My CBJ Memories

Four generations in one synagogue. L’Dor V’Dor I have celebrated and observed every lifecycle in this synagogue. I am thankful and blessed to be a member of this extraordinary congregation.

My family moved from San Francisco to the Peninsula, otherwise known as the country, in 1946 when I was 4 years old. As soon as we settled in, my parents joined Temple Beth Jacob. The temple was located on Creek Drive in Menlo Park and was little and cute. I made many friends there and still have some of them to this day. I remember a feeling of belonging to something special. Right before Passover each year we had a full seder service in the little social hall in back of the sanctuary. The mothers of the students cooked and served a full seder meal to us. It was wonderful!

As the congregation grew the Temple on Creek Drive became too small and the building was sold to a church. There was a gap period between leaving Creek Drive and the building of the new Synagogue in Redwood City. I have no recollection of where services were held during that period, but the Sunday School was held at the Peninsula School in Menlo Park. It was an old mansion and felt a little scary. When my friends and I found a full skeleton hanging in what must have been a science classroom we could hardly wait until the new synagogue was ready.

The new Temple was finally finished and I remember going to a dedication and being really excited.

In 1957 Rabbi Teitelbaum arrived to lead us. He was a breath of fresh air to me. The two previous Rabbis, Rabbi Hazelkorn and Rabbi Hershberg were old school and very harsh with children.

I was 15 years old and attended Rabbi Teitelbaum’s first confirmation class at Temple Beth Jacob.  It was really the first time that I was taught properly in Temple. Up until then the education here was a little sketchy. Rabbi Teitelbaum turned everything around.

My confirmation class was fortunate enough to spend 5 days at Camp Saratoga in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. We were entertained the whole time by Joan Baez, before she was famous. The whole experience was a blast!

Cantor Cohn joined the synagogue a short while later and he and Rabbi Teitelbaum became a great team.

Our temple was vibrant. We had big Purim Balls with a competition to find the perfect Queen Esther. Prospective queens and their friends sold raffle tickets. The girl who sold the most tickets became the Queen with the other girls her attendants. Young and old were involved.

The Temple Sisterhood held luncheons and fashion shows and invited the teenagers to participate. It was really fun!

My mother, Dorothy Leven, was the chairman of the Date and Address book. Everyone was active selling ads for the book which every member received. The funds obtained helped fill the coffers of the Temple.

Our temple grew with the guidance of Henry Rabin. Held huge auctions as fund raisers. Again, everyone was involved and a lot of money was raised.

For almost every event at the temple, the women gathered in the kitchen and cooked together with fabulous results. It was great bonding time and everyone benefited.

May of 1963 was a wonderful month for me. On May 5th my husband Ed and I were married here and on May 18th my father, Leonard Leven, was a Bar Mitzvah here in the first ever Adult B’nai Mitzvah class in the United States. It was truly unique and very special.

My wonderful daughters, Stacy and Amy were both named here and grew up in this Temple.

(Photo credit: JMB Photography.)
(Photo credit: JMB Photography.)
Then came the fire in 1979. I was horrified and saddened. My beautiful synagogue, up in flames. It was an eye opener to see how many people, organizations, churches and other synagogues really cared for us. The Hebrew school, under the direction of the school principal Ruth Shapiro, transitioned easily to the First Congregational Church for uninterrupted classes. The church was very hospitable.

Due to the fire, my daughter Amy had her Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth El in San Mateo. They welcomed us with open arms. It was not our temple but we pretended that it was.

Two and a half years later was the rededication of our synagogue. It was more beautiful than ever.

My daughter Amy and her husband Matt were married here on Sept. 1, 1991. My grandson Daniel had his bris through this temple and my granddaughter, Shayna, was named in this building. They both celebrated their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs here. I could not have been prouder.

I was really sad to see Rabbi Teitelbaum and Cantor Cohn retire and could not imagine other people in their positions. Rabbi Ezray filled their shoes easily with his warm, open, welcoming attitude. He is so smart and is a fabulous teacher and I adore him. Bill Futornick is amazing and loved by both kids and adults including me. Cantor Barbara Powell is a gift to our Synagogue. Her voice is pure and I love hearing her sing.

Thanks to Rabbi Ezray, Bill, Cantor Barbara and Ruth Shapiro, I had one of the best days of my life. With their help, at the age of 67, I had my Bat Mitzvah, following in the footsteps of my father.

My parents loved Temple Beth Jacob and were members until their deaths. Rabbi Teitelbaum and Cantor Cohn presided at their funerals.

Four generations in one synagogue. L’Dor V’Dor  I have celebrated and observed every lifecycle in this synagogue. I am thankful and blessed to be a member of this extraordinary congregation.