Synagogue: The Community Connectors

by Jessica Hanewinckel March 29, 2013


By Jessica Hanewinckel

The approximately 500 member families of Poway’s Temple Adat Shalom are a busy, involved bunch.

“I’ve worked for three congregations, and by far Adat Shalom has the most vibrant, active volunteer base of any of those three synagogues,” says Executive Director Jeffrey Frankel.

This month, the synagogue takes on what is perhaps one of its largest events of the year, and one that certainly requires a huge volunteer turnout from within the membership. The fourth annual San Diego Jewish Food Festival, a fundraiser of the synagogue but an event for the whole community, will take place 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 28 on Adat Shalom’s campus. (Visit Adat Shalom’s Web site to buy tickets, see which celebrity chefs will be running cooking demonstrations, and for a complete run-down of everything else to expect.)

“It really comes together beautifully,” Frankel says, “but it comes together because of the congregation, who we are.”

According to Diane Hillman, co-chair of the festival with fellow congregant Sid Bernsen, about one third of the congregation volunteers in some capacity to pull off this massive event each year, either in pre-event food preparation, on the day of the festival, or in both capacities. Hillman says it’s likely that if a congregant isn’t able to volunteer, they probably buy tickets and attend the festival, supporting the congregation “by being there and being good representatives of the temple.”

“We’re awesome,” Hillman says, with a laugh. “The men and women all get involved. Everybody loves the idea, and it’s interesting because we may not make a zillion dollars, but the good will it brings into the community and within our own community working together [makes it worth it]. Everyone has a good feeling when they come in that day and see the room just packed with people having a good time, enjoying themselves. There is something very special about it, and I think it draws our congregation together.”

Last year, Hillman says, about 2,000 people attended the festival, both from the congregation, from the larger Jewish community in San Diego, and from the non-Jewish community as well (about 400), and from as far away as Temecula and El Cajon.

“This, to me, was the thrill, because we want to reach out to the [non-Jewish] community and have an ecumenical understanding of each other and live together in peace,” Hillman says. “[The Food Festival] is our way of contributing to that, to have the community understand who we are and know that we are friends.”

But the festival is also Adat Shalom’s way of contributing to the larger Jewish community in San Diego.

“We all have the idea of going into our grandparents’ home and the smells that come from it when you go there for a family function,” Frankel says. “The hope is that what we produce can remind [attendees] of those positive memories, and I personally believe that’s in practice with good Jewish values: Remembering the old and living for the future.”

That’s not the only way they contribute throughout the year. According to Frankel, they’re constantly working to adapt the synagogue to Judaism and the Reform movement today.

“As the Reform movement is shifting,” he says, “we’re trying to grapple with the modern day and what it means to be Jewish in today’s era.”

To that end, two of the synagogue’s biggest additions over the past few years have been its contemporary Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services and live-streaming capabilities.

“Yom Kippur is a solemn day,” Frankel says. “People come knowing it’s solemn, but we did a magnificent service in a contemporary style [last year] and continue to tweak it. It will continue to build and hopefully be part of our repertoire into the future. We’re always looking at new ways to take what we see outside of our community here in North Inland County and even in greater San Diego County and beyond, and learn from it.” (The Jewish Food Festival is an example of that, as they took the idea from a congregation in Savannah, Ga., that’s run a very successful one for many years.)

Adat Shalom has also acquired the capability to stream many of its services, including Friday night services and all b’nai mitzvah, “so now Bubbe back in Boston can be there with the child,” Frankel says. Recently, they streamed the memorial service for a notable Jewish community leader who died several months ago, and Frankel reports they had more than 100 people view the service live from around the world.

“We’re connecting people,” he says. “That’s really what I would say about Adat Shalom. It is the connector that keeps the Jewish community going in North County.”

Adds Hillman, “We do what we think is best for our community. Whether that community is literally this area or the Jewish community at large, part of the heart of this temple is that we care so much about being contributory to what’s good for the Jewish community.”

Thankfully for San Diego Jews, part of that contribution involves tzimmes, black and white cookies, strudel, cheese blintzes, knishes and so many other varieties of authentic Jewish food, all available in one spot this month.


Temple Adat Shalom

15905 Pomerado Road

Poway, CA 92064

(858) 451-1200



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