Temple Adat Elohim
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Temple Adat Elohim History - The 1980s

The A-Frame Synagogue

There was so much work to do and no money to do it with. So once again the great force of Temple Adat Elohim volunteers stepped up.
Gift ShopWe had to do all the work ourselves,” Clark remembered. “Me and Dick King designed and hung the front sign. TEMPLE ADAT ELOHIM it read. It was Pete Reinish who coordinated the fix up. Norm Levinson supervised the electrical work. Then there was Max Straus, and really so many others. I don’t want to leave anyone out. Literally everybody did something.” Ken Bock remembers, “The sanctuary was interesting. Filled with indestructible orange chairs, styrofoam gold engraved artwork covering the whole bema wall at one time and a small gift shop made up of a couple of cabinets at the back of the room. Since the building was a church before we moved in, it is a little known secret that there was a baptism pool behind the Ark; drained of course. There was also a faint shadow of a cross above the bema, from where it was removed when we bought the place; not fully removed until the building was remodeled. Bottle brush bushes surrounded the temple and the land next door was vacant.”
It wasn’t long before Temple Adat Elohim was up to full speed at the Hillcrest location and the next few years of temple life flew by. Again to quote an anonymous Temple historian from a history compiled back then: ”The years just passed so quickly. We could still remember the cold nights at Hidden Trails and the Sunday school classrooms that had beds instead of chairs to sit on. During the first annual Tribute Ball, the past president was the master of ceremonies and the new president had to take all the pictures. Then there were fact-finding trips to Israel, the horror of the Six Day War in 1973. The ecumenical feeling of Covenant House. Most of all though it is the kids. Watching them have their Bar/bat mitzvahs, then getting married and having their own kids. We look back, and then we look forward!”
As the decade of the 1970s came to a conclusion, Temple Adat Elohim had much to look forward to.

May 1980 - The Empty Lot Next Door

The empty lot next door and future site of our new sanctuarySince we had purchased the property on Hillcrest back in September of 1979 the lot next door had been an empty field that was not part of the original purchase. Nobody gave much thought to the land next door; there was more than enough to worry about fixing up the facility that we did own. All this changed rather suddenly on a spring day in May. In the words of Mort Rosenthal....
“The property next door had been for sale for years. Nobody paid any attention to it. Then one day I received a call from the temple that someone was inquiring about purchasing the vacant lot next door for a preschool. I contacted a friend who was a Realtor, and we called on the owner of the lot and were told that there had indeed been inquiries. I made the decision then and there and told him that the temple was interested and could he hang on for a few days. We agreed on a purchase price of $108,000, and now it was up to me to get a down payment and loan from the bank. Our board of directors said that they would repay the people who gave the deposit within 3 to 5 years. I began approaching congregants to ask for $5,000 each. The group would own the land and when the temple paid them back, they would donate the land to the temple, and the assessed value of the land would be a tax deduction to each. We raised $35,000 in a week, and that was the down payment. The Temple would pay the fee each month. Within two years the temple was ready to repay each of us. Some took the money and others donated their share to the temple. The Realtor donated his commission to the temple. The assessed value of the land at the time of sale to the temple was $125,000.
The group called themselves the Temple Land Associates and on June 18, 1980 they took possession of the property next door to the Temple. Almost two years later, on March 26,1982, the Temple had repaid the original debt and the group donated the land to Temple Adat Elohim.
It took 15 years for Temple Adat Elohim to build our new sanctuary on that property, but try to imagine what the future of our Temple would have been if this group of people had not stepped up with the down payment. How could we have possibly been able to expand our facility?
Where would we have gone? How could we have found the land necessary? Can you only imagine the cost 10 years later to buy the acreage necessary?
This entire transaction is very indicative of what is a recurring theme in the history of Temple Adat Elohim. There is a need and there are those willing to step up to meet that need. It is as simple as that.
Who were those families.....Besides Mort and Marilyn Rosenthal let’s thank, Ray & Beverly Breslau, Alan and Janet Fink, Albert and Sandra Greenfield, Dodd and Sandra Leanse, Jean Lee, Larry and Judy Levine, Eugene and Maryann Marks, Ron and Jackie Pizitz, Harry and Bev Pomeranz, Jack and Elizabeth Thompson, Harvey and Fran Waldman.

