Temple Adat Elohim
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Temple Adat Elohim History - The 1990s

And So The River Flowed Into a New Decade

Temple Adat Elohim entered the 1990s with great energy and optimism. The entire Conejo Valley was filled with many new housing developments. The Las Virgenes and Ventura County school districts were attracting many families escaping the shortcomings of the massive LA Unified. Besides, with Rabbi Greenbaum, Cantor Anatole and an award winning educational program the congregation of Temple Adat Elohim now boasted close to 500families in its membership.
Michele and Richard Jackman and their two children were typical newcomers in the early 1990s. They would also go on to become very involved in Temple life with Michele serving as President in 1999 - 2001.
In the words of Michele Jackman...
"In January 1991, our daughter started preschool at Temple Adat Elohim. Bringing her to school in the mornings and waiting for her outside the classrooms is where we met our new Jewish friends and neighbors. It is where we met the families that invited us into a Havurah; and in that Havarah is where we met some of the active board members of the temple. During our second year as members, I was invited to join the board of directors as a committee chair."
Michele became part of the new generation of Temple leadership. More on that later. Before she had married and started raising a family with Richard, Michele had worked as a TV show director. She met Rabbi Greenbaum and, well, I'll let her tell the story.

1992 - Golden Age of Theatre

"Rabbi Greenbaum was interested in my television background and asked me to read a play,” The Gates Are Closing. "It was a play based on the High Holy Days liturgy. He asked me if I would like to mount it for the High Holidays that year. I didn't know too many members and wasn't sure how to cast it. He gave me a list of congregants that he thought had the acting "bug". "The first name on the list was Michael Lotker. Michael served on the board of directors, but we weren't friends, yet. I made my calls and was able to cast the show. The show was staged in the sanctuary on Silchot in 1992. Michael Lotker had the lead. It was a huge success. We filled the room to capacity: 200 people attending Silchot that year.
Tribute to the BeatlesMichael Lotker 'hams' it upThe next Purim, we did the "Great Robbery At Greenbaum Gulch." This was a ‘schpeil’ telling the story of the Shooshan Indians. Coming from a musical/variety background, I wanted to add music to the show. Getting to know Michael Lotker was the answer. Michael is a natural lyricist. I put together a list of well-known country/western songs and Michael rewrote the lyrics to tell the story of Purim. Tons of fun! After that there was the Hanukkah show, "Miracles Aren’t Just Magic" taken from Debbie Friedman’s music, with Michael Lotker as the 2000 Year Old Man.” The Heart of the Matter," was an original multi-media event that I wrote and conceived for the following Silchot. The next in a number of shows was the "Beatle’s Hanukkah," coinciding with the release of The Beatles Anthology in 1995. That show had a four-piece rock band, including the Rabbi and Cantor, doing the Beatle songs with Michael Lotker’s fabulous Hanukkah lyrics. A friend of mine, who is a costumer for the movies, made the Sgt. Pepper costumes for our band. Marilyn Fine, an art teacher in the congregation, replicated the album cover as a back drop. We had dancing dreidels and a latka conga line. The shows were an opportunity to involve so many congregants as singers, dancers and participants in some great productions during this time. Rabbi Greenbaum coined the nineties as the "Golden Age of Theater" at Temple Adat Elohim."
By the way, Michael Lotker became Rabbi Michael Lotker and is currently rabbi at Temple Ner Ami in Camarillo.
Now let’s get back to our river. Much as a river rushes towards the ocean, the 1990s saw our river rushing towards a specific destination. Temple Adat Elohim was growing very quickly and the little A-frame sanctuary was simply too small to accommodate the needs of the congregation. We have already mentioned that High Holiday services had to be held in area churches. We had no social hall, no youth lounge, and very limited office space. Clearly something needed to be done and once again from amidst the congregation a group of determined people rose to the challenge.

