We mark a major milestone in the history and future of Wilshire Boulevard Temple and University Synagogue with the closing of our merger agreement this past Friday to become one congregation.
First, we extend a warm welcome to the members of University Synagogue. We look forward to growing together as one congregation with the best of all that has distinguished University Synagogue and Wilshire Boulevard Temple for generations.
We are excited for Wilshire Boulevard Temple members to meet staff and clergy from University Synagogue, including Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro, who brings her beautiful voice and brilliant scholarship, and a gifted leader Rabbi Joel Simonds who will continue as a part-time member of the clergy team; both have long-standing connections with our clergy and congregants. We are grateful to Rabbi Barry Lutz for his leadership during these past two years. We have gotten to know and respect the University Synagogue professional and lay leadership, all of whom are wonderful partners. And we know University Synagogue members are looking forward to meeting Wilshire Boulevard Temple's clergy and staff.
Great before, even better together, this historic union creates a more vibrant, powerful, and creative Jewish future in Los Angeles. The merger will result in a congregation of more than 2,700 families, combining the warm and dedicated University Synagogue and Wilshire Boulevard Temple communities, each with a long proud history and a deep commitment to Reform Judaism and tikkun olam.
As we have written before, 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. In addition to Wilshire Boulevard Temple's Irmas and Glazer campuses, the University Campus boasts 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 convenient location for daytime adult programming, and more hearts and souls to engage in the vital tikkun olam efforts of the Karsh Center. 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 any synagogue.
Now that we have reached the end of Passover, retelling the story of our ancestors' new beginning, and with hopeful signs of life beyond the pandemic beginning to appear, we begin a new chapter in the 159-year history of our congregation and Jewish life in Los Angeles.
Rabbi Steve Leder
Alberto Valner, Temple President