1981 - The Desecration

The community rallied when we were attackedMarilyn Rosenthal, of blessed memory, was elected as the first woman president of the congregation.
Within a few months of her election the temple was vandalized by a neo Nazis group. Her husband, Mort recalls, ”Someone during the night had snuck onto temple property and had spray painted swastikas and phrases like ‘Jews die’ on the building. It was horrible. The congregation was in an uproar. Of course everyone wanted to paint it over immediately. I can remember all this so vividly. Marilyn stood up and said no, before we paint it over let the entire community bear witness”. It was a powerful statement.
For three days, anyone who drove down Hillcrest saw the result of this act of hatred. Plans were made to rededicate the building. By then, the entire community of the Conejo Valley knew what had happened. Hundreds of people showed up. Jews and non-Jews worked side by side to repaint and rededicate our temple. Those responsible were never caught, but Marilyn’s statement resonated throughout the community.
Again a tremendous outpouring of outrage from the entire community was the result. Temple Adat Elohim came through it all stronger than ever.

1982 - Building the School

Education firstThe decision was made to begin fund raising with the object of building a day school for the children of Temple Adat Elohim. Hal Bloom and Elaine Gerwirtz was put in charge of capital fund raising. Fran Waldman was given a budget of $2000 to begin planning for the facility. Again Mort remembers....
“There were many who wanted to raise money and build a new sanctuary, Marilyn led the faction that said, ‘no, first we have to take care of the Jewish education of our children.”
This thought carried the day. It only made sense, after all. The original 16 families had founded the temple in order to provide a Jewish center of prayer and education close to our community. We had a sanctuary that was adequate, we needed classrooms for the kids. This decision culminated with the ground breaking of our day school on October 14, 1984.

1984 - The Rabbi Greenbaum Era - The Beginning

Rabbi Alan GreenbaumThe summer of 1984 brought with it another major milestone, only at the time, nobody knew it. Rabbi Elliot Holin resigned to return to Pennsylvania and the search committee hired a young rabbi named Alan Greenbaum. After four rabbis in a 17-year period, Rabbi Greenbaum was to serve for an astounding 21 years. During his tenure, Temple Adat Elohim went from a small reform congregation gathering in a converted Chapel, to one of the fastest growing congregations in the United States that could point with great pride at its beautiful, brand new sanctuary.
There is really no way to truly measure the impact of Alan Greenbaum on the history of Temple Adat Elohim. It was immense. As we said, he served as Rabbi for 21 years and spearheaded unprecedented growth. Yet,he remained a simple, modest man; someone you would never hesitate to approach and ask a question, or make a comment to. In the midst of whatever he was doing, he would look you in the eye and listen to you as though you and he were the only people in the world. Invariably he would be whisked away by someone else, but you were left with a feeling of being touched by someone who cared. You always knew that if you needed something more, he would give it to you. His services reflected the man. Quick with a joke, one could always tell that he strongly felt his calling and had a deep love of Judaism. When he left, we all knew that the search committee would find a new rabbi to lead our congregation, but that Rabbi Greenbaum would never be replaced.
Rabbi Greenbaum at summer camp />And so we turn first to Rabbi Greenbaum to help put those 21 years in some sort of historical perspective.</div>

