Temple Ahavat Shalom was organized in 1965, when the North Valley Reform Congregation merged with Temple Beth Torah of Arleta. The sale of the latter congregation’s land enabled the purchase of property at the corner of Chimineas Ave. and Rinaldi St. in Northridge. The name chosen by the new congregation combined the Hebrew words for Love and Peace ― Temple Ahavat Shalom.
In 1973, a permanent building was erected at the south end of the property. It was named the Martyrs Building, in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.
In that same year, Rabbi Solomon F. Kleinman (z”l) became the rabbi at TAS. He brought enormous energy and experience in community affairs, having served for eight years as regional director of the Union for Reform Judaism.
During the early 1970s, Temple Ahavat Shalom held High Holy Day services at the neighboring Church of Latter Day Saints, at White Oak Ave. and Rinaldi St. in Granada Hills. The LDS leadership was always very cordial. However, it was imperative that a much larger permanent sanctuary-social hall complex was needed. Life for us and other Jews in the North Valley would be greatly enhanced through this undertaking. Under Rabbi Kleinman’s (z”l) inspired leadership, capital fundraising and architectural committees were established under the slogan, “The Possible Dream.” This dream was realized with the completion of a beautiful and functional new facility, designed by the architectural firm of Brent, Robbins & Brown, in time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the fall of 1978.
Several years later, the congregation embarked upon the successful Pillar of Light Campaign, to complete the sanctuary with stained glass, eternal light, and ark, all of which were designed by artist Joseph Young. Within the ark is a Torah that survived the Holocaust and was brought to Temple Ahavat Shalom following its restoration. The original ark that was brought to Temple Ahavat Shalom from Temple Beth Torah was designed and crafted by founding member Irv Reizes (z”l) and still resides in our Chapel/Library.
In the years of Rabbi Kleinman’s (z”l) tenure, TAS established a new preschool and, then as now, offered Sunday and Hebrew school for children from K through 12. Under Rabbi Kleinman (z”l) there were retreats, several scholar-in-residence weekends, and a deep commitment to social action. Most significantly, TAS sponsored a Vietnamese family during their resettlement in Los Angles. The congregation also embraced Project Yachad to help free Soviet Jewry from communist oppression. With the congregation’s assistance, several families were settled in the U.S. or in Israel. Rabbi Kleinman (z”l) remained actively engaged in congregational life following his retirement in 1986. He passed away on October 9, 2015, at age 95.
Rabbi Jerry Brown came to our pulpit in the summer of 1986. He brought his own unique vision to the congregation. Once again, congregational life was in danger of being constricted by lack of a modern educational facility. Rabbi Brown inspired the membership and lay leadership to undertake the building of a beautiful, modern school complex, which includes brightly lit, highly functional classrooms and an activity center. Rabbi Brown established Tuesday morning Torah study in 1986, grew our congregation to 700 families, oversaw the opening of our school building, changed our services to reflect modern thought, taught many classes with dynamic vigor, and interested the congregation in new topics, including interfaith activity. He became renowned for his Purim services. His costume epics included the “Shleppers,” a take-off on the Beatles, and a showstopper as Diana Ross and the Supremes. After 23 years, Rabbi Brown retired in 2009.
In 1986, a new cantor was hired: Cantor Patti Linsky, a talented soprano with great musical gifts. She plays the guitar and the keyboard and is a recognized recording artist. She received her Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Miami, and her cantorial certification from the Hebrew Union College’s School of Sacred Music in New York. Her work supporting our Reform movement both locally and nationally is widely respected. Her voice enhanced our services and deepened our liturgy. Cantor Linsky retired and became our cantor emerita in 2010, the same year Cantor Jen Roher moved from Toledo, Ohio to become our cantor and choir director.
Cantor Roher started taking piano lessons from her mother at age 2. She studied the piano in high school, “but never to the point of aspiring to a career as a classical pianist,” she said. Cantor Roher enrolled in the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., as a vocal performance major before transferring after two years to the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. She graduated with a degree in Music Education in January 2000 and received a master’s degree in Sacred Music from the Hebrew Union College’s School of Sacred Music in New York in May 2004. She was ordained as a cantor in May 2005. Prior to joining the clergy team at TAS in 2010, Cantor Roher served as the cantor for The Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim in Toledo. In June 2016, Cantor Roher left TAS to seek other opportunities.
Cantor Kenneth Cohen became our cantor on July 1, 2016. He joined the TAS family after serving for several years at a Conservative congregation in Santa Monica. Cantor Cohen grew up in and around New York City. He graduated from Harpur College of Arts & Sciences on the State University of New York’s Binghamton campus, where he received degrees in History (B.A.) and Ethnomusicology (M.A.), then was ordained as a cantor by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He pursued a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at New York University, studying the Sephardic Jewish communities in Brooklyn. Cantor Cohen is the recipient of an honorary doctorate in Music from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan.
In 2008, Rabbi Barry M. Lutz became our senior rabbi. Rabbi Lutz came to Temple Ahavat Shalom in 1984 as our director of education, and was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1999.
Among Rabbi Lutz’s noteworthy accomplishments were our nationally recognized Confirmation program, community trips to Israel and Eastern Europe, and an annual 11th grade social justice experience in Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Lutz engaged the membership in a renewed commitment to social action and as a caring community. The congregation developed extensive, long-term relationships with organizations addressing important issues and human needs, such as poverty and social services; housing and homelessness; hunger; the environment; international human rights; and Israel. Temple Ahavat Shalom has partnered with the SOVA Food Bank, MEND (Meeting Each Need with Dignity), L.A. Family Housing, and Jewish World Watch.
At a Tikkun Olam effort in October 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, TAS hosted a “Feed the Hungry” project at the West Valley Jewish Community Center. Following two years of planning, TAS received a $20,000 grant, which allowed for this project. There were 400 volunteers from TAS and several other congregations who packaged 35,000 meals, sealed and boxed them, and sent them on to SOVA for distribution to those in need in our community.
Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik became our associate rabbi in 2009. Rabbi Shawna had grown up at TAS and was consecrated and confirmed here (you can find her 1977 consecration photo in the school office). A UCLA graduate, Rabbi Shawna was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2002 and was associated with TAS from the time of her ordination till October 2017. At TAS, Rabbi Shawna led our Tuesday morning Torah study group, taught Adult Education classes, coordinated our efforts to install a solar Ner Tamid, conducted monthly Torah on the Trail nature walks, and was on the summer faculty at Camp Newman near Santa Rosa.
In October 2017, both Rabbi Lutz and Rabbi Shawna, who had been serving part-time, left TAS to pursue other interests.
Rabbi Liat Yardeni-Funk became our senior rabbi on a temporary basis in January 2018. In accordance with policies and standards promulgated by Reform Judaism’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Yardeni-Funk, who is also the dean of the Rabbinical School at The Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles, will serve TAS until July 2018, at which time she will be replaced by an interim rabbi.
During more than 50 years in Northridge, we at Temple Ahavat Shalom have retained our character as an authentic, connected and inclusive community. We are a caring, intergenerational congregation, welcoming all members of the community, including families, singles, young adults, seniors, same-sex couples, and interfaith couples. Lifelong friendships have been formed at TAS while celebrating Judaism in all its richness.