Temple Adat Elohim
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Temple Adat Elohim History - The 1970s

And the river flowed - 1969-1972

By August of 1969 student Rabbi Gary Dolin left for his year in Israel and the first fully ordained Rabbi Fred Krinsky, was hired. Rabbi Krinsky was on sabbatical leave from the University of Southern California’s political science department. A very dynamic man, his sermons reflected his background and were anything but dull.
Mort recalled...The service with Rabbi Krinsky was an interesting one each week. Since he was the chairman of a civics department, his sermons were always current and we were kept up to date on what was happening in Israel as well as our government. There was a tradition that said that Rabbi Krinsky knew his sermons were good if my son Elliot fell asleep during his talk.
We are fortunate to have a letter written by Rabbi Krinsky, who has passed on, to the temple in honor of the new sanctuary dedication in 1997. In it he described those early services.
In the words of Rabbi Fred Krinsky...
“Our serenely rustic setting of Hidden Trails Camp lent itself to the spirit of camaraderie and commitment which so characterized those early years. I always remember parents bringing blankets to services so that young children could lie down when they tired. Youngsters were never left behind but instead celebrated the Shabbat with the adults; therefore, by the end of the first year, almost all the children knew the service, at least musically, by heart.
Clark Kates and his family had joined the Temple in 1971.
Holocaust Torah from Czechoslovakia is received by Temple Adat Elohim “We came in for services for the first time.” Clark recalled. “We were used to people going to Temple with suits, ties, and dresses, but here it was so much different. We felt immediately welcomed. We joined right away. Those days at Hidden Trails were something,” Clark continued. “We sat on wooden benches. Rabbi Krinsky did the service with a folding table for a bema. His wife, Lynn, sang and his son played a guitar. Nobody minded though, there was just this warm and friendly feeling to it all that kept you coming back.”
And so the river flowed, and Temple Adat Elohim continued to grow. On October 4, 1968 through the generosity of Al and Sandy Greenfeld the temple got its first Torah. Our Torah was tattooed No. 60 and was from the district of Rakovnik in Bohemia, 50 km West of Prague. The earliest record of Jewish settlement dates back to 1441. Our Torah once belonged to this amazing synagogue; which was built most probably in 1763—1764. Services were held their until World War II. After WWII the synagogue was used by the Hussite Church until 1950. Now the sanctuary shares its’ beauty with a concert hall for classical music. The Torah had been rescued from the Nazis by the Czech government and brought to England for restoration. Now it had a new home in the Conejo Valley.
“Once we got the Torah” Clark continued, “we had another problem. There was no place to store it at Hidden Trails. A Temple member, Max Straus built an Ark, but that made another problem. We’d have to take the Torah, the Ark, the whole thing home each week. I don’t remember who had that job, but somebody did it. They’d bring it all back Friday night and we’d set the whole thing up again.”
Meanwhile the Conejo Valley area was booming. The First Neighborhood development in Westlake Village, plus the continued growth of Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park, brought many Jewish families to the area.
Gene Marks and his family were also early temple members....Gene remembered,”I was on the membership committee. We'd check with real estate offices and look for Jewish names. Then we'd contact them and get them to come out for a service. Most were so excited to find out there was a reform congregation out here. We got a lot of support and we just kept getting bigger and bigger.
It soon became evident that a new home would be needed to allow for this growth. A new search committee was formed and after some research they approached Covenant House a local facility that already housed a Lutheran and a Methodist congregation. Since we were still a bit too small to be solely independent, the congregation worked out a deal and moved into Covenant House on the corner of Westlake Blvd and Agoura Road. The date was June 1, 1972.
Mort Rosenthal recalls, ”We moved to Covenant House before summer camp started. The move was fairly easy due to the fact that we didn't have that much stuff to take over. We moved the ark in a truck and loaded up our cars with whatever books there were. The next Friday we had our regular Friday night service. It really was that simple.