<div>Rabbi Alan Greenbaum writes.....</div>

<div>My years with Temple Adat Elohim were transitional years: -from a small board-run schul (where board members would open and close the sanctuary on Friday nights and the congregation provided the food for the Oneg Shabbat on a rotating basis) to a large staff-run synagogue (where there was a professional and support staff to do everything from plan the events, run the events, set up, clean up and more),-from a modest utility-room type facility with bright orange chairs which could be converted from sanctuary to reception room within 1/2 hour with the gift shop and four offices in the back of the room and it's hidden baptismal basin (left by the church which owned the building before us) to a stunning and inspiring sacred space, complimented by a fully-functional social hall and catering kitchen ,-from the
How does a temple family transition from a rather small and modest group to a major congregation (at one point, we were told by the leaders of the Reform movement, the second fastest growing congregation in the United States) without losing its "warmth" - the one characteristic which had been its distinctive feature for years.
Presidents, left to right - Marty Ricks, Gene Marks, Larry Levine, Lynn Robbins, Bill Brosnan, Bernie Benesch and Richard NewmanThe growth came from luck and skill. The luck was that we were the destination point of a huge demographic shift from the city of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley to the greater Conejo Valley. The community-at-large, which included the Jewish community grew by leaps and bounds, and we were there to welcome all these newly arrived Jews. The skill came from the lay leadership; individuals who had vision of what we could become.
Rabbi G. on Masada, IsraelOne decision that was made early was the desire to not become a "Bar Mitzvah Mill", only recruiting families with young children. We wanted to become an extended family, and so we heavily recruited from the more settled populations. We even developed what we called the "Shabbosmobile" which, quite simply, were individuals who drove to Leisure Village in Camarillo, parked outside the gates at 7:00 PM, and waited to drive anybody who would show up to services, and of course return them at the end of the evening. We offered lectures in the Village on a variety of topics in order to invite these people into our ranks. So what resulted was not a youth congregation (which tends to be erratic in membership patterns) but a multi-generational congregation. We had achieved the "extended family" goal that we wanted to be. I was more excited about the number of 3-generational families in our membership than I was about the size of the religious school or of the overall membership. “Congregations, like individuals, have life cycles. I was privileged and honored to serve Temple Adat Elohim for 21 years of transitional growth.”
In the words of Robin Hirsch….
“In 1987, my wife Elisa and I, along with two elementary school aged children, Esther and Elliot, bought our home in Westlake Village. It was June and we had the summer to find a temple and a Hebrew school. I had been raised conservative and my wife reform and after a small bit of research the choice was obvious: Etz Chaim or Adat-Elohim. We visited them both, saw a service and the choice was unanimous; we loved Adat-Elohim.
“This was not a physical choice. Etz Chaim had the beautiful sanctuary and Adat-Elohim had an oddly shaped A-framed building with plastic orange chairs, but there was something about the feeling when you walked in the door. Rabbi Greenbaum exuded warmth and kindness like no other rabbi we had ever met. Cantor Anatole had that classic cantor voice that could put chills down your spine with it’s soaring melodies. We just felt comfortable there. So we joined Temple Adat Elohim.
“The rest, as they say is history. Temple Adat Elohim was the place where we went to pray. We celebrated our kids’ bat/bar mitzvahs there. We are among the group that attended High Holiday services in various churches in the Conejo Valley. Yes, we listened to many a Kol Nidre trying to ignore the cross in the church where our congregation met because our synagogue was much too small to accommodate our numbers. Somehow it never really mattered. There was Rabbi Greenbaum and there was Cantor Anatole, and where ever they were, there was Temple Adat Elohim.
“I joined the Torah Study group after dropping by one morning while waiting for my daughter to be finished with her bat mitzvah class. I never left and have been a part of that esteemed group for 17 years. I even got to share the class with my Dad, Sam, during the few years he lived out here after my mom passed.
“Rabbi Greenbaum was there to help us celebrate our simchas and he was there to comfort us in our times of bereavement. He was there to offer sage advice and help us through several family crises’ with his common sense approach to life. And so for us, even as temple life takes new turns, new bends in the river, every time I sit in the beautiful sanctuary I can see the orange chairs, the simple wooden ark and feel the warmth of my memories wash over me. There is Rabbi Greenbaum and there is Cantor Anatole and there is Temple Adat Elohim.
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