First published in the June 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
This past week, congregants of Burbank’s Temple Emanu El took a stroll back in time — back to 1947 — when the temple was founded.
Along with the establishment of Temple Emanu El, it was a time when Harry S. Truman was serving as the nation’s president, Earl Warren had been elected governor of California and a transplant from Iowa named Paul L. Brown was the mayor of Burbank.
It was a year that saw the “Black Dahlia” murder, Branch Rickey sign Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers and Howard Hughes take the one-and-only eight-minute flight of the Spruce Goose.
It was near the tail end of a decade that would see Burbank’s population grow from just over 34,000 in 1940 to more than 78,000 in 1950.
That population included one resident — an aspiring young actress — who lived in a modest home on Rowland Avenue, now known as Warner Boulevard. During her time as a Burbank resident, that Hollywood hopeful could have frequented any local shop or restaurant without being noticed.
That would soon change, and by the early years of the 1950s, having become one of Tinseltown’s most marketable stars, Marilyn Monroe left Burbank for Westwood. Some of those historic milestones, along with many others — from Truman to Biden, Warren to Newsom, and Brown to Talamantes — were visually featured in old photographs and newspaper clippings on the walls of the temple’s courtyard during last week’s celebration.
Staged under the theme “It Takes a Shtetl… An Evening Under the Stars,” the temple’s 75th-anniversary event was chaired by Samantha Benson.
Following in the footsteps of her late grandmother, Lois Benson-Bennett, who played an instrumental role in the temple for decades, Benson said she and her committee were grateful to be able to have congregants and supporters be able to gather for the celebration of their diamond anniversary.
“It has been very important for us to come back together as a community following the pandemic,” Benson said. “This is not just a celebration of our 75 years, but also of how we, as a community, have thrived during the past two years. That happened because of so many people’s commitment to our temple — their hard work and motivation.”
Last week’s event saw seven of those individuals honored for their dedication. Recognized for the vital part each one of them has played as a temple member, the honorees were Jerry Moss, Alvart Minasian, Eric Hernandez, Carla Muller, Limor Zimskind, Yaneyda Felipe and Lauren Z. Conner.
Michael Canaan, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies, praised the honorees saying that, for them, as for all of the congregants, Temple Emanu El is truly like a second home.
He also acknowledged the numerous dignitaries in attendance, which included Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes, City Councilmembers Bob Frutos and Sharon Springer, City Clerk Zizette Mullins, Arda Tchakian, who was representing state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Rabbi Tsafi Lev, temple co-presidents Zimskind and Conner, board treasurer Rebecca Chernack, and members of the committee who made the event possible: Carla Muller, Sunny Singer, Nat and Alma Rubinfeld, Tobi Lippman, Eric Conner and Johanna Moyal.
As Burbank Temple Emanu El begins its 76th year of service to the Jewish community of Burbank and the greater San Fernando Valley, it continues to be a progressive-minded, egalitarian full-service synagogue, rooted in the tenets and traditions of American conservative Judaism.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563- 1007.