Is the burden of the synagogue too hard to bear by the Los Angeles Jewish community?
That is the question that seems uppermost in the minds of Los Angeles Jewry during the past few weeks, and which has been agitating the professing Jew for several years past. On the surface the situation is a dismal one for nearly all of the congregations here, for all but a very few of them are suffering economically. And because of this economic depression there has resulted another distressing situation.
As is the case in most Jewish communities, the rabbis are expected, more or less, to be the means of obtaining sufficient financial support for the congregation. And in most cases in Los Angeles the rabbi has been a rather weak collector of funds. Naturally differences of opinion arise between the rabbis and the boards of the various congregations, and we find that within the past month or so there have been four resignations by rabbis from their respective congregations for one stated reason or another.
This, however, does not cut down the number of synagogues or congregations, on the contrary, it usually means additional institutions. A year ago, Rabbi Herman Lissauer resigned from Temple Emanu-El and organized the Jewish Institute of Los Angeles, and this week Rabbi Mayer Winkler, having resigned from Temple Sinai, is organizing the Community Synagogue of Los Angeles.
The situation congregationally in Los Angeles is one that is peculiarly distinct. It differs greatly from other cities in one respect, and that is, that in Los Angeles there has been a forced growth and development of congregations. The larger number of them arose within the past ten or fifteen years. Prior to that time there were two or at the most three well established institutions; Temple B’nai B’rith, the oldest synagogue in Southern California, was well intrenched and is to this day. There were also the Orthodox Olive Street Synagogue, old and well established, and Temple Sinai, Conservative, was well on its way to prosperity.
Then came the influx of tourists, and the growing numbers of the Jewish community. Within a short time new groups were formed, and new congregations organized. The procession of new organizations, despite the economic situation has not yet ceased, for even at this writing, a $175,000 synagogue and educational center is being planned for Rabbi Benjamin Gardner.
In Hollywood, within the past five years we find three synagogues, Temple Beth-El, Temple Israel and the Hollywood Center, where there had been only one. Los Angeles and Hollywood combined now have a total of nineteen congregations, most of them small groups, struggling to make headway in establishing themselves.
According to I. Irving Lipsitch, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations, the majority of these congregations will pull through somehow, but their present difficulties are all centered in the fact of too rapid building programs. “The number of synagogues that have sprung up in Los Angeles during the past decade,” he said, “is astounding, in comparison with the Jewish population, and it is all due principally to the influx within a short period of a large number of Jews.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.