Gene Marks adds, ”Of course, we wanted to walk the Torah to its new home. There were about 50 - 75 of us taking turns holding the Torah marching straight down Agoura Road. I remember it was a beautiful sunny Southern California day. Had to be a first for the Conejo Valley anyway. “

Covenant House - 1972-1975

Covenant House on the corner of Westlake Blvd. and Agoura Road And so the river flowed into the summer of 1972. Temple Adat Elohim was now five years old and sharing space with a Methodist Church, under the direction of Reverend Truman, and a Lutheran Church, under the direction of Reverend Lawson. As they said back then, an ecumenical feeling was the reality. The other congregations were extremely thoughtful and sensitive to the needs of a Jewish congregation.
Bernie Benesch, of blessed memory, was the president of the congregation back then. From a previous temple history written years ago, I found this quote.
We shared our space at Covenant HouseIn the words of Bernie Benesch, founding member and the second president of the temp, ”The names of the three groups were on the pedestal sign on the corner of the property. It was a time of friendship, acceptance, and fellowship for Temple Adat Elohim, even though our congregation grew to use more of the facility than the Lutherans and Methodists combined.”
Again, Rabbi Krinsky recalled, ”I strongly remember our participation in the ecumenical arrangement at Covenant House. I recall Covenant House not only because of its innate worthiness, but also because of the first 13 year old to become a Bar Mitzvah three: our youngest son Glenn.
Rabbi Zerin at Covenant HouseIn August of 1972, Rabbi Krinsky decided it was time to return to academia and a search began for a full time rabbi. The choice was made and Rabbi Ed Zerin was the choice. Also at this time Cantor Saul Silverman, a semi-retired cantor from Temple Israel in Hollywood became affiliated on a part-time basis with Temple Adat Elohim.
Religious services at Covenant House were challenging. How do you create a sacred Jewish space in a church? Before services a cross was sensitively covered up, as were Christmas decorations in the season. Our Ark was on wheels. Every Friday night it was rolled out and then rolled back to a closet where it was stored.
Money was always tight and the temple continued to rely on the dedicated family of volunteers who did everything and I mean everything. One of those families was the Bocks. Marcia and Joel Bock and their four sons joined the Temple in 1972 and quickly became involved in temple life. Their son Ken has had a long relationship with temple Adat Elohim and served as congregation president from 2005-2007. Ken has many wonderful memories of those early days and in fact had his Bar Mitzvah there. Ken agreed to share some of those for this history.
Covenant House as remembered by Ken Bock....
“My family moved from the San Fernando Valley to Westlake Village when I was 11 years old . It was 1972 and they soon signed me up for religious school at TAE. My memory of attending school three days a week at TAE was that I was a serious scholar of Judaism and soaked up all that my teachers had to impart to me. When I checked these facts with my parents, they had a different remembrance. They say I did not want to attend and only did so under extreme duress; mine and theirs, and I was terrible at Hebrew!
“My dad, Joel, volunteered to be treasurer at the time and Mort Rosenthal was the president. My dad said money was always a problem and sharing the space with the two other churches at the Covenant House on the corner of Westlake Blvd. and Agoura Rd. was very difficult. “We had no money to pay the teachers and all of our income and expenses were tracked with one check book,” my dad said. My mom would help with the onegs each Friday night, putting cookies on platters and serving wine. “Volunteers did everything,” she said, “there were no custodians or hired help, we did it all. Every time we left, the rooms had to be better than when we found it.
“While attending school at the Covenant House I remember seeing crosses everywhere. On flags, books, artifacts, etc. I guess this is when I started to understand my identity and wishing we had our own place. I was uncomfortable and this theme continued for many years. I remember attending High Holy Days at different locations; the Los Robles Golf Course; the Mormon Temple in Newbury Park, twice; the Ascension Lutheran Church on Hillcrest. They always covered the big cross for us but I knew it was there.
