a great house of worship to the Lord," Pressman called it- there was $12,000 in the kitty, according to Sam Katz, who co-chaired the building committee.

The board was told that at least 100,000 would be needed to complete the structure. Soon, more than $125,000 was pledged, and members were asking when the construction was going to start.

On June 20, 1954, the ground-breaking ceremony was held, and just in time, too. Ten more days and they would have had to return all the donations.

That was quite a day. The festivities started with graduation ceremonies for the Hebrew School, then segued into the ground-breaking, accompanied by two choirs and a color guard from the Jewish War Veterans organization.

That night, there was a testimonial banquet at the Biltmore Hotel for the Pressmans- the first of many tributes in a 35-year term. The cost of the dinner was $6 a plate.

Dore Schary, then vice president of MGM Studios, was master of ceremonies as a dozen notables delivered greetings. Danny Thomas told some stories. Then there was dancing to the music of Manny Harmon and his orchestra. Didn't they have to go to work the next day?

That year, David Weyenberg died, A charter member and a caterer who hosted many a meeting, he was the first honoree of the temple's Hall of Honor.

An architect was hired, Ralph Vaughn-actually a draftsman, it turned out-and the plans for the new building were approved in January of 1955, but there was a little problem. Despite the O.K. from the city, the plans did not meet state requirements.

"We can't continue unless we make all the necessary changes, especially to provide the proper safeguards in case of possible earthquake' " the builder told the board. This took up the board's attention for much of 1955. It is comforting to know that the building's plans were revised to the strictest of earthquake safety standards.

Despite the distractions, the work of education went on, for adults as well as children.

"Many of us were never fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend a religious school," wrote Leah Feldman, president of the PTA.

"Others of us may have forgotten a great deal of what we have learned. At our meetings which have been attended with a great deal of enthusiasm in the past, we try to prepare you for the time when little David comes home and says, 'Mommy, today we learned all about Hanukkah! We learned the songs and prayers. May we do the same things at home?"

In 1955, the old building that had been used as a temple youth house was torn down to make way for the new sanctuary, and Marshall Sherman, chairman of the building fund committee, assured the membership that Eugene D. Birnbaum had been brought in as consultant and structural engineer.

"Your committee is very satisfied with the progress that has been made thus far and promises that if you continue to come forward with your pledges and support, our progress will be even more rapid," he said. "You must not fail us."

Ben Silverstein was president during the construction years from 1954 to 1958.

In May of 1957, a call went out for volunteers to lend the temple $7,000 to help meet the next a months payroll. One officer went so far as to lend the synagogue $90,000 to get through the year. He was repaid eventually.

Finally, the cornerstone was laid on June 9, 1957.

On it was yet another new name, but this one stuck. The congregation was to be known as Adat Beth Am, just like the rabbi's home congregation in Philadelphia.

Some teen-agers protested the change, according to minutes of a board meeting, but they were swayed by Pressman's explanation of what the new name meant- the Congregation of the House of the People.

"This building was designed by me and a draftsman. That's why it looks the way it does," the rabbi said later. "But it cost $440,000 unfurnished. People worked below cost. We supervised it ourselves."

He admitted that one of his goals was to design the structure in such a way that he could get to any part of it directly from his office without passing through a public area.

At High Holy Days services in the shell of the new building, Pressman called on the congregation to work for Torah, prayer, goodness and Israel-among other changes, by adopting the Sephardic pronunciation for Hebrew.

The rest of the building was finished and the social has were put into use in 1958. And the challenges continued.

A Time of Transition

For the next 35 years the buildings of the Temple complex echoed with the prayers, the laughter, the celebration, the education, and the happy social events in the lives of hundreds of thousands of our people. The great sanctuary vibrated to the inspiring notes of cantors, choirs, instrumentalists, and worshippers. Late Friday evening services attracted and inspired huge assemblies. Saturday morning, as well as Friday evening, saw hundreds of B'nai and B'not Mitzvah and their families experiencing great moments in their lives. The pulpit was the site of other hundreds of brides and grooms, for whom the colorful bimah, the bridal staircase, the gorgeous receptions in the spacious ballrooms, and the skilled guidance of wedding directors who cared made it the place to be.

