Congregation Beth Israel Puts on its Party Shoes

by Brie Stimson April 26, 2017


pic-of-the-3Congregation Beth Israel, one of the historic centers of Jewish life in San Diego, is hosting its annual fundraiser, this time dubbed “Eat, Pray, Sing” at the beginning of May.

“Our Senior Rabbi Michael Berk likes to cook so ‘eat’ kind of is related to him, and our cantor obviously likes to sing so that kind of related to her and we are a synagogue so the pray part and Havdalah kind of tied in,” the congregation’s Development Director Meg Mandel explains of their annual fundraiser’s theme.

The congregation is celebrating two of their rabbis and their executive director for a combined 40 years of service at the temple. The annual fundraiser is in its third consecutive year, raising money to support their mission – to provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for anyone who seeks a connection to Judaism “and we try to keep our doors open to all,” she says.

At more than 150 years old, the historic Reform congregation strives for inclusivity.

“We really aspire to help build connections for people in the Jewish community,” Mandel tells the Jewish Journal. “We have both spiritual enrichment and worship, lifelong learning, inclusivity and outreach. We are really open to interfaith couples and families and we welcome members of every age, race, sexual orientation, background, lifestyle, situation, level of observance. That’s very important to us.”

While the fundraiser does not target a specific program this year, “It supports the temple over all,” Mandel explains.

The synagogue strives to be seen as a caring congregation.

“We really try to acknowledge and engage our members at all stages of their lives and be compassionate during times of need and also to be available to help celebrate the happy things,” she adds. “We’ve got a big social action component.”

The event, on May 6, will feature the rousing music of Dueling Pianos, catering by Guiseppe with an offering of signature cocktails, wine, beer, dinner and a dessert reception and a silent auction.

“I think first of all it’s going to be a very, very fun event,” Mandel says. “Our entertainment this year is interactive so I think that’s going to be really fun. The food … [is] going to be really delicious and Dan Cohen from CBS News 8 is the emcee for the evening.”

Rabbi Berk and Executive Director Lesley Mills have been at the temple for 10 years, while Rabbi Cantor Arlene Bernstein is celebrating 20 years with the congregation.

“It’s going to be really fun and we’re really thrilled to be honoring three such amazing people because they’ve been so important to our community,” Mandel says.

The event is open to the public. Tickets start at $90 and can be purchased at


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