1991 - Build... They Will Come

While the need for a new sanctuary had been discussed for years, many credit the beginning of the effort that actually brought it into being to the presidential term of Lynne Robbins. In 1988 Lynne appointed temple member Marc Malovany to chair an architectural committee, which also included Pamela Rishfeld, Bobbie Berg, Max Strauss, and Joel Meyer. Slowly but surely a plan began to emerge.
In the words of Marc Malovany...
"It was in 1988. I think it was the second High Holidays of Lynn Mark Malovany with Rabbi Greenbaum Robbins’ presidency. We were still at the Mormon Church. During her speech, she spoke of getting involved and talked about the need to build a building on the existing land. Having been a member at my former temple in the valley for 10+ years and never having done a thing other than go to services, I thought it was time to get involved. It took several phone calls and I finally got directed to the Future Directions committee. The FD committee had no real direction but when it became clear that the board really did want to pursue the new building, we started gathering information. As it happens every two years, it was time for a new board. I was on the search committee to find a someone to replace me. When I couldn't find anyone to take my place, I resigned from the search committee, so that I could continue. My sole project was to bring the building to reality. We did some surveys, interviewed architects and eventually came to the board with an estimate for the cost of developing plans and a recommendation of who we wanted to do that. The fund raising committee found the money and soon we hired the architect, Ron Goldman, to draw up plans. During the plan creation stage, I had a committee of about 4 or 5 people who visited other synagogues, talked with everyone and made decisions about the basic design; we met with the architect from time to time and made adjustments. Being the head of the committee, I also was on a few sub-committees, so we also interviewed caterers to see if we could find one that we liked and was willing to invest in our new kitchen.
Eventually, plans were completed, models built, and then we waited for money."
Bob Murray picks up the story. Bob was a big part of the effort to find money within the congregation to pay for the construction of the sanctuary and social hall. In the words of Bob Murray...
"In 1989 President Marty Ricks assembled a committee, chaired by Richard Newman, which was charged with the task of determining how much money was needed and how to raise the necessary funds to address the congregation’s wishes. Mike Sobelman, Robert Murray, Sandy Bistrow and Robert Finestone joined the other members on the committee. It became painfully obvious that the committee was well represented by accounting and legal types, but lacked the dynamic marketing/sales personality to execute the fundraising necessary to fund the sanctuary/social hall. The committee sought and interviewed various professional fundraising groups, ultimately selecting the Mark Randall firm to do a feasibility study. The results of the study estimated that $1,800,000-$2,000,000 potentially could be raised.
Richard Newman was president of the temple from 1991-1993. He describes what happened next". Although the recession of the late 80s and early 90s mandated tight fiscal constraints so that cash flows would permit continued operation of the temple, there were many rewarding achievements during this period of our evolution. Our architects, Goldman, Firth, and the construction committee worked hard with the Thousand Oaks Planning commission and finally got our construction plan approved in early September, 1991."
A dedication ceremony that we all could be proud offA few weeks later, on Sunday, September 22, 1991, the official groundbreaking was held. It was a hot, sunny day. Rabbi Greenbaum stood in the dry, dusty field a shovel in his hand. I can still remember the joy on Rabbi Greenbaum’s face as he pushed aside a shovel full of dirt then pumped his fist into the air with excitement. That shovel has been preserved and on it is an inscription that reads, Turning our field of dreams into a house of prayer for all people."
Rabbi Greenbaum remembers, "We knew that we needed a facility that was both aesthetically pleasing and functionally supportive of the programs we wanted in the congregation. There were so many from the membership who stepped forward offering large amounts of money, or their skills which were considerable, or their time which was valuable, and often a combination of those things. If I were to name individuals, I know I would leave out people who deserve to be named, so I will keep the reference to congregants general. "

