What a joy to be telling you good and hopeful news during a time when we all need it so badly. We are thrilled to inform you that Wilshire Boulevard Temple and University Synagogue in Brentwood have reached a tentative agreement to become one congregation. We have fashioned that agreement in a way that brings the best of each institution together to create a vibrant, powerful and creative Jewish future in West Los Angeles from the 405 to the ocean. The current University Synagogue location will be named the Wilshire Boulevard Temple University Campus until a donor is found to rename the campus and provide for the physical upgrades it deserves.
While a merger during the financial and institutional stress of the Covid-19 crisis is less than ideal, the pandemic is going to end and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow. Yes, the internet is an extraordinary tool but remote Judaism also has very real and painful limitations. The importance of in-person schooling for children, the beauty of community and real human contact with our fellow Jews, the joy of learning, praying and being together with family and friends by our side, our arms around each other singing Oseh Shalom, celebrating holidays and b’nei mitzvah together, the laughter of children loving the Torah and loving being Jews will forever be the foundation of our faith and our future.
The merger will result in a congregation of more than 2,700 families, combining our wonderful community and the warm University Synagogue community, each with a long proud history and a deep commitment to Reform Judaism and tikkun olam. In addition to our current facilities, the combined entity will boast a large and beautiful west side sanctuary for services, a large social hall for celebrations, classroom space for many early childhood center families we would otherwise not be able to accommodate due to space limitations at the Irmas Campus, an expansive religious school and youth program, a wonderful location for daytime programming for our seniors, more hearts and souls to engage in the vital tikkun olam efforts of the Karsh Center, and great parking! We expect these wonderful opportunities to inspire current members of both congregations, and also to attract hundreds more families into Jewish life and learning who are currently not a part of our synagogue family.
While is it important to remember the merger still requires the approval of University Synagogue’s membership and Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Trustees, we believe that will happen in the coming weeks and we can then begin planning for ways to get to know our new Temple members as they get to know us.
In an era when so many are drawing inward and sometimes feeling pessimistic about the future, we are embracing the journey ahead with optimism and plans for great success. Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s University Campus is a testament to the visionary DNA that has always been and always will be Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
Rabbi Steve Leder
Alberto Valner, Temple President