Huge ventures such as Israel Expo West, Art Shows, Expo '76, Yankel to Yankee, full orchestral concerts, famous, artists in recital filled the building with excitement. Great figures of art, science, literature, stage, screen and television were proud to be presented or honored by Temple Beth Am.

Nevertheless, in the'60s, one of a group of board members walking down the front steps, said, "This will make a fine bowling alley in 10 years." His meaning was obvious. The ethnic makeup of the neighborhood was changing, families were moving further west and north and into the San Fernando valley. A significant number of the leadership wanted the synagogue to move with them.

Although a new school building was dedicated in 1966, by 1972 the Hebrew School enrollment was dropping as the big bulge of Baby Boomers passed Bar Mitzvah age. Land was available in the Sepulveda Pass, also in West L.A.

There were precedents: Sinai Temple, Rabbi Pressman's first home in Los Angeles, had moved from the Vermont area to Westwood. Temple Judea gave up its building on Fairfax and merged with B'nai David, leaving the names of its benefactors 'behind in an odd decor for what became, like the old Sinai Temple, a Korean church. Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin led a group of followers from Beverly Hills to a site astride the mountain ridge between the Westside and Valley, attracting many families from new suburbs on both sides of the hill.

Beth Am decided to stay. Several factors were involved: the gas crisis in 1973 made people think twice about moving to distant suburbs, and the integrated neighborhood to the south and east of the temple remained affordable and more young Jewish families moved back in.

The Library Minyan's unique blend of egalitarian and traditional worship attracted academics, Jewish community workers and other professionals who bought homes within walking distance of the synagogue.

There was a question of timing - it was too late to buy land - real estate prices had soared. Most importantly, there was an influential group of people who did not want to leave Beth Am's historic location between Beverly Hills and Carthay Circle. "There was a feeling of being an anchor for the community, not wanting to leave the elderly population who couldn't move, that it would be a 'shandeh' to desert," said former president Dvorah Colker.

"And here we are, hopefully in a growth pattern because of our day school. And the school was a consequence of that thought process: 'O.K., we're staying here, this is what we need to do"', Colker said. By the time her husband, Jack, became president in 1980, moving was a dead issue. Inauguration of Beth Am Manor, the senior housing at the south end of the block, showed the Temple's commitment to the neighborhood.

In 1970, Rabbi Pressman had prayed for release from the demands of hand-to-mouth financing, saying, "Fully one-third of the year is wasted in begging, borrowing at interest, raising penny by penny the dollars it takes to turn on these lights, open these doors, print these pages, teach these lessons..."

Was his prayer answered? Not yet, perhaps, but look at the synagogue now, six decades after six men met on Cashio Street to found a Talmud Torah.

Despite population shifts, tougher membership policies - notably, an insistance that dues be paid - and the rise of other congregations nearby, Beth Am holds the loyalty of close to 1,000 families. Hindsight proved the decision to stay was wise.

This wisdom was perceived by Rabbi Joel Rembaum, whose family had already been Beth Am members for 43 years. He accepted our invitation to be our spiritual leader, saying, when he was elected Senior Rabbi in 1985, 1 wouldn't have considered this position without seeing its potential to grow. I could see the dynamics going on from the inside."

The next ten years would see a new phase of development, construction, new programs, and building for the future... the years known as The Rembaum Years.

The Rembaum Years

The years 1985-1995 marked a dynamic period of expansion of membership and programming and the arrival of new staff at Temple Beth Am. While synagogue membership increased, the average age of our members grew younger as more young families joined the congregation. To meet the needs of the revived Jewish community that developed around Beth Am, innovative educational, spiritual and social programs were introduced.