1994 - Building The Sanctuary

Congressman Brad Sherman and Zelda Finestone says it's time to buildIt is not easy to build a temple and social hall. Money has to be raised, plans have to be made and a consensus has to be found. There is no "how to" book that can help you. Six more years would pass following the groundbreaking before the sanctuary was complete. So that empty lot that Mort Rosenthal had spearheaded the effort to buy sat patiently, growing weeds, awaiting the day. Finally, during the presidential term of Zelda Finestone, of blessed memory, a pivotal board meeting was held.
Congregant Hannah Grossman was at that meeting. Hannah Grossman remembered,
"We joined TAE in the fall of 1985 when we moved here from West L.A. We were delighted to be reunited with Rabbi Greenbaum, whom we were with in Memphis. The congregation was rich in delightful individuals with wonderful hearts. The congregation was poor in finances. We remember one meeting where we considered putting the mortgage payment on our collective credit cards. We realized the potential of TAE and the need for a proper sanctuary to attract even more families to watch our Reform Jewish community grow. I had the privilege to be on the board when it was voted: to build it, they will come! We didn’t have the money to finish a sanctuary and social hall, but we had the spirit.
"Our modern day Moses was Bob Murray. He came with a plan to have a fundraising drive and build the current sanctuary. Our two families committed the initial monies and then set out to convince others to overextend, as well. Some with considerable resources were unwilling, and others with less were more than willing."
Bob Murray recalls, "Ultimately, in late 1991, the decision was made to terminate the contract with Randall, a professional money raiser, and go it alone with temple members only. I chaired the committee along with Bernie and Audrey Benesch; Robert and Zelda Finestone; Marty Ricks, Lynne Robbins, Gary and Joan Davidson, and Drs Hannah and Robert Grossman as the most active members. An attempt was made to contact all members of the congregation to solicit financial assistance. Rabbi Greenbaum and temple leadership led the way in a capital fund raising campaign that ultimately raised an amazing number of pledges which reached about $1,400,000."
Finally, in 1994 a construction committee headed by David Blankstein was formed and work began. It was a slow and arduous task. Money was very tight. There were many, many, many congregants who put in literally thousands of volunteer hours to push this project to completion.
Construction began and they cameKen Bock was on that construction committee and ultimately served a key role in the construction of the sanctuary. Ken Bock’s construction recollections, "I was recruited by David Blankstein to be the temple’s on-site project manager for the construction of the sanctuary and social hall. I joined other professionals who made this building a reality; Stuart Rose, Mike Sobelman, Larry Levine, Ed Lewin, and Pete Reinisch. When I got involved, the concrete was not yet poured for the foundation of the new building and there was a lot of upset because of the grading, compacting and unexpected cost of installing a sewer line through our property and the one behind us.
"Architects Goldman Associates drew up the blue prints and prior committees did a lot of work. In our infinite wisdom and mostly because it was important to save money, we decided to finish the structure without the architect. This could not have been done without the help of David Blankstein who watched the finances, Len Polan, architect and the interior design committee; all temple volunteers.
