Bahai News - Sunrise Jewish Congregation soon will have a real home

Sunrise Jewish Congregation soon will have a real home

By Bill Lindelof
Bee Staff Writer
(Published Sept. 29, 2000)

For 17 years the Sunrise Jewish Congregation has wandered in a suburban wilderness from Fair Oaks to Granite Bay without a permanent temple to call its own.

Now, as congregation members prepare for the holiest days of the year -- Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur -- they look forward to moving into a nearly complete synagogue, Temple Or Rishon, which is Hebrew for first light.

The congregation first worshipped in homes of pioneering Sunrise members.

As the group grew, Sunrise rented church space, and then went to an office building, where the surroundings were a bit bland, and next to a storefront next to a doughnut shop.

At sundown tonight, the congregation will hold its last Rosh Hashana service in a space that was not specifically designed to be a temple.

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins 10 days of solemn reflection and self-evaluation, culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Rosh Hashana celebrates the creation of the world. "It is a time when you wipe the slate clean and start over," said Sunrise's Rabbi Marvin Schwab.

It is also a time, he said, when you take the body for granted and concentrate on the soul.

"In the new building we now have the body and it is time to start concentrating on the soul that is going to dwell within," he said.

Lynn Dean, temple president, is also excited about the move to the airy, new synagogue at 7755 Hazel Ave. in Orangevale.

"Even without a permanent home, since the moment it began, our congregation has been able to offer weekly Shabbat services, host High Holiday services, attend to the life-cycle needs of the members and build a vital youth and adult education program," Dean said. "Imagine what we will be able to do from here."

The rabbi and members attach special significance to the building of the new temple, considering that three other Sacramento synagogues have been firebombed.

"In light of the horrific temple firebombings two summers ago, we believe that our new building makes a strong, positive statement," said Paul Spector, a congregation member.

Rabbi Schwab said the new temple is an acknowledgment by his congregation that Sacramento is a good place for people of all faiths to gather.

"If it is safe for us to worship," he said, "then it is safe for the Bahai, for the Buddhist and for the Muslims."

Yom Kippur will be observed at sundown Oct. 8 at the new synagogue. The new temple officially opens Oct. 15 with a 2 p.m. dedication ceremony.

The torah scrolls will be marched around the 8,000-square-foot building seven times, symbolizing the "marriage" of the torah and the sanctuary.

An open house will be held at 7:30 p.m. Brief opening remarks will precede an official hanging of a temple mezuzah, a parchment with scripture placed in a case and attached to a doorpost. Music and noshing (snacking) will follow.

The temple's Rosh Hashana services will be held in Divine Savior Catholic Church pavilion on Greenback Lane in Orangevale to handle increased attendance common during the High Holy Days. The new temple is not quite ready.

The new building sits on a 2.3-acre parcel purchased by the congregation in 1990. Plans were revised several times as the congregation grew.

Temple Or Rishon-Sunrise Jewish Congregation, established in 1983, has grown to 240 members. The Hebrew and religious school has more than 200 students.

Many members travel from Loomis, Rocklin, Roseville, Folsom, El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park to attend.

By the time Schwab joined the Reform congregation 10 years ago, the group was renting space from Fairvale Baptist Church in Fair Oaks.

"They were very considerate," Schwab said. "I got a call from one of our members asking what we should do about the Christmas tree at the church. But when I arrived at the church that day, the church members had already moved the tree out of the sanctuary. They were being sensitive. The nativity scene was still in the foyer, but in the sanctuary there were no overt signs of Christmas."

After moving from Fairvale, the congregation rented a former office building behind a roller skating rink in Roseville.

"It was the first place that was our own," Schwab said. "We didn't have to put the prayer books away in a back room. We could leave the ark, torahs and torah-reading table there. It was a place to have a bar mitzvah."

The congregation then moved to the commercial space in Granite Bay, where it's been for the past four years.

"It is not a beautiful setting but it's 'holey' being next to a doughnut shop," Schwab said. "It always smells good but we are looking forward to our new place."

Ten years ago, congregants showed him plans for the new temple. Since then, there have been four building-plan revisions.

"One of the difficulties is that we were shooting at a moving target," Schwab said. "When I came here 10 years ago, there were 85 families. Now there are 240. So each year as the membership went up it changed the plans. And as you look to the future, you don't want to build a temple that is too small for the congregation."

He spoke about the high ceiling, generous use of natural light and Jewish symbols built into the structure, such as a menorah that can be seen from the street.

"It's been quite a journey," he said, "but what we are building will be a remarkable worship space."

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