PALM SPRINGS AND DESERT AREA, California. The area is defined by the Coachella Valley, which stretches from Palm Springs proper east to the city of Coachella. The Jewish Federation which serves the entire community estimated that the Jewish community numbers some 20,000 residents in an overall population of some 350,000. Within the Jewish community some 55% of the population lives year round in the valley, with the rest spending various periods of time in the desert.
Many of the first Jews who came to the desert were somehow connected to Hollywood. Temple Isaiah was the first Jewish institution to be founded some 53 years ago. It later created the Federation. As the general community grew and expanded, so did the Jewish community. Today, the community boasts five synagogues plus two Chabad entities, including Temple Isaiah of Palm Springs, which is multi-denominational; Temple Sinai of Palm Desert, which is Reform; the Desert Synagogue of Palm Springs, which is Modern Orthodox; Congregation Beth Shalom, B. Dunes, which is Conservative, and Har-El, Palm Desert, the Reform Congregation.
There are two Jewish Day Schools, Desert Torah Academy, run by Chabad, and Jewish Community School of the Desert. The Jewish Community Center functions without walls as a committee of the Federation. The community also has a full service Jewish Family Service organization, which specializes in a whole array of services for seniors. The community is very proud of its Holocaust Memorial, located in the Palm Desert municipal park, built at the initiation of two local survivors, Earl Greif and Joseph Brandt. Many National and international Jewish organizations have strong constituent groups in the Palm Springs area, including ADL, AIPAC, JNF, American Friends of Hebrew University, and Technion.
More and more of the newcomers to the Jewish community are working people who came to the desert for professional opportunities. Many inhabitants are retirees who enjoy its wonderful climate and who avoid the heat of the desert by either leaving for the summer months or undertaking their activities in the morning. The Jewish community is growing and active.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.