Our historic Temple was formed back in 1928, which is one reason why "TBE" is woven into the fabric of Los Angeles' Jewish life.
Often, when visitors find out Temple B’nai Emet has been here 90 years, they say, “Wait, I think my grandparents went there before they moved.”
They probably did...
Formed by “Eastside” community leaders who wanted more space to create a Hebrew school and family center, TBE brought together a young, dynamic and growing Jewish community.
Our location was significant since Temple Beth Isreal in Highland Park and Temple B’nai Israel of Pasadena were a bit of a distance to travel in the days before freeways and ubiquitous autos. Also, many of our founders came from the well-known and orthodox Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights as Los Angeles became increasing crowded in the pre-World War II era.
Today, Temple B’nai Emet has diverse members that travel from as far away as San Luis Obispo and south Orange County and welcome everyone to join us regardless of affiliation or membership. Here is a look at our history:
The Temple started at small building on Humphreys Avenue, actually spent time at a small hotel, used a theater on Whittier Boulevard for High Holidays, moved to Ford Avenue in Montebello — and finally moved to our grand home on Garfield Avenue in Montebello, which is fitting in that the city of Montebello was founded many years earlier on land purchased by Jewish community leaders in the late 1880’s. Even the name of the Temple has changed over the years from “Jewish Educational Alliance”, to the “Synagogue Center” to “Jewish Educational Center of East Los Angeles”, and finally to Temple B’nai Emet which means “Children of Truth.”
Vignettes from B’nai Emet’s History
· Rabbi Eugene Gottesman’s tenure (1944-1971) saw the congregation’s greatest growth in the number of members served.
· Rabbi Samuel Stone took over leadership in 1974 after a series of interim Rabbis and, among his legacies, was the establishment of the “482 Club” with his wife Vivian. While primarily a social club in process, it was a major contributor to the financial well-being of the Temple.
· Rabbi Sheldon Pennes has served Temple B’nai Emet since 1992 and grew up just up the street in Alhambra, California, and even came to Temple B’nai Emet for classes at the Los Angeles Hebrew High School! His dynamic Torah Study sessions is a significant reason members travel from far and wide to the Temple.
· Cantor Joel Stern, who officiated with Rabbi Stone in the 1970’s, established a choir and the Temple became well-known for its musical productions with his leadership.
· Cantor Ron Galperin, currently the Los Angeles City Controller, served Temple B’nai Emet for over 20 years, from the late 1980’s into the new millennium, and still finds time for occasional visits.
· The Ladies Auxiliary (The Sisterhood) may have been the most visible part of the Temple for non-Jewish residents of the east side as they were the leaders in creating the beautiful sanctuary windows visible from Garfield Avenue. Flo Schwartz directed the Sisterhood for 20 years and organized well-attended bingo nights that even had a banner was strung across Garfield Avenue to let residents know the schedule. The activity helped the Temple be part of an integrated community and helped fund and sustain the Temple, including the school.
· The Men’s Club was a service organization that grew out of Temple membership and also helped support the Temple via fundraising activities.
· The Minyonaires, led by Gabbai Izzy Alpert, conducted daily Shiva services as well as collecting donations that were given to the Temple treasury.
· The Temple “Mothers” Grace Hasson and Clara Segal ran the Temple kitchen with love and joy! They are honored with a permanent bronze plaque at the Temple that enshrines them as Eshet Chayil (Women of Valor; Proverbs 31).
· As congregations age and move, one of the most challenging jobs is that of the Temple Secretary; Temple B’nai Emet recognizes leadership through action -- and Dorothy Mear and Rachel DeMerit’s years of service as Temple secretaries were indispensable. Rachel also served as Executive Director of the Board. “Those who are familiar with the way our Temple functions, know that miracles emanate from Rachel’s desk on a daily basis. We all owe Rachel a great debt of love and gratitude,” said member Belle Shrager.
· Abe Baron served as Temple President in the 1980’s and 1990’s and his wife Ethel served as Board President after his death in 1999.
The legacy of what we contribute will be our gift to the next generation!
It is up to each and every one of us to make sure that the community we have established here at Temple B'nai Emet is still going strong long after we are gone.