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Long Beach, California

Long Beach is a city in California, located south of Los Angeles along the Pacific Coast (on the Los Angeles and Orange County border) with a Jewish population of  approximately 24,000 (out of a total population of roughly 470,000).

The first Jewish resident of Long Beach may have been German-born Camille Elikan, who opened a dry goods store around 1889 and was murdered in 1894. In 1898, Samuel Heller visited the city, liked its potential, and stayed to engage in real estate development. When the city introduced a municipal produce market in 1913, several Jewish produce men moved to Long Beach to operate stalls.

By 1915, the population included 25 Jewish families. The first permanent Jewish organization was established after World War I with the chartering of B’nai B’rith Lodge 870 with 33 members. In 1922, the Community Building Association was established. It was dissolved in 1923 and reconstituted as a Reform congregation, Temple Israel, with Julius Liebert as its first full-time rabbi.

In 1924, Temple Sinai (Conservative) was established with Lazar Friedland as its rabbi. Rabbis of Temple Israel included Harvey Franklin (1930), Elliot Grafman (1938), and Wolli Kaelter (1955). Temple Sinai had Jacob Friedman (1929), Shalom Ravetch (1935), and Sidney Guthman (1959).

Jewish Welfare Fund campaigns began in 1929. In 1945, a Jewish Federation was established. A Jewish community center was organized in 1948; its first center building was dedicated in 1960. In 1952, with 6,300 Jews in the rapidly growing city, a second Conservative congregation was formed with Maurice Schwartz as rabbi, followed in 1962 by Rabbi Joseph Miller.

In 1960, when the first Jewish Community Center was dedicated, Long Beach was a quiet, conservative, small city and Orange County was a vast, fragrant orange grove. Today, Long Beach/West Orange County is an exciting 21st-century city with a World Trade Center, prominent hotels, and a revitalized downtown with a fine Cultural Arts Center and a convention center. International jazz concerts and local arts festivals have replaced the annual Iowa picnic and the Pike amusement park (Long Beach was once dubbed “Iowa by the sea”).

Once rural, West Orange County now contains impressive suburban neighborhoods and pre-eminent commercial centers. At the edge of the Pacific Rim, Long Beach/West Orange County has become an exciting place to live and the changes have also affected the Jewish community. Increasing numbers of professionals and corporate executives with their families are moving there. At both ends of the age continuum the population is growing.

Recognizing the need to meet the growing needs of the Jewish community, a campaign to build a new Jewish community campus was launched in the 1990s and on March 20, 1999, the Federation’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Jewish Community Campus was dedicated. The over 80,000-square-foot campus is home to the Barbara and Ray Alpert Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Long Beach/West Orange County, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Jewish Federation Foundation, and Hillel. The Hebrew Academy, also served by the Jewish Federation, is in the Westminster/Huntington Beach area.

The campus contains an Early Childhood Education Wing, gym, pool, state of the art health and fitness center, library, cafe, dance studio, auditorium, gift shop, art gallery, and meeting and office space that is available to the entire community.

Most Jews reside in the Greater Long Beach, which includes the neighboring communities of Rossmor, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and Lakewood.

Jewish communal life in the Greater Long Beach area is thriving and consists of congregations of all denominations. Current congregations include P’nai Or (Renewal); Temple Israel, Temple Beth David, and Temple Ner Tamid (Reform); Temple Beth Shalom, Temple Beth Zion-Sinai, and Congregation Sholom of Leisure World (Conservative); Congregation Lubavitch, Chabad of Cypress, Ahavas Yisrael, and Shul by the Shore (Orthodox); and Adat Chaverim (Traditional). The synagogues and agencies have formed a Kehillah Leadership Council, under the auspices of Federation, and meet every other month to discuss common issues and work together to build a vibrant, cohesive Jewish community.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.