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Martha and Bruce Karsh
6/23/2014

The renewal of our historic Sanctuary was just the beginning.

On July 20, we break ground on the dramatic next phase of the Building Lives project that will transform the city block of the Glazer Campus, improve the lives of thousands of our neighbors in Wilshire Center/Koreatown, and create volunteer opportunities for hundreds of Temple members.

This radical new undertaking? The Karsh Family Social Service Center, for which congregants Martha and Bruce Karsh have donated $5 million to create a locus for the Temple’s Tikkun Olam mission. This force of change will occupy the ground floor of a new four-story building that will rise between Harvard and Hobart Boulevards along Sixth Street.

The Karsh Center will house our food pantry and provide dental and eye care, legal aid, and mental health services to our low-income neighbors and bring our congregation together in service to those in need.

“The Temple sits in a unique multicultural community, made up largely of immigrants,” Martha observes, “and we felt that reaching out to our neighbors was a really important responsibility of our Temple. Our families were all immigrants just two generations back. It just felt like the right thing to do.”

Including “Family” in the center’s name is essential to Martha and Bruce, who met as students at University of Virginia Law School, and the two have been married for 34 years. It not only reflects the name of their foundation and the values they want to pass on to their children but also, Martha says, “communicates that we’re all part of this Wilshire Boulevard Temple family and the larger Los Angeles family, and families help one another.”

The Temple’s goal is to ensure that the Karsh Center becomes nothing less than a widely recognized powerhouse for social good in the center of Los Angeles, something all congregants can participate and take pride in.

Last year, while architectural plans were in development, Martha’s father passed away. To honor his memory, the three Karsh children, who were very close to their eye-doctor grandfather, considered his many interests. “Our daughter, Katie, came up with the idea of endowing an eye care clinic in my father’s name,” Martha says, and to that end, the Karshes recently added $1 million to their original gift to endow the Dr. Donald R. Lubin Eye Care Clinic. As soon as word was out in the family, the Karshes’ 26-year-old son Jeffrey asked if he could contribute personally and then promptly handed his mother a check. Martha says, “We obviously succeeded with our children: He’s honoring my father; he’s giving back to the Temple and community.”

Deeply touched by the tribute to her husband of 60 years and eager to make this a true family affair, Sybil Lubin, Martha’s 84-year-oldmother, announced that she too would make a gift to support the eye care clinic.

Familiar with good investments as co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, Bruce notes, “The Temple renewal is a farsighted project. It will take time, but maybe even within just 10 years from now, it’s going to prove to be a brilliant move. The neighborhood is changing, and it will be a great place for the next generation of kids to live for years and years to come. Our Mayor lives in the area; downtown is really developing on its own path. There will ultimately be a warm Jewish community around the Temple again.

“When you look back to what gave rise to these feelings,” Bruce adds, characteristically low-key, “I think volunteering in the Temple’s food pantry with my kids on Sunday mornings and sharing food with those who really need it—that makes a lasting impression on young kids, so it’s nice that we’ll help perpetuate that.”

Amen.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

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