New Temecula synagogue to mark High Holy Days

The “Days of Awe” will soon arrive for the Jewish community and be celebrated at Temple Beth Sholom in Temecula.

The Temple, which hosted its first Temecula open house on Aug. 17, will observe the Jewish High Holy Day cycle from Sept. 24 through Oct. 17. The period of special services and prayers may also serve as an introduction to the Jewish congregation that is, at the same time, one of the oldest and one of the newest synagogues in southwest Riverside County.

‘“These are beautiful holidays to participate in, and there are moving prayers in English and Hebrew,” said Sandy Rosenstein, the congregation’s female student rabbi.

The High Holy Days are one of the peak attendance periods at Jewish temples. They are a period of personal reflection blended with communal prayer seeking inscription in the Book of Life and for the collective well being of all.

As a result, it is possible that all of synagogue’s seats will be occupied in the weeks to come.

That period begins at sundown on Sept. 24, which marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a time of reflection and self-judgment as one’s deeds over the past year are scrutinized and evaluated.

As part of this holy period, the shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown both mornings of Rosh Hashanah and at the close of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur, which begins with the Kol Nidre service just prior to sundown on Oct. 3, is known as the Day of Atonement and includes fasting and extended prayer at the synagogue.

The holidays bracket the Ten Days of Repentance, a time in which Jews seek forgiveness from those they may have hurt during the year. The holiday grouping is more properly known as Yamim Noraim, which is translated from Hebrew as the “Days of Awe.”

The packed holiday schedule will likely speed Rosenstein’s steps as she prepares her sermons and talks for the congregation. Rosenstein recently entered the homestretch of her rabbinical education and training. When Rosenstein becomes ordained, she will join an elite group of female rabbis worldwide.

She serves at the temple with Jeff Schwimmer, a rabbi and cantor whose career in synagogue life spans more than four decades.

Her emerging role underscores the twin missions of the self-described “Conservative Congregation with a Modern Twist.” Those goals focus on blending the old and the new and building an infrastructure for Jewish and Jewish interfaith families.

Changes are evident in the congregation that traces its local roots back nearly five decades. For most of that period, the congregation was based in a synagogue that it owned in the senior enclave of Sun City.

Faced with an aging, decreasing membership, the congregation decided to move from Menifee to Temecula. Its leaders sold their synagogue to a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and began seeking a new home.

About two years ago, Temple Beth Sholom opted to lease space in the building owned by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber constructed the Ynez Court building in 2003, and it leased an unused portion to a string of tenants before it became Temple Beth Sholom.

The move to the 1,800-square-foot suite has been a blessing for both sides, according to Rosenstein and Alice Sullivan, chamber president and chief executive.

Many of the congregation’s services, songs and prayers are in English as well as Hebrew.

“There’s plenty of English (spoken) that’s moving and relevant and touches people’s hearts and souls,” Rosenstein said in a recent interview.

Flashes of humor also punctuate the services as a result of the easy rapport between Rosenstein and Schwimmer.

“We’re small enough that we can do fun give-and-take and still stay within the dignity of the service,” Rosenstein said.

She said the temple’s banter, songs and holidays will help fuel the congregation’s efforts to form a cohesive community. Rosenstein hopes that community will someday include kosher markets and Jewish bakeries.

“It’s a long process, but we start one Jew at a time,” she said.

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