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Temple Beth Shalom of the West Valley celebrates 50 years

Temple Beth Shalom of the West Valley celebrates its 50th anniversary on Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, Feb. 29.

Ellen O’Brien | Staff Writer Feb 25, 2020

Temple Beth Shalom of the West Valley is celebrating its golden anniversary this weekend with a look toward the future.

What started as a congregation for retirees in 1968 became multigenerational with the founding of its religious school in 2009. “It now has people from all over at all ages, and we’re priding ourselves on being a multigenerational congregation,” said Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan of TBS. “So not only are there three or four or five different generations present, but we’re trying to build connections between those five generations.”

The congregation is celebrating with a special Friday night service on Feb. 28 and a Golden Gala with dinner and dancing on Saturday, Feb. 29.

“This is one of the great things about our temple, that we’re a family,” said Marvin Berris, president of the TBS executive board. “This is an opportunity for everybody to get together and have a celebration, and to have dinner together, and to understand what we’re doing and where we’re going and to join in and participate.”

Residents of Sun City founded Congregation Beth Shalom in 1968 and hired Rabbi Albert Michels as their first permanent rabbi in 1972. The groundbreaking ceremony for the modern day temple was held in January 1977.

Now, Berris says, TBS has an opportunity to reach younger generations, especially interfaith families.

“We are reaching out and telling them that there’s a place for interfaith families now at our temple,” Berris said. “This is where we’re heading for the next couple of years in our effort to locate these families, to tell them that we are an egalitarian, all-welcoming temple and we’re here to serve interfaith families.”

Two of TBS’ rabbi emeriti, Rabbi Arthur Abrams and Rabbi Sheldon Moss, will join Kaplan and Cantor Baruch Koritan for a special Torah reading on Friday. All three rabbis and the cantor will also speak about TBS’ history and their experiences at the temple. “We’re seeing the 50th anniversary as a time to renew and reflect and grow,” Kaplan said.

The TBS Golden Gala on Saturday, Feb. 29 will feature hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m., followed by dancing, a raffle and a silent auction. According to Berris, the gala will be an extension of TBS’ usual Saturday services. “People come here for socialization,” he said. “They can’t wait to come here and they stay a long time afterwards, talking and meeting each other and discussing what’s going on in their lives.”

The celebration will also include a time capsule, which the first class of TBS religious school students buried in 2009. Students from the school opened the capsule ahead of the gala on Sunday, Feb. 23, but they encountered a setback: Everything inside the box had gotten wet sometime in the last 11 years.

“We’re trying to dry it all out, separate it and see what we can do about it. So that was our excitement,” Berris said. “Anyway, the kids enjoyed opening it up.”

The dry contents of the old capsule will be on display at the TBS gala, and religious school students will assemble a new one to be buried after the celebration.

“I think it’s a really nice idea to see what people in our congregation thought was important then, and it allows us to consider, ‘What are our core values and what do we want to communicate to our own congregants in the future?’” Kaplan said. JN

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