Unifying Our Schools
The Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy was created in 1986, unifying our day school, religious school and nursery school into a single administrative structure under the supervision of the Director of Education. In this way a single educational philosophy could shape the Academy's curriculum and staff development, and the various schools could more effectively share curricular and programmatic concepts. It is anticipated that for the fall of 1995 the K-8 day school enrollment will approach 200 students, the expanded nursery school will enroll its maximum of 90 students and the religious school will have upwards of I 10 students. The Academy umbrella also extends over the Beth Am USY chapter, which, during the decade, grew to the point where it now includes Kadimah, junior and Senior USY groups.

The Academy educational leadership also supervises an enhanced, family oriented Bar/Bat Mitzvah program and a new Shabbat morning worship and activity program for young people, with congregations for tots, pre-school and elementary age children and teens. Dozens of Beth Am children attend Camp Ramah each year, and many receive scholarship assistance from the Beth Am Ramah Scholarship Fund. Through the 1980's and 1990's Beth Am continued to develop as a center for meaningful worship. The addition of a lower bimah in the Sanctuary brought the conducting of the service, the reading of the Torah and preaching closer to the congregation. The introduction of the Beth Am Choir has added to the musical beauty of the Shabbat morning services, as has the involvement of a growing cadre of lay cantors and Torah readers.

The Library Minyan has continued to flourish and remains one of the country's most well known Jewish worship experiences. The addition of the BAIT Tefillah service for young families has added yet a third worship opportunity on Shabbat morning and has added to the ranks of our regular Shabbat worshippers.

While synagogue membership increased, the average age of our members grew younger as more young families joined the congregation.

Innovative Programs
With the establishment of the Temple Beth Am Program Department in 1985, a new dimension­ formal and informal education and activities­ was introduced to the synagogue. Adult learning opportunities were expanded, so that now Bible, Talmud and Maimonides can be studied year round. An award winning young leadership program, called ATID, was developed; retired seniors were recruited to serve as tutors and teachers' aides in the Pressman Academy; and newly arrived Jews from Russia, through our Project Klitah program, were welcomed into the synagogue where, for the first time, they learned about their Jewish heritage.

Enjoying a close working relationship with Los Angeles' Jewish Federation, Beth Am applied for and received synagogue grants for these projects from the Federation's Council on Jewish Life and other departments. Because of our national reputation as a dynamic center of synagogue programming, Beth Am received a prestigious Avi Chai Foundation grant which enabled us to expand and extend Project Klitah. In recent years a wide ranging family education program has been developed at the synagogue, in which adults and chil dren learn about and experience their Jewish heritage together. Since 1985 annual Yom Ha-Shoah and Yom Ha-Atzmaut programs have given Beth Am members the opportunity to remember the Holocaust and to celebrate Israel's independence. The annual Beth Am Thanksgiving lunch for the elderly continues to be a major synagogue event, and it, too, garnered an award for Beth Am from United Synagogue. Over the course of the decade enhanced activities for senior citizens developed at the synagogue, with the Beth Am Happy Seniors serving over one hundred members on a regular basis. Two exceptional programs, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Reunion in 1990 and Yankel to Yankee in 1992, brought the generations together in celebration and recollection. Training a New Generation of Leaders

The decade also saw the integration of experienced and new synagogue leadership. The ATID program trained a new generation of leaders for the congregation, who eventually joined the veteran synagogue leadership on the Beth Am Board of Trustees and Executive Committee. Past presidents remained involved in synagogue affairs and maintained high levels of support. A new Brotherhood for younger men developed over the past few years, offering an annual retreat and outstanding programs. The Brotherhood recently merged with the Men's Club. The Beth Am Sisterhood supported an emerging Women's Havurah for younger women.

Building for the Future

With the development of a master plan for the renovation of the synagogue's facilities in the late 1980's, Temple Beth Am undertook a major challenge: the raising of eight million dollars and the implementation of a building plan that would result in the construction of a new school building and the remodeling of the synagogue building. In 1994 the first phase of the project was completed, as the Pressman Academy occupied the Rena E. Ganzberg Education Center. Rabbi Chaim Potok honored the congregation as our scholar-in-residence for the dedication ceremonies. In 1996, a remodeled Marilyn and Sigi Ziering Family Synagogue Center was dedicated. 

