Temple Beth Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation, is established for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing the quality of Jewish life in our region. This purpose is achieved through Torah (lifelong Jewish study), avodah (Jewish observance), and gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness). These values are expressed through the creation and development of educational programs for Jews of all ages and backgrounds, the facilitation of Jewish worship and ceremonies, and participation in tikun olam (repair of the world). Further, we are dedicated to sustaining our connection to Israel and klal Yisrael (Jews throughout the world). We are committed to being a Jewish community that is diverse and inclusive, offers resources for the shaping of a positive Jewish identity, and provides a gathering place for communal activities.
TBI is located in the Greater Pomona Valley. It serves the needs of its growing community of Jewish people who have settled in the area of the Eastern section of Los Angeles County and the Western section of San Bernardino County. Temple Beth Israel has been a presence in the Claremont-Pomona area for more than 75 years. It has grown from a few families who wished for a place to worship, to interact with other Jews and to educate their children, to a synagogue with a membership of about 410 families, and an enrollment of 175 children in our educational programs which include Preschool/Daycare, Religious and Hebrew Studies.
Social activities encouraging friendship and togetherness are promoted through the endeavors of our many programs including Sisterhood, Brotherhood, Chavurot, and our Youth Groups, as well as general events sponsored by the Temple itself.
Our Adult Jewish Learning Program, Social Action Committee, and Outreach Program also provide opportunities for our congregants to be lifelong learners.
As a member of the Union for Reform Judaism, TBI welcomes all who wish to practice Judaism or who wish to learn more about it.
The history of Temple Beth Israel is as deep and as rich as the history of California. Temple Beth Israel includes ranchers, farmers, and business people, all of whom migrated to California, sustained by dreams and inspiration.
Louis Phillips, a Jew born in Posen, Prussia, in 1829, settled in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, in 1853. In 1863, he purchased the 12,000-acre Rancho San Jose, whose boundaries were that of the original Spanish land grant, and was soon the most prosperous rancher in the city of Pomona. Today, Phillips Ranch, a suburban development in Pomona, bears his name.
While Phillips assimilated, the Jews who came West after him did not. By 1926, a minyan was formed. In 1931, Jewish families ran groves, vineyards, chicken ranches and dairies, and three out of four junk dealers in Pomona were Jewish. The Paradise Health Resort in Upland was the center of Jewish communal activities, attracting significant numbers of Jewish vacationers from Los Angeles, who came for the baths and, dare we say it, for the nude sun bathing.
On August 20, 1931, eighteen men signed the Articles of Incorporation of the Jewish Center of Pomona and Surrounding Territory, also known as the Pomona-Ontario Jewish Center. A short time later, the first High Holy Days services were conducted by the congregation. We met in rented buildings and in the homes of members in the downtown Pomona area.
In 1950, the first synagogue was constructed on Orange Grove Avenue in Pomona, between Park and White Avenues. Initially, the congregation followed the minhag of the Conservative movement, but in 1955, led by Rabbi Shore, we affiliated with the Reform Movement. Rabbi Michael A. Robinson assumed the pulpit in 1955, followed by Rabbi Sampson Levy, Rabbi Dolgrin, and Rabbi Melvin Sands. In 1958, we became known as the Beth Israel Community Center. Between 1960 and 1963, our congregation met in the United Church of Christ Congregational while our new home was constructed on North Towne Avenue.
Rabbi Irving A. Mandel assumed the leadership of our pulpit in 1962 and served the congregation until 1981, when Rabbi Earl Kaplan became our spiritual leader until his untimely death in 1995. Rabbi Avi Levine followed on our bimah until 2004 when our current Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz assumed leadership.
The building and grounds reflect our ongoing pride in the heritage and traditions of the Jewish people and in the history of the Jews in the Pomona Valley.