OUR HOUSE OF HOPE
In 1964, 25 families gathered, discussed, pondered … and produced a “House of Hope” – Temple Beth Tikvah! Here we are, now more than 40 years later, looking back at our birth in awe and wonder. We had all agreed … “We must have a Temple in North Orange County so that our children will be able to get a Jewish education, so that we can meet and know our fellow Jews.”
IN THE BEGINNING
Our first services, for the High Holy Days in 1964, brought together 75 people huddled together for spiritual warmth … but we had made a start! After that, our Friday night services were held in the Fullerton YMCA under the leadership of student Rabbi Bernie King. Every Friday night we worshipped in front of an ark that was built in the garage of one of our members. Our Torah was lent to us by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism). We were a family, we were friends, and we were Jews. At the conclusion of each service many of us would go to one home or another to cement our friendships.
A PLACE OF OUR OWN
Soon we outgrew the YMCA. A small building being used as a fraternity house was found in Brea. Student Rabbi Al Lewis led us during our second year, but it was soon apparent that we required a permanent rabbi. In a short time Rabbi Haim Asa and TBT found each other. And he served TBT for 30 years until his retirement in 1995.
A PERMANENT HOME
As our congregation continued to grow, it became clear that we needed more room, better facilities, and a permanent home. We had purchased a prefabricated trailer building to house our Religious School, and when we moved to our current location in 1971, we brought our school building with us.
In 1980, Project Expansion was born to provide us with a beautiful sanctuary plus social hall. In 1981 we dedicated our new sanctuary, with beautiful stained glass and a unique ark designed by one of our very own members. The back wall of the bimah was constructed slat by slat by our members on Thanksgiving morning … a symbol of how we have always worked together for the perpetuation of our Jewish heritage.
A TRADITIONAL APPROACH
In 2000, a small conservative synagogue in Anaheim Hills, Adat Ari, joined us in an effort to strengthen the North Orange County Jewish presence. We became known as “Temple Beth Tikvah in association with Adat Ari,” and our traditional approach to Jewish worship and ritual was enhanced by the addition of a conservative wing to our congregation.
OUR CURRENT RABBI
Rabbi Milhander was our Rabbi through 2014. Rabbi Kenneth Milhander found TBT in 2001 while at a regional convention of the URJ. He was at that time in the midst of a contract with another congregation, doing services twice monthly in Camarillo. Rabbi Bernie King (our first student rabbi back in 1964) had just retired, and was looking for a way to ease into retirement. A perfect opportunity presented itself for us to engage Rabbi Milhander and Rabbi King, each on a part-time basis. The following year Rabbi Milhander became our full-time rabbi. He, his wife Laura, daughters Leah and Mara, and sons Adam and Jason have become family to us, and we wish them the best with their future endeavors.
At our 40th anniversary celebration, after months of behind-the-scenes planning, it was announced that “it was time” for us to erect a permanent, state-of-the-art school building to carry us into the 21st Century. Project Legacy became the focus of our fundraising efforts until in 2011 we opened our doors to our Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning. As part of the Project, a Holocaust Memorial was created to pay honor to the 6 million who perished at the hand of the Nazis, and to recognize the Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to save others from being brutally murdered. Our Center’s Holocaust and Tolerance Program will enable Jewish and secular groups to learn from survivors and our professional staff about the effects of the Holocaust and intolerance so that history does not repeat itself.
From twenty-five bewildered couples wandering bemusedly in a non-Jewish desert to a vibrant, active congregation at the heart of the North Orange County Jewish Community, we have a lot to be proud of. We did it with a lot of luck and sweat, with our wits and our spirit, and with our Hope … our TIKVAH!