The Jeremiah Society

As the younger families who were just beginning to establish themselves economically became a more dominant element in the congregation, maintaining the financial strength of an expanding Temple Beth Am became a challenge. Fortunately, a select group of dedicated members accepted upon themselves the responsibility of a higher level of annual support of the synagogue. This cadre of "Fair Share" donors was expanded and given a new name, "The Jeremiah Society", named for the great Biblical prophet who responded to the challenges of his time by acting to ensure the future of the Jewish people. At the same time Beth Am maintained its place as a leader in support of our local Jewish community, the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University), the Conservative/Masorti Movement in America and in Israel and in investment in Israel through Israel Bonds.

As Rabbis Jacob Pressman and Harry Silverstein and Cantor Samuel Kelemer z"l assumed Emeritus status, their shoes were filled by Rabbis Joel Rembaum and Perry Netter and Hazzan Jeremy Lipton. Each brought a new and different dimension to the synagogue and helped to move the synagogue in new and exciting directions. Rabbi Susan Leider joined the senior staff in 2006 and enriched the congregation further. In 2008, the Beth Am community bid farewell to both Rabbi Netter and Hazzan Lipton; the congregation is beginning its search for the clergy who will serve as spiritual leaders into the future.

Dr. David Ackerman was appointed to be the first Director of Education of the Pressman Academy, and he was followed by Aviva Lebovitz, and then Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, all of whom helped to bring the Academy to new levels of excellence and achievement. William "Bill" Strick z"l stepped down from the Executive Directorship of the congregation, making way for Sonia Silverblatt z"l, and then Sheryl Goldman - all loyal servants of the congregation.

Temple Beth Am entered the twenty-first century as a strong, dynamic Conservative congregation, proud of its past, committed to creating a meaningful Jewish present and looking forward to a bright Jewish future.

 

1930's

1934
First “banquet” in an abandoned storeroom of Carthay Circle Theatre.
1935
Services begun by 21 families in an empty food market. Congregation incorporates as “American Hebrew Institute.”
1936
Lot purchased at 1027 S. La Cienega Blvd.
1937

First building erected; known as Brotherhood Hall, then Cafe Keshet. First High Holyday services conducted there.
1938
First dinner dance held at Wilshire Bowl
1939

Chapel built for congregation, completed in time for High Holydays

1940's

1940
Name changed to Olympic Jewish Center.
First Children’s Seder held.
1941
Lot just north of 1027 purchased.
First Purim play given by Religious School children.
1942
Building fund authorized for more adequate school facilities.
Men’s Club organized.
1943

Parent-Teacher’s Association formed.
Members buy million dollars U.S. Bonds-dedicate bomber.
1944
Mortgage on building at 1027 S. La Cienega paid off in full.
Sisterhood equips kitchen & purchases table set-ups.
1945

Youth groups and activities organized.
Additional lot purchased.
1946
Temple affiliates with United Synagogue of America.
School building begun.
1947

School building cornerstone ceremonies held at north side of Chapel.
1948

Celebration of Israel becoming a State.
First public seder held at Temple.
School building completed and dedicated.
1949

First library established with start of 200 books.