As the building went up our excitement grew"One of the first things we did was interview contractors for the job. We eventually hired Carignan Construction. Larry Carignan was a contractor who could "value engineer,", and felt it was God’s plan that he be involved in this work. He turned out to be a good partner." "Len and I with David’s reluctant acquiescence made many decisions about the structure because blue prints and reality didn’t always live in the same world.
I was on the phone with David a lot. A few issues come to mind. The blueprints called for the sound room to be where the clergy room is now. That made no sense, so we had it moved to its current location. The pews where laid out to be symmetrical in the room; there was no place for the choir to sing. So we extended the concrete to make a platform for the band and choir. Originally, there was no money for a stage in the social hall, so we built it anyways. The plans called for about eight outlets in the building, we fixed that. Money was so tight. Originally we were not going to buy pews because they cost about $28,000. We were supposed use the orange chairs from the other building; but, the Interior Committee prevailed.
Many meetings were held and decisions made"While we where concerned about building a house, the interior committee was formed to make it a home. I was the chairperson, which meant scheduling meetings for the group to get together. They included Michele Jackman, Jane Bubar, Sharlynn Schulner, Hannah Grossman, Max Straus, Pamela Rishfeld, Audrey Benesch, Charlotte Lewin and Randi Seigel. Many decisions had to be made; like what color carpet, the color of the trusses, the stone for the lobby, fixtures for the restroom, and the type and color of the pews. The list went on and on. After the building was complete we discovered that the sanctuary and social hall were too loud because of the hard ceilings. Upon hiring an acoustic engineer, we applied a cellulous material to the ceiling to deaden the sound.
"Hannah Grossman headed a separate committee that dealt specifically with the kitchen. Should the kitchen be kosher, kosher light, full service or partial? Should we have multiple caterers or one? Who would that be? How were we going to pay for it? At one point Hannah stood up at a meeting and said, "if we can’t find a way to pay for the kitchen, I’ll put it on my credit card." Good thing her husband Bob was not there. Adrian Stern eventually negotiated with our first caterer, Parties at Your Door, to finance the kitchen for us. Everyone did their part in big and small ways; like Adrian asking his neighbors to come over to his house to sit on one of three chairs to see which one they liked best for the social hall.
Inspired windows designed by Shawn AtariOur Ark built by master furniture maker Bill Coleman"After the decisions were made about the ordinary stuff, we hired professionals to design the ark, stained glass windows and courtyard." Michele Jackman, "I served on the Interior Committee and later headed that committee as we made final plans for the sacred Ark and for the stained glass windows and other aesthetics decisions for the facility. The Interior Committee was looking at drawings for an Ark and I heard of a congregant, Deborah Goodman, who had a drawing that they thought I should see. I really liked her concept for the Ark, which would symbolize the Tree of Life and windows that would depict the parting of the Red Sea. I brought Rabbi Greenbaum to Deborah’s home to take a look. He, too, liked the concept. We went to Bill Coleman, a local woodworking artist, who had created our lecterns and Torah table to build the Ark. We found a wonderful glass designer, Shawn Atari, who interpreted our Red Sea vision. In addition, Bill Coleman, made our beautiful Memorial Boards. In the courtyard, we laid the Jerusalem stone which created a path and came together at the fountain to symbolize Tikkun Olam, the’ healing of the world".

