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The Jewish Pass

The Growth of Jewish Institutions in Los Angeles' Sepulveda Pass

Erik Greenberg, Author

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Leo Baeck Temple

A BRIEF HISTORY OF LEO BAECK TEMPLE--its founding and its move westward into the southern end of the Sepulveda Pass--offers valuable information about some of the central tenets of American Judaism in the twentieth century and the relocation of the Los Angeles Jewish community in the years after WWII.

THE CONGREGATION, known today as Leo Baeck Temple, began under a different name and in a different location miles from its current home in the Sepulveda Pass.  In 1947, a small group of families created Congregation Beth Aaron.  Shortly after its founding, though, several members of the congregation went to hear a famous German rabbi speak--likely at Rabbi Max Nussbaum's Temple Israel of Hollywood.  Rabbi Leo Baeck, the speaker in question, so impressed the congregants of Beth Aaron, that soon thereafter they changed the name of their shul to honor this giant of German Jewry, and in 1952, Rabbi Baeck traveled to Los Angeles to dedicate the young congregation named in his honor.

Who was Rabbi Leo Baeck?

IN 1949 the temple purchased their first site, the former Canadian Legion Hall at 434 South San Vicente Boulevard--not far from today's Beverly Center and Cedars Sinai Medical Center.  By 1957, the congregation had grown so large, that its leaders decided not merely to relocate, but to build a facility to accommodate their programmatic and congregational needs.  They purchased a ten-acre plot of land on the southeast corner of the Sepulveda Pass.  At the time, the land for the new temple seemed remote, but the building of the facility coincided almost perfectly with the construction of the new portion of the San Diego Freeway through the pass.

GROUNDBREAKING took place in December, 1961, and the temple was dedicated by the spring of 1963, about four months after the completion of the San Diego Freeway project.

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