“I was Bar Mitzvah at the temple by Rabbi Zerin on May 4, 1974.
“Just when I thought I was done, my parents said, “Oh, no you're not, you are attending confirmation class.” Being the strong willed kid that I was, I quickly submitted. I am glad that I did, because we had a great time. There were about 12 of us and we were older now. Our meetings were fun, we went to the beach. It felt less like an obligation and more like a club. After confirmation, we all went our separate ways and I didn't come back to TAE except for the High Holy Days; that is until I met my future wife, Lisa.”
Two months after Ken’s Bar Mitzvah, Rabbi Zerin left and was replaced by Rabbi Richard Address. We were not able to actually meet Rabbi Address, but we did contact him via email. He is still an active Rabbi was kind enough to write his memories of those early years.
In the words of Rabbi Richard Address...
“In the spring of 1974, a very young rabbi sat in the living room of the Rosenthals (Mort and Marilyn) to conclude an interview to become Adat Elohim's full-time rabbi. I had decided that I needed to be "on my own" after 2 years as the assistant of a congregation in the Valley. The regional director (Erv Herman) and the placement director for the movement both though that this small, developing congregation of 90 members would be a perfect fit. So, there it was, signed sealed and hired. The house bought (on Columbia Rd in Thousand Oaks), new born son (Alan) and a new beginning.
”Covenant House. I imagine few who are at TAE now recall the jockeying we needed to do to create a scared Jewish space. Mid-week Hebrew at the Covenant House classrooms. Religious School on Sundays at a local Westlake school. High Holidays at an inn in Thousand Oaks (the name of which I now forget). I do remember that it looked out on a golf course and I kept waiting to spot a congregant tee-ing off during the Holidays. I did once, but no names!
“Confirmation class trips and youth group trips. The gradual maturing process of a community as it learned to discover its own identity and begin to take its place within the L.A. community of congregations. (I still remember going to some meetings early in my tenure and having people respond after I introduced myself with "you mean there are really Reform Jews out there?) The laying of the foundations for the governance of the temple and the worship style. (still in evidence the last time I prayed there), Helen Walker! The temple administrative assistant, general caretaker and guardian of the rabbi. A truly wonderful human being. Reverend Truman and both the Methodist and Lutheran congregations who really did go out of their way, in most cases, to be respectful (remember the b'nai mitzvah that were scheduled during December and the careful masking of the Christmas tree and cross so we could have our sacred space. Services "in the round" and the birth of "super bowl Shabbat" (thanks top the Hamlish family who showed up for Friday night services the first time Denver played in their Orange Crush t-shirts). And, as the Rosenthals may remember, Marriage Encounter!
First Presidents club -Rt to Lt, Ed Pauley, Bernie Benesch, Mort Rosenthal, Gene Marks and Dick Lapkin - standing in the order of their presidencies ”All in all, the people I still remember. We were, so many of us, just starting out. In our late twenties, or early thirties with young kids and big dreams. Lots of empty living rooms and furnished "family rooms". Lots of people all chipping in to do Oneg Shabbat, picnics, special dinners and events...the Finks and the Lowensteins (too many crazy times to recount)..the Bendons, Kinbergs, Faynes and so many more. My presidents, Mort, Dick Lapkin and Gene Marks, and all their families who welcomed my family into the community and put up with some off-the-wall behavior. But, we had fun, and we built a community, a community that I was proud to serve and one that continues to grow; from those 90 families in 1974 to hundreds and hundreds now.”
Another milestone was reached during the Covenant House years, the hiring of our first full time cantor, Cantor Michael Anatole. Cantor Michael would go on to serve for 24 years. Cantor Michael is currently the cantor at Temple Beth Torah in Ventura. We were able to contact him and he kindly sent us some of his great memories.
In the words of Cantor Michael Anatole...