1997 - Rabbi Dubowe

Rabbi Dubowe soon after arriving Amidst all of this activity and in anticipation of the growth that a new sanctuary was sure to generate the temple hired its first full time associate rabbi, Rabbi Rebecca Dub owe, following her tenure at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, N.J., where she served as associate rabbi for four years.
In the words of Rabbi Dubowe, "My first memory of Temple Adat Elohim happened in the spring of 1997 when I came for an interview with Rabbi Greenbaum. I walked into the courtyard and I looked to the right and saw the administration building and then I looked to the left where the brand new sanctuary had not yet opened. I met Rabbi Greenbaum in his office that overlooked the preschool playground. Standing by Rabbi Greenbaum’s office, I saw many bright orange chairs set up for services and on the bema there was these beautiful stained glass windows and wooden ark. If one took a step further on the bema, one would see the old baptismal tub that was built by the previous congregation. On both sides of the bema, there were two small little offices. Cantor Michael Anatole used one of them and eventually I used the other tiny one. It was quite surreal knowing that this building was truly holy as I walked by that baptismal everyday!"
I guess the interview went well. Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe was hired and came to work in August of 1997.

1997 - Sanctuary Completion

the building was going up next door. Momentum had shifted as excitement grew.
Hannah Grossman... "When Rabbi Greenbaum asked at the High Holidays for us not to have services one more year at the Lutheran Church down the block, the congregation responded with an amazing amount of money to complete the building. Indeed, the following year, we had High Holydays in our new facility."
Rabbi Dubowe... "By August of 1997, excitement was buzzing everywhere as we got ready for the grand dedication of our new sanctuary that was going to take place prior to the High Holy Days."
Thirty years and six days after a small group of 36 families had gathered for a Friday night service amidst the oak trees of Hidden Trails a new sanctuary rose majestically out of the ground, its white walls gleaming in the sun.
Michele Jackman..."We planned the dedication of the new sanctuary for, Sunday, September 28, 1997. It was a huge occasion. One of the loveliest moments, among many that afternoon, was when families who had donated, $10,000 or more, (remember, this is a project created by a community with no huge donation or endowment), carried the Torahs from our old sanctuary into the new sanctuary."
A blessing for all who pass through these doorsRabbi Dubowe.... Community leaders, other rabbis and clergy were invited to join us as we posted a mezuzah on all of the doors to the synagogue. The shofar was blown and well went in with complete awe of our new sanctuary.
Ken Bock and David Blankstein were also honored. As Ken remembers, "For me one of the more memorable moments was when David and I were called up to the bema to receive a plaque as a token of the congregation’s appreciation for all the time we had put into the project. As soon as we were standing side-by-side, the room broke out into a loud chuckle. We understood the joke. David is 6'8" and I am 5'3". That was the long and short of it!"
Also amidst the crowd were Ed Pauley and Bernie and Audrey Benesch, those original carpoolers, those original founders.
Ed Pauley, "In the beginning we were happy to get one or two families as members each month. I don’t think that any of the founding members could have imagined that one day we'd be standing here at the dedication of this beautiful sanctuary.” Audrey Benesch, "I was in awe. I looked <[TAE History Images\Temple Front A.jpg] around in utter amazement. For us, thirty years ago, we never dreamt that this would be the result. I looked over at Bernie: Look what we started!!!!"
Indeed, look what they started.
In the words of then Congregation President Sandy Bistrow from the dedication book..."Welcome to our beautiful new home....Temple Adat-Elohim is truly the 'warm reform congregation' of the Conejo. We welcome membership to all who wish to practice Reform Judaism. We have always been proud of the leadership role our Temple has assumed in both the Jewish and secular community. Now, with this beautiful new sanctuary and social hall, we can offer even more. We want our members to consider this facility an extension of their home, to be used for their spiritual needs as well as for celebrations. As we grow, Temple Adat Elohim, will continue to share its resources with the entire community as our mission statement challenges us to "be a light unto the nation."
Cantor Michael Anatole and and 'new' employee David ShukiarFive days later, on October 1, 1997 for the first time in the 30-year history of Temple Adat Elohim, High Holy Day services were held in our own home. "My family and I were among the multitudes that attended those services," related Hirsch. I am sure that the joy we felt was felt by every congregant walking through those doors. There was no cross, no Christian hymnals tucked into the pew racks. At last we had found the "sacred Jewish space" that Rabbi Address had searched for back in Covenant House."
Cantor Anatole, in his 23rd year as cantor when the new sanctuary was built, said, "We built a beautiful sanctuary and staffed our catering hall. It was true .. .we built it, and they came. "They" were the over 300 members that swelled our rolls after we had finished the new Beit Hamikdash."
Rabbi Dubowe Rabbi Dubowe, "Since that time, I have seen and watched many people come and go into this beautiful sanctuary. Babies have been blessed with their Hebrew names. Children have chanted Torah and became bar and bat mitzvah. Brides and grooms have walked down the aisles and eulogies have been eloquently spoken of those whom have died. The sounds of music have touched many, the passion of teaching Torah from the clergy and the squeals of delight heard by the children during Tot Shabbat makes this sanctuary truly a special place."
As the High Holiday services wound to a close in 1997 everyone close to the temple though elated, was faced with the realization that there was still much work ahead.


