Reflections on being Jewish in South Lake Tahoe: Forming a Jewish community at the South Shore
February 14, 2013
My husband and I moved to South Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1983. We started our family and a retail business in Harrrah’s. Because Judaism is all about community, we began our search for Jews in Tahoe. We connected with Dr. Jeffrey Applebaum who, along with about 20 people, met in homes to celebrate Shabbat and holidays.
It wasn’t long before the group felt it was time to become more organized and began a temple at the South Shore. The excitement caught on and, within a year, Temple Bat Yam was formed. We made a connection with Rev. Bob Sanders and worshipped Friday nights in the family room of the Lake Tahoe Presbyterian Church. Services and life cycle events were held with lay leadership and our Jewish community began to grow.
We gave top priority to how we were going to pass on Jewish traditions to our children and so began our religious school. Under the direction of Harriet Goldman, we held classes twice per month for primary school-aged children, as well as Hebrew classes for those preparing for Bar and Bat Mitzvah. The children of Temple Bat Yam have become family over the years and feel a connection to one another in addition to Judaism. Their experiences at Temple Bat Yam led many of them to Jewish summer camps, Birthright trips to Israel, living in Israel, seeking out Hillel groups at college and living Jewish lives.
In the late 1980s, we began our affiliation with the Union of Reform Judaism and began bringing student rabbis to our community. These students would stay with temple members for the weekend and bring wonderful programs and energy to our congregation. This continued for more than 10 years before we hired our first ordained rabbi.
The community welcomed Rabbi Jonathan Freirich, who served our community for eight years before moving on to North Carolina. We are so fortunate to now have Rabbi Evon Yakar serving our Jewish Community.
There are so many memories of holidays shared, bar and bat mitzvah and other life cycle events. Our community menorah at the chamber office has been a symbol of the Jewish community at the lake for years. We welcome our visitors who come to ski in the winter and enjoy our summer attractions. They become part of our extended temple family and are always happy to find an active Jewish community here.
Temple Bat Yam is celebrating 30 years with a weekend of events Aug. 16-18, 2013. We will be keeping the community updated with details as we approach the summer.
– Charna Silver is a Temple Bat Yam founder and member, and is chairwoman of the 30 Year Anniversary Committeee.