1950's

1950
Rabbi Jacob Pressman assumes duties as Rabbi on March 1, 1950.
Lots adjacent to Temple purchased.
1951

Nursery school started at urging of Rabbi Pressman.
Menorah erected on roof of Temple.
1952
First family seder held at Temple.
First Purim Parade on La Cienega Boulevard.
First Friday night service conducted by teenagers.
1953

Hall of Honor inaugurated.
Adult education classes initiated.
1954

Groundbreaking ceremonies for new sanctuary.
State of Israel presents Bond Award to Temple.
1955
New Temple building plans approved.
1956

Rabbi Pressman elected President of West Coast Rabbinical Assembly.
Foundation for new building started.
1957

Temple Board votes to change name of congregation to Temple Beth Am (Home of the People).
Cornerstone laying ceremony June 9.
1958
Building completed and dedicated.
Mirror Room now available for Simchas.
Permanent seats installed in new Sanctuary.
Youth Congregation honored by nation-wide recognition.
1959

Rabbi Harry A. Silverstein joins Temple staff.
Los Angeles Hebrew High School, housed at Temple Beth Am, celebrates 10th anniversary.

1960's

1960
Temple Beth Am Section purchased at Eden Memorial Park Cemetery.
1961
Rabbi Pressman delivers invocation at opening session of House of Representatives under President John F. Kennedy, at the invitation of Congressman James Roosevelt.
1962
Elevator designed by Rabbi Pressman and donated by Hy and Lynne Walter installed in Temple.
Sabbath family night dinners initiated.
1963
Rabbi Pressman again invited to deliver invocation at opening session of House of Representatives.
7,000 mourners pay respects to late President John F. Kennedy in six consecutive memorial services at Temple.
1964
Land purchased for new school building.
Pulpit area reconstructed.
Installation of bima stained glass windows completed.
Membership reaches high of 1,000 families.
Jan Peerce concert.
1965
Ground broken for new school building.
Plaque presented to Temple on behalf of Bonds for Israel.
1966
Memorial wall unveiled in memory of the six million who perished in the Holocaust.
New Ark designed by Rabbi Pressman dedicated with Nathan Shapell, President.
New school building dedicated September 11.
1967
Rabbi Morton Wallack joins Temple staff.
Solomon Schechter award presented to Temple Beth Am.
Wonderful World of Art.
1968
Saul Curtis Library dedicated February 11.
Daily Chapel reconstructed.
Bonds for Israel citation presented to Temple.
Rabbi Pressman honored at dinner for 18 years of service.
1969
Hall of Memories in Main Lobby dedicated.

1970's

1971
Sights and Sounds of the 70’s.
1972
Herzl School, college preparatory day school, founded by Rabbi Pressman.
50,000 attend “Israel Expo West,” a week-long exposition.
1973
Festival of the Arts.
1976
Temple celebrates United States Bicentennial with “Expo ’76.”
1978
Israel Maskit Showcase.
William “Bill” Strick becomes Executive Director.
Shalom, Shalom Ball honors Rabbi Pressman.
1979
Temple acquires remaining property south to Whitworth Avenue.
Rae Braunstein building dedicated.

1980's

1980
Temple founds Beth Am Academy day school.
1981
Temple celebrates Los Angeles Bicentennial at Gala Dinner honoring Mayor Tom Bradley and 14 other prominent Angelenos.
1982
The Candy Man Ball honors Sammy Davis, Jr.
Groundbreaking for Beth Am Manor Senior Housing.
Community College of Jewish Studies at Beth Am.
1983
Greatest Auction on Earth.
A Royal Evening honoring Dvorah & Jack Colker.
Marjorie Pressman honored at Bonds Between Us Luncheon.
A salute to Everett Covin, A Man and his Music.
1984
Dedication of Beth Am Manor— Senior Housing.
Cantor Samuel Cohon joins Temple staff.
Rabbi Pressman gives closing benediction at National Democratic Convention.
Book burial at Eden Memorial Park.
1985
Rabbi Joel Rembaum assumes position of Senior Rabbi July 15.
Establishment of Program Department.
First 6th grade graduation of Beth Am Academy.
Presentation of needlework pulpit vestments.
Rabbi Pressman honored by Israel Bonds.
University of Judaism presents Honorary Doctorate to Rabbi Pressman.
Rabbi Joel Rembaum elected to Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.
1986
The Phantom Ball.
Dedication of newly reorganized school system asRabbi Jacob Pressman Academy.
Dr. David Ackerman becomes first Director of Pressman Academy.
Revival of Purim Parade on La Cienega Blvd.
1987
A “Man of Note” Dinner Dance honoring Cantor Samuel Kelemer.
Dedication of Pilch Family Playground.
Creation of ATID Young Leadership Development Program.
1988
An Evening with Michael Feinstein.
Torateinu: Torah Fair and Siyum Ha Torah.
Sam & Rose Katz Soviet Jewry “twinning” program.
Temple Beth Am has newly reorganized school system.
1989
A Host of Toasts from Coast to Coast honoring Marilyn and Monty Hall.
A Strick Spectacular–Tribute to Anita and Bill Strick.
Dedication of lower bimah in sanctuary.

