Ribbon cut on Temple Beth Tikvah’s school

Posted on October 26, 2010

FULLERTON – Hundreds came to witness a ribbon cutting ceremony Sunday for the opening of Temple Beth Tikvah’s new school, the Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning.

Rabbi Hiam Asa’s hand lingers on the mezuzah, a symbolic Jewish doorpost inscribed with a prayer from the Torah. (Photo by Nuran Alteir)

“I think it’s really awesome and it’s way better than being in a trailer,” Alyssa Bloomfield, 11, said of the new $3 million building on Acacia Avenue. “There’s bathrooms and air conditioning.

Before this building, Temple Beth Tikvah students learned about Jewish heritage in used portable trailers that had no bathrooms, running water or working air conditioner.

“It was an eyesore and a non-conducive learning environment,” said Rabbi Kenneth Milhander, who has been with Temple Beth Tikvah for 10 years now.

While the Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning is not expected to be finished until early January, Temple Beth Tikvah officials invited the community to celebrate and bless the opening of the school. Some came from as far as Israel to witness the ceremony.

“It’s the most beautiful project I could ever work on,” said Joe Bloomfield, project manager for the school, and Alyssa Bloomfield’s father. “The kids need this.”

Many said building the school was necessary if the congregation was to grow.

The 15,000-square-foot-building will include 10 classrooms, a youth lounge, an adult lounge, music room, three administrative offices, boardroom, storage room, computer lab and theater.

The left side of the building, facing the parking lot, will be used as a Holocaust memorial including a fountain and eternal flame surrounded by six cedar trees. A “Garden of the Righteous” will also be placed in the memorial to recognize those who disobeyed Nazi law in order to help victims escape.

The Holocaust memorial is scheduled to be finished in May.

Milhander said he hopes the memorial will open the school to the non-Jewish community as well.

“We hope that whoever has a need, (the school) will satisfy that need,” he said.

Donations came close to covering the entire cost of the project, but no one family or individual stepped up with a multimillion-dollar donation.

Named after Emeritus Rabbi Hiam Asa for his dedication to Temple Beth Tikvah, the center will hold religious classes for children and adults.

“The fact that it bears our name is a great honor,” Asa said.

Miriam Van Raalte said that it was Asa who initially wanted to establish a Jewish school in northern Orange County when he was rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah.

“He is just an amazing guy,” Van Raalte, Temple Beth Tikvah’s director of education, said. “His wisdom – it’s not just his book knowledge – he has this wisdom that comes from life experience.”

The event began with a few words from those involved with making the school a reality and concluded with cutting the ribbon. Children sang Jewish songs accompanied by piano to commemorate the new school.

Guests were allowed to tour the unfinished school.

Originally published with photo gallery in the Orange County Register.

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