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Sinai Temple (Los Angeles, California)

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Coordinates: 34°03′59″N 118°25′45″W / 34.0663°N 118.4291°W / 34.0663; -118.4291

Sinai Temple is located in Westwood, Los Angeles, California. It is the oldest and largest Conservative Jewish congregation in the greater Los Angeles area. Architect Sidney Eisenshtat designed the current synagogue building, constructed in 1956 and expanded in 1998.[1] As of 2009, the senior rabbi is David Wolpe.

File:Sinai Temple.jpg


Begun in 1906, Sinai Temple was established as the first Conservative congregation in Southern California. Its founders saw it as a venue for the practice of traditional Judaism in an environment of assimilation.[2] The congregation first met in a B'nai B'rith hall on Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles,[2] then from 1906 to 1925 in a building at 12th and Valencia, just west of what is now the Los Angeles Convention Center, in a building that is now the Welsh Presbyterian Church.[3]

Having outgrown this facility, the congregation relocated to the mid-Wilshire district in 1925. This second building, located at 4th and New Hampshire, is now a Korean Presbyterian church.[3]

Following the trend of its congregants, who were moving in significant numbers to Beverly Hills and the Westside of Los Angeles, in 1956, Sinai Temple constructed its third facility at its current location at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Glen Boulevard in Westwood. The building has a striking interior marked by the use of stained glass; Eisenshtat's design has been compared to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.[1] The building was expanded in 1998, under the supervision of architect Mehrdad Yazdani and Dworsky Associates.[1]

Sinai Temple owns and operates Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, a large Jewish cemetery in the Hollywood Hills, which the temple acquired in 1967 from the neighboring Forest Lawn Memorial Park. In 1997 Mount Sinai dedicated a second cemetery location in Simi Valley.[4][5]

In 1968, Sinai Temple opened Sinai Akiba Academy, a Jewish day school for pre-kindergarten through 8th grade.[6] The school's headmaster, Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin, was elected in 2009 to become president of the board of directors of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, the national association of day schools under the auspices of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. He was the first school head to hold this position.[7]

Notable people and events

David Wolpe, Sinai Temple's current senior rabbi, is an author and leader of the Conservative movement. In 2008, a Newsweek article named him the most influential pulpit rabbi in the United States.[8] Other notable clergy of Sinai Temple have included rabbi David Lieber, who later headed the University of Judaism; cantor and composer Meir Finkelstein;[3] and rabbi Sherre Hirsch.

"Friday Night Live", a lively, music-driven Shabbat service intended to attract younger congregants, was initially developed by Rabbi Wolpe and musician Craig Taubman at Sinai Temple;[9] the concept is now replicated in other synagogues around the world.[3] In June 2006, a Friday Night Live service at Sinai Temple saw an appearance by evangelical Christian minister and author Rick Warren, Warren's first appearance as featured speaker in a synagogue.[10][11]

Sinai Temple has been notably impacted by the wave of Persian Jews who immigrated to the United States after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Prior to this event, the congregation had been overwhelmingly composed of Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern European heritage. As many Persian Jews emigrated to Los Angeles, a substantial number joined Sinai Temple; over time the Persian Jews became more fully integrated into the congregation, which is now divided about evenly between Ashkenazim and Persians. Jimmy Delshad became the first Persian Jew to become president of Sinai Temple in 1990; in 2007 he was elected as mayor of Beverly Hills.[3][12]

In 1999, Sinai Temple was the site of a "second bar mitzvah" for actor Kirk Douglas, then age 83.[13][14][15]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 David Gebhard and Robert Winter, An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles (Gibbs Smith, rev. ed. 2003), ISBN 9781586853082, p. 143 (excerpt available at Google Books).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kerry M. Olitzky, Marc Lee Raphael, The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996), ISBN 0313288569, 9780313288562, pp. 47-48 (excerpt available at Google Books).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Amy Klein, "The Sinai Century", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, May 18, 2006.
  4. Ruth Stroud, "Westward Expansion", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, March 20, 1997.
  5. Tracy Valeri, "Mount Sinai Park Dedication Set", Los Angeles Daily News, March 15, 1997.
  6. Sinai Akiba official website (retrieved October 14, 2009).
  7. "Conservative school movement names board chief", Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 11, 2009 (retrieved October 14, 2009).
  8. "Top 50 Influential Rabbis in America", Newsweek web exclusive, April 11, 2008 (retrieved October 14, 2009).
  9. Ron Wolfson, The Spirituality of Welcoming: How to Transform Your Congregation into a Sacred Community", (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006), ISBN 9781580232449, pp. 92-94 (excerpts available at Google Books).
  10. Rob Eshman, "Jesus’ Man Has a Plan", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, June 22, 2006.
  11. "Pastor Rick Warren to Make First-Ever Appearance in a Synagogue", Religion News Service, June 6, 2006 (retrieved October 14, 2009).
  12. Kevin West, "The Persian Conquest", W, July 2009 (retrieved October 14, 2009).
  13. Kirk Douglas, My Stroke of Luck (HarperCollins, 2003), ISBN 9780060014049, p. 110 (excerpt available at Google Books).
  14. Tom Tugend, "Kirk Douglas—Bar Mitzvah Boy", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, December 23, 1999.
  15. Robert W. Welkos, "Douglas Beats the Count", Los Angeles Times, December 7, 1999.

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