1990's

1990
An Evening with Alan King.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Reunion organized by Laura Klein.
Dvorah Colker becomes first woman President of Temple Beth Am.
Rabbi Joel Rembaum elected President Rabbinical Assembly Pacific Southwest Region.
1991
“The Best of Times Is Now” A Sterling Silverstein Tribute honors Kay and Rabbi Harry Silverstein.
Hazzan Jeremy Lipton joins congregation.
Inauguration of Capital Campaign to rebuild synagogue and school.
1992
Musical Political Satire with the Capitol Steps.
Groundbreaking for Rena E. Ganzberg Educational Center for the Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy.
Rabbi Perry Netter becomes Associate Rabbi.
“Dvorah A Celebration” honors Dvorah Colker.
From Yankel to Yankee designed & produced by Laura Klein.
1993
Saturday Night Alive with Steve Allen.
It’s You, Margie, It’s You - Honoring Marjorie Pressman.
Temple Beth Am participates in community mega-mission to Israel.
Rabbi Joel Rembaum elected President Board of Rabbis, Southern California.
1994
Dedication of Pressman Academy, February 1994.
A Tribute to Larry Schwimmer.
1995
Renovation begins on the Marilyn & Sigi Ziering Family Synagogue Center.
Aviva Lebovitz becomes Educational Director of Pressman Academy.
60th Anniversary Celebration honors Rabbi Joel Rembaum for 10 years as TBA spiritual leader.
Pressman Academy graduates first 8th grade class.
Sheryl Eisenberg Goldman becomes Temple Beth Am’s Executive Director.
1996
Jerusalem 3000 Celebration draws thousands to Temple events.
Marilyn & Sigi Ziering honored at dedication of Ziering Family Synagogue Center.
1997
20 Beth Am members celebrate Adult Bnai Mitzvah.
TBA - Inner City Christian Center partnership is inaugurated.
“Shuleboat” Dinner Dance honors Marshall Temkin.
1998
Pressman Academy enrollment tops 500 students.
Chava Alberstein performs at TBA in honor of Israel’s 50th Anniversary.
“Miles of Smiles” tribute to Alan Bunnage.
1999

All three schools of the Pressman Academy receive accreditation from BJE, WASC & NAEYC.
Alyssa Ellis is named “Youth Director Of The Year” by the PSW Region of USY.
The Ashkenas, Horowitz, Rabin and Schwartz/Wilchfort families are honored for four generations of Beth Am involvement.
Rabbi Jacob Pressman performed to a sell-out crowd on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

2000's

2000
Beth Am’s monthly newsletter “The Olympian” takes on a new look and becomes “Kol Ha’am”.
“Endowing Our Future” campaign kicks off.
Dr. Deborah Lipstadt draws 1500 people for the Joseph Rasky Memorial Lecture.
Beth Am’s USY Chapter was awarded “Chapter of Excellence” by the PSW Region of USY.
The Neshama Minyan is founded.
2001
A Pressman Academy delegation of 42 students, parents and staff visit the Academy’s twin school, Magen, in Tel Aviv.
The first ever Shavuot Harvest Festival is a tremendous success.
Aviva Lebovitz retires as Educational Director of Pressman Academy. Rabbi Mitchel Malkus assumes the position.
Virginia Maas is honored for her 3 years as TBA President.
2002

