in some ways, it’s an old story. Jews migrating from city to suburb, and taking their shuls with them. In this case, it’s San Bernadino, Calif., and the departure of of Temple Emanu El has left some bruised feelings.
With the closure of the Norton Air Force Base and a depressed job market weakening San Bernardino’s draw, living in neighboring communities makes more sense for many. Two hospitals and a university serve as magnets for migration into Redlands and surrounding cities, including Highland, Yucaipa, Beaumont and Banning.
Still, not all of the synagogue’s congregants were pleased with the move. Rabbi Hillel Cohn, leader at Emanu El for three decades, blasted the decision, saying it frayed a historic association with the city of San Bernardino.
In a recent interview, the rabbi, 71, said he understood that moving was sometimes unavoidable for congregations but that it should occur only when a majority of congregants has moved far away, not 20 minutes or so to the east.
"Frankly, in our world today people are enamored with the new," he said. "But it’s just that this synagogue has been such an integral part of the city for so long."
The decision to depart has left some bruised feelings. Cohn said a number of non-Jewish residents in San Bernardino — where he lives — have asked why the synagogue is leaving.
The departure drew the attention of San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, who called it a significant loss for the city. The synagogue’s members, he said, have historically been leaders in the community.
The mayor said Emanu El’s move was part of a broad migration of upper-middle-income professionals out of the city.
"With the closing of shops, the closing of the Air Force base, a whole series of major blue-collar employers leaving, life changed in this fair city," Morris said. "More dependence on government resources, higher welfare. It is what it is."