Cantor Michael Anatole“On Friday night, August 23rd, 1974, at about 7:30 p.m., I walked into the Covenant House, in Westlake Village. The Covenant House was, at that time, the home of Temple Adat Elohim. This was my first Friday night as Cantor, there, or anywhere. Debbie and I had married only 13 days prior and we were brand new Californians. I was more than a little scared. A friendly-looking man with a warm smile came up to me, and extended his hand. “Cantor,” he said, “My name is Mort Rosenthal. I am the president of the temple, and I am happy to meet you. I have just one question: Can you sing?
It had been a fair question. A couple of months prior, I had flown out to California from my home in Phoenix, Arizona. Rabbi Richard Address, TAE's Rabbi in 1974, had taken me to lunch at Solley's, in Woodland Hills. We had a lovely visit. He told me about Temple Adat Elohim, a relatively new congregation in Westlake Village. He seemed to be a “fun guy,” although he did not look anything like any rabbi I had ever seen before. He was well over six feet tall, with bright red hair and a goatee, and he smoked a pipe. I thought, “If this is a rabbi, I am certainly in California.
“He was, in fact, a very fun guy. I will always remember a sermon of his, entitled “The Incredible Diving Horse of Atlantic City.” But, I digress. During lunch, he offered me the job as Cantor, part-time (student pulpit), of Temple Adat Elohim. I accepted. Later, I learned that, the following Friday night, he told Mort Rosenthal, the Temple president, “I hired a cantor.” “Great!” Mort exclaimed. “How does he sound?” “How should I know?” Rabbi Address responded. Hence Mort's question to me on August 23rd.
“At that time, TAE had approximately 90 member families. We shared Covenant House with two churches, Lutheran and Methodist. I have extremely fond memories of Reverend Truman, the Methodist minister, and Pastor Lawson of the Lutheran church. These were excellent, haimish men, possessed of great kindness and humor. Would that the rest of the interfaith religious world treated each other with the sort of respect and compassion as we all shared!” It was also right around this time, in 1975 that Temple Adat Elohim entered what was referred to as the year of the presidents.
Eugene Marks describes what happened…”Mel Koven was installed into office, but had to resign because he moved to the East Coast. Burt Lichter succeeded him, but also resigned for personal reasons, so in the space of a few short weeks, I took office to complete the term.”


Histories tend to reflect great events, the history of a temple is no exception. However, a temple’s history can be a very personal thing as well. Each of us has our own set of memories of the important life moments that occurred at the temple. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. During my research for this project, I stumbled across an old history that dates back to the Covenant House years. The author is unknown, but the memories are precious and so I quote this slice of life in 1976.
“1976 brought the Guys and Dolls dinner dance, complete with a belly dancer for entertainment. Mr. and Mrs. Jack Goldberg donated our large Memorial Table, and members began ordering plaques in memory of their loved ones. Our new prayer books arrived and our congregation began a new phase of prayer. We presented a plaque to Covenant House that read ‘Hine matovu maniam” or ‘How good it is, and how pleasant when brethren dwell together in unity’. Another plague went up on the memorial board in memory of the Six Million who died in the Holocaust. Always remembered, never to be forgotten.”


And so the river flowed into the year 1978. Temple Adat Elohim had grown to well over a hundred families and it was clear that the time was right for the temple to have its own home. Actually, this thought was not new. The year before, a committee had been formed to begin the search for our own home. While all this is going on, in the summer of 1978, Rabbi Address left for another position and was replaced in December of that year by a young rabbi from Pittsburg, PA, Rabbi Elliot J. Holin.
Again Rabbi Address remembers....