And so as the river rolled on to the year 1998, there were more changes in temple life.
Most significant was that Cantor Michael Anatole, after serving as our cantor for 24 years, announced that he was leaving. For most of us he had been the only musical voice of Temple Adat Elohim that we had ever known. His rich sound had always added so much to all of our religious services. He had taught our kids their bar/bat mitzvah lessons. He had just always been there. A gala concert was held on Sunday June 28, 1998 as our congregation said goodbye.
Cantor Anatole, "I served TAE for 24 years, until 1998, so it would be quite impossible for me to really reminisce in a few short paragraphs. Suffice to say that, during my time with you as Cantor, the temple grew from 80 to nearly 800, and became the Reform temple in east Ventura County. I would not presume to take the credit for the growth, but it was exciting to be there when it happened!"
Shortly thereafter we welcomed Cantor Peter Halpern, who had recently returned to this country from the Netherlands. He was kind enough to send us his thoughts and memories. In the words of Cantor Peter...
 The Moscow Male Jewish Choir sings at TAE"I was looking to return to the states to serve my first American congregation as an invested cantor. I came to Thousand Oaks and was greeted by sun, by friendliness, by people who enjoyed their lives and each other. I had the first glimpses then of what I knew would be a happy life, and I joined them several months later. The next years would grow to be filled with laughter, harmony, affection and a gratitude to God. As I think back over those years, I will never forget the innocence of a growing congregation with a good heart. Rabbi Alan's gentle grace and Rabbi Rebecca's deep sense of the Eternal set the tone for a staff that was always special, even as it evolved. I will always remember Michele Jackman's passion and vision, Bob Murray’s humble respect, sincerity and devotion. One year, Rabbi Alan had an idea to offer the congregation a creative Rosh Hashana service, and the clergy team set to work. It was so satisfying to see the fruits of our labor of love in action as we watched and listened to the enthusiasm and waves of people participating fully. One musical memory is the Moscow Male Jewish Choir and the committee that brought them to Thousand Oaks. My two-week-old Nathan and I came to temple for our baby shower, just as their buses arrived. What a scene: 22 Russian Jews meeting their host families and confusingly entertained by this cantor arriving with a baby. And what a weekend it was, from the fabulous Friday evening with them on the bema to Sunday's concert at the Canyon Club, all organized by our committee. It was quintessential Adat Elohim, creative, unique and with a "can do" approach. When I think of temple I smile and feel warm. It represents for me all that we can expect from life: a time of happiness, a gifted respite - all that can be meaningful, graceful and lovely. "Happy Birthday TAE on reaching 40.And as many of us well know...life begins at 40!"
Our current Cantor, David Shukiar, was at Temple Adat Elohim at the time serving as choir director. He has fond memories of Cantor Halpern.
Canter Halpern, Rabbi Greenbaum and David ShukiarIn the words of Cantor David Shukiar... "After Cantor Anatole left, we welcomed Cantor Peter Halpern to our community. I remember being so amazed and in awe of his musical ability and knowledge of Jewish music. I tried to become a sponge, absorbing all I could from his expertise, and was so appreciative when he took me under his wing and gave me so many opportunities to learn, grow and experience many facets of synagogue life. It is because of his love and friendship that I decided to work towards becoming a cantor, and I owe my love for Jewish music and the cantorate to him. He continues to be a close friend and confidant, and cherished colleague. He took the level of musical sophistication of Temple Adat Elohim to a new level, where we could truly experience the meaning of spirituality through our music and text."
Rabbi Greenbaum and the temple also began to address other temple needs as the staff transitioned from volunteer and part time positions to full time staff members.
Rabbi Alan Greenbaum..."We needed something else. We needed to grow as a staff in order to serve the needs of this growing Jewish community. Part-time positions needed to become full-time positions, and we needed to find professionals who could take the lead in areas that had been fully run by the board in past years. Beyond the professional skills, the people skills were an important criterion for hiring new staff. That was a challenge. But we found just the right people to be the bridge from what we were to what we knew we had to become:
Neal Federman in the religious school and his successor, Marcy Goldberg Susan Cohen in the youth department Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe to oversee youth and adult education Cantor Peter Halpern to expand our musical horizons Beryl Strauss in Preschool and her successor, Batsheva Spector which occurred just after I left. These were the professionals who were essential in that transitional period."

1999 - More Construction

This growth meant that there more physical needs to be met. Our new administrative offices The temple had always been extremely short on office space. Now, with a whole new staff of full-time people, this issue had to be addressed. The obvious solution was to utilize the old A-frame chapel, so a plan was put into place to transform the old A-frame building into office space.
Michele Jackman was temple President in 1999 and helped spearhead the project. "With the volunteer help temple members Bruce Parton, a congregant and contractor, and Deborah Goodman a local artist, who helped plan the interior decorating, we proceeded in 1999 to revamp the building. We added a second story, offices for our clergy, religious school director and preschool director, and a library. There was a youth lounge and reception area. The plans certainly made the most of every inch of space. During this construction phase, all the temple administration was done from the new Sanctuary; specifically the current clergy room and the Shalom Room. Everyone worked together."
By the time Michele left office and Bob Murray took over in 2001 the building was complete.
And so the river continued to flow.
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