Pressman Academy receives its first grant from the Zimmer Foundation to develop a life skills program.
Mark E. Friedman joins the TBA staff as Director of Development.
Formation of the Israel Action Committee.
Rabbi Jacob Pressman publishes “Dear Friends” and Rabbi Perry Netter publishes “Divorce Is A Mitzvah”.
TBA honors Rabbis David & Jackie Ellenson with a farewell tribute dinner.
2003

TBA Members Break All Records with $12 Million in Israel Bonds Purchases.
Kol Ha’am and the Shavuot Harvest Festival receive awards from the Pacific Southwest Region of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Mitzvah Missions I and II visit Israel.
First Annual Pressman Academy-Wide Giving Campaign culminates with a Gala honoring Consul General Yuval and Miri Rotem.
Howard Pilch is honored for his 2 years as TBA President.
2004

A new Sefer Torah is commissioned by TBA through the Torat Emet project in memory of Charles Pilch z”l.
ECC and Day Schools of Pressman Academy pilot Hebrew Immersion program.
A record 48 adults and students from Pressman Academy visit Magen, our sister school in Tel Aviv.
TBA celebrates Hazzan Jeremy Lipton’s 13th “Bar Mitzvah” year at our congregation
“Live at 85” honors and showcases Rabbi Jacob Pressman on his milestone birthday.
2005

Shir Hadash service is established in the Sanctuary for Shabbat and Holidays
We burned the mortgage! Temple Beth Am is debt free!
Pressman Academy Religious School institutes Hebrew Immersion program.
YABA (Young Adults @ Beth Am) is founded to reach out to those in their 20’s and 30’s.
Koleinu program for children with special needs, and the monthly Kol Ha’am receive Solomon Schechter Gold Awards from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
TBA USY is named regional Chapter of Excellence.
2006

Pressman Academy celebrates its 20th Anniversary and honors its founding director, Dr. David Ackerman.
Following her ordination, TBA hires Pressman AcademyReligious School Principal Rabbi Susan Leider as Assistant Rabbi.
An International Salute To Our President honors Mark Wolf for his 3 years as TBA President.
The Ben Siegel Community Service Award was established and presented in memory of Ben Siegel z”l.
2007
Embarked on a Strategic Planning process to ensure the continuing strength of the congregation into the future.
Acquired property on Corning Street, to be used for expanded Pressman Academy Early Childhood Center classrooms.
Completed security enhancements with funding from the Department of Homeland Security.
Zerner Master Teacher Series brings four world-renowned scholars to TBA
TBA Honors Michael Berenbaum - Scholar - Author -Teacher and presents the Ben Siegel
Community Service Award to Nate Milmeister.
2008

The Library Minyan celebrates its 36th Anniversary Year with a Shabbaton weekend and publishes a Festschrift to mark the occasion.
Pressman Academy ECC opens new transition classes in the Corning Building.
Special programs honoring “Israel @ 60” bring together hundreds of synagogue and community members.
The congregation bids farewell to long-time senior staff members Hazzan Jeremy Lipton and Rabbi Perry Netter.
TBA honors Vivian Alberts and presents the Ben Siegel Community Service Award to Judy Cowan.
Rabbi Pressman celebrates the start of his 90th year with a Gala Show and Celebration!
2009

TBA engages in a formal search for a new Senior Rabbi and hires Rabbi Adam Kligfeld .
Rabbi Joel Rembaum concludes his full-time service to Temple Beth Am.
2010

ONE GREAT GALA brings together the entire TBA/Pressman Academy community to honor Rabbi Joel Rembaum upon his retirement, celebrating his 25 years of Leadership, Learning and Love and presenting him with the Etz Chaim Education Award.

Click here to read about TBA's 75th Anniversary Celebration


Temple Beth Am 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, California  Tel: 310-652-7353 Fax: 310-652-2384  betham@tbala.org

email page print page small type large type
powered by finalsite