Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, the Reform Congregation in Irvine, will celebrate its new construction with a groundbreaking ceremony and Shabbat services on September 30 at 7 p.m.
“We are building a new campus for the next two generations of Orange County Jewish families,” said Rabbi Richard Steinberg, senior rabbi of Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’a lot. “We are remodeling our current building into an educational center and then along Michelson Drive, creating a new, dynamic, multi-use sanctuary, social hall and administration wing.”
He added, “When we bought this building in 1994, our congregation’s population was 250 families. Now, twenty-two years later, we top almost 650 families. We have outgrown our space. As the Torah teaches, G-d desires the Israelites to build a sanctuary so that G-d’s spirit may dwell within each person. That too is our hope – that whenever people walk into our campus, their spirit will be lifted, their mood will brighten and their experience will be positive.”
The congregation will honor its donors – including more than 75 percent of the congregation — at the groundbreaking and will symbolically dig the first shovel into the ground. Cantor Arie Shikler, a mainstay of the congregation for more than forty years, said, “There is a special spirit at our temple, and this new campus will only enhance what is already so good. Music will beat in each person’s heart as people join us for services, for meetings, for school and for community.”
According to Rabbi Leah Lewis, Rabbi and Director of Education and Lifelong Learning for more than five years at the synagogue, “We have been sort of land locked and not able to do all the things we dream about. With our new educational center and expanded space, the possibilities will be endless. Our school, of more than 400 students including our bursting high school program on Tuesday nights, will engage in projects that have been impossible heretofore because of a lack of space. The sky is the limit now.”
Beth Carroll and Dr. Rachel Harman, co-presidents of the congregation explained that while the current temple facility will close down the day after Yom Kippur for construction, the temple will still be active and fully functional. Friday night services will be held at the Mormon Center on Lake Street in Irvine, Sunday School will be at Tarbut v’Torah on Bonita Canyon in Irvine, Tuesday night school will be held at the Back Bay Club in Irvine (upstairs from Irvine Lanes) and several other locations for services and programs will be used as well. Anyone interested is free to call the office to obtain the year-long “Catalogue of Programs and Services.”
According to Rabbi Steinberg, “At the groundbreaking there will be the joy of Shabbat and the double joy of breaking ground with live music, champagne and a spirit filled with possibilities. The whole Orange County community is invited to join the synagogue for this event.”
He concluded, “Now being in Orange County and Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot for more than a decade and half, I have seen the incredible growth of our congregation and our Jewish community. This new spiritual campus will be the epicenter for temple members and community members to search for meaning, pray with intention, learn wisdom from our ancient tradition and mostly come together with friends and family to lift us all up.”