”I remember the last time. It was July of 1978. My family and I were leaving to move back to Philadelphia to assume the position of regional director for the Pennsylvania Council of the then UAHC. Rabbi Holin was on his way (he later followed me to Philadelphia and I became his regional director). We stopped at the temple picnic to "hang out" one last time and kind of say a last good bye. It was a bittersweet time. As we got into the car to head home and finish packing, I remember looking back into the rear-view mirror. This Adat Elohim chapter was closing, a new world was opening and I was very happy to have had the honor of being called to be TAE's rabbi. We both learned so much together as we both grew. Truth be told, in all these years, I still think of it as my congregation. Thanks and mazel tov! ”And so you have the beginning of the temple’s next phase. With over a hundred families and counting, Temple Adat Elohim was rapidly outgrowing Covenant House. It is clear to all that it was time for our own permanent home. So the search begins...

Hillcrest - 1979

In 1979, Clark Kates found himself the chairman of the search committee looking for a new home. “At first everyone wanted a Westlake Village address,” Clark explained. “We looked at a bunch of properties, even looked up around Potrero Road, but it was all way out of our price range.”
Richard Lapkin was president of the congregation during this period of time.
In the words of Richard Lapkin, “Our search for a home took place over many months. We looked at locations throughout the area from Agoura to Camarillo. Many on the board and many Temple members felt we couldn’t afford to purchase our own property. Fortunately many of us felt we couldn’t afford not to.
“Then we heard about a piece of property on Hillcrest Drive…
Clark Kates continued, “It was called the Conejo Valley Church located at 2420 Hillcrest Drive. The A-frame building had been on the market for 2 years. It was a beat up old building with a slanted roof. Inside was a small chapel. It even had a baptismal pool. I think it was Manny Feingold who said, ‘Hey guys, look, we even have a mikvah!.’ It really wasn’t much, but it fit our price range and we saw the potential.
The negotiations began. The final price was $245,000. The church was asking $285,000, and we offered $220,000; they countered with $263,000 and we responded with $235,000; they responded with $245,000 which we accepted. Stan Cohen, our negotiator/attorney, and I were very pleased.”
Richard Lapkin added, ”When the church became available and we had negotiated a price, the members of the building committee called a special congregational meeting and put on a very professional “dog and pony” show, architected by Dick King an advertising executive.
When Zelda Finestone counted the votes approval was overwhelmingly given. On May 14, 1979, with a down payment of a $5000 check to Title Guarantee and Trust Company, the congregation of Temple Adat Elohim purchased the Conejo Valley Church building and land.
Richard Lapkin, ”Ellen Kinberg and I went down to the City of Thousand Oaks and signed papers to transfer title to TAE. We both felt honored and touched to be part of temple and Conejo Valley history. When we finally took possession, those who were there will never forget removing the cross that hung on the wall over what was to become the location of our arc.”
Clark Kates leads us to our new home on HillcrestA little over four months later on a misty Saturday morning, September 29, 1979 to be exact, a couple of hundred congregants gathered in front of Covenant House to walk the Torah to its new home on Hillcrest Drive. By then we had two Torahs and everyone took turns carrying them. Up Westlake Boulevard they marched. Over the freeway on which 12 years before the car poolers had struggled to drive their kids an hour each way to Ventura to get their kids a Jewish education. Across Thousand Oaks Boulevard and on to Hillcrest. At last Temple Adat Elohim had a real home. Yeh, the place was a little run down, but it was our home.
Converting a church to our new Jewish home In the words of Rabbi Elliot J. Holin, ”I remember the day when our families walked from Covenant House to our new location on Hillcrest Drive carrying the Torah Scroll, passing it among our children, youth and adults, as we progressed from Westlake Village to Thousand Oaks.
Clark Kates and Joe Kinberg were chosen to carry the Torahs inside the new synagogue. Clark Kates remembers the day vividly. His eyes misted as he remembered.
“Oh that was quite a moment. I stepped inside and I got light headed as this tremendous feeling of euphoria swept through my body. Never felt anything like it. I remember it all so vividly, even to this day.”
And so the Torahs were carried in. The synagogue was jammed with people Rabbi Holin presided over a service of dedication and just like that Temple Adat Elohim finally had its own home.
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