For UTC’s Congregation Beth Israel, this upcoming season, from September 2011 through May 2012, will be, essentially, one long party. That’s because the Reform synagogue is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1861. Since San Diego’s pioneer Jewish community started its first synagogue — one of the oldest in the western U.S. — a lot has changed, but Beth Israel is marking the celebration as a time to remember the past as much as to dream about the future.
The festivities begin Sept. 18 with an opening celebration at Beth Israel. The community is invited to this free event, which will include speeches by local, state and national dignitaries, a meet-and-greet with Torah scribe Julie Seltzer, who has been commissioned to create Beth Israel’s newest Torah to commemorate the occasion, a concert by Craig Taubman and cupcakes and refreshments.
Over the course of the next several months, Beth Israel will also be host to seven distinguished and well-known Jewish scholars who will speak at the temple as part of its Anniversary Speakers Series. Guest speakers include Rabbi David Wolpe, Rabbi Eric Yoffie and Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, among others. The community is invited to these evenings as well.
Also open to the community is the Three-Temple Tour, which pays homage to Beth Israel’s ever-changing physical presence in San Diego. The tour of Beth Israel’s three different homes starts with its first 19th-century building, the Old Temple Beth Israel, now housed in Old Town’s Heritage Park, in October. The second stop will be what is today Ohr Shalom Synagogue, located at Third Avenue and Laurel Street in San Diego, in January. The final tour of the synagogue’s current campus in UTC will be in May.
For more information on these and other upcoming anniversary events, visit www.cbisd.org and scroll through the drop-down menu titled “150th Celebration.”