Etz Jacob Congregation Celebrates 85 Years
This coming Jewish year, 5778, marks 85 years since the founding of Congregation Etz Jacob on Beverly Boulevard. With the catchy slogan of “re-Jew-venate,” Etz Jacob is celebrating in style by offering free seats for the upcoming high holidays.
From its very humble beginnings back in 1933, Etz Jacob grew to become one of the pillars and leading centers of the Jewish community, especially in and around the Fairfax area. In its prime, it boasted programs for men, women, and children and a multitude of minyanim and daily classes. Its talmud Torah educated many a Jewish child and many of its graduates now lead beautiful Torah observant lives.
The shul was started by Rabbi Jacob Bauman in his home and when the crowd became too large, Jacob Tanenbaum (whom the shul was eventually named after) helped them lease a store front on Beverly Boulevard.
With time, this too became too small, and a new store front was purchased. From one store front, the shul grew to two stores and then three – and then four! It was remodeled to include a beautiful sanctuary, beis medrash, social hall, and school.
For decades the shul’s men’s club, sisterhood, and NCSY were the pride and joy of Etz Jacob and the talk of the town.
What is perhaps most unique and admirable about this particular shul is the diversity of Jewish groups it interacted with. Walk in there on any given Shabbos, and you will find a Ashkenazi minyan, a Persian minyan, a Sefardic minyan and – at one time – a Yemenite minyan. The shul currently hosts the Ohel Chana girls high school (Chabad) and in the past has hosted the Bnos Esther and Bnos Devorah girls’ high schools.
In the late ’70s, when there was a wave of Russian immigration to the United States, Etz Jacob realized that there was not enough being done for the Russian Community. It teamed up with Jewish Vocational Services (Jewish Federation) and developed a program to educate Russian immigrants. They brought them into the shul and taught them English, a trade, and – of course – Torah.
Of particular note, was the shul‘s commitment and effort to train and ready these Russian boys for their bar mitzvahs. For many it meant beginning with aleph-bet, but by the time his bar mitzvah came around each boy could recite the brachot on the Torah, some even reading the maftir and sharing a beautiful d’var Torah in their bar mitzvah speeches. Over a span of two years, the shul readied over 50 boys for their bar mitzvahs.
In the ’80s, when thousands of Iranian Jews arrived in California, it was once again Etz Jacob that realized the need for education and programming and got to work. A Jewish day school was started, at first with only 17 students, but within two years the numbers grew to over 150 students. Within a short period of time, Etz Jacob was a flourishing Jewish school with Jewish students from many different diverse backgrounds.
Leading this tremendous effort of Jewish outreach and the Rabbi behind this dynamic and flourishing Jewish center was Rabbi Rubin Huttler (1970 – present).
Originally from New York, Rabbi Huttler married Miriam Adler of Los Angeles, and on the urging of his father in law entered the rabbinate. A talmid of Torah V’daas and of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Huttler poured his life and soul into the shul and his efforts soon paid off. It was under his leadership that the shul enjoyed its most successful years at the forefront of Jewish life and activity in Los Angeles.
Etz Jacob is planning a big celebration for its 85th anniversary some time in 2018.