The congregation had been under pressure for several years to sell its Arleta property and finally had a buyer but no new site, according to temple administrator Jan Seeley. Then Rabbi Bruce Raff, Judea's religious school director -- who has also been serving as spiritual leader for TBS -- stepped in with an offer from Judea's senior rabbi, Don Goor, to use the synagogue's library for its services.
Seeley said the final service at TBS' old location was an emotional experience, with congregants sharing stories and memories of the synagogue's rich history.
"The hardest part was going into an unknown and giving up our own place," Seeley said. "We were one of the few independent deaf synagogues in the United States, so that was a real loss for our members. But after they saw the place and met with the people at Judea, they began to get really excited and embraced this move."
More than half of TBS' 130 members live in the San Fernando Valley area, according to Seeley, who hopes through the new location to be able to offer more and varied activities for both older and younger congregants. TBS will share an interpreted Shabbat service once a month with its host synagogue and plans to offer classes in sign language for Temple Judea members, in order to improve communication between the two groups.
"One of the nice things about this arrangement is that there are TBS members who are hard of hearing as well as hearing members of deaf families who miss the music, and Temple Judea has a wonderful cantor," Seeley said. "It's just one of the ways we will be able to fulfill more needs."
Community seders can be especially challenging for deaf people who must juggle reading and looking to an interpreter.
In what is sure to become a model program, the Jewish Deaf Community Center (JDCC) -- with grants from Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation and the Ruth and Allen Ziegler Foundation -- will once again use multimedia technology to bridge this synchronization gap at their Sixth Annual Community Seder. Large video screens, placed at opposite ends of the hall, will broadcast passage readings karaoke-style so that everyone can follow along.
The Sixth Annual Community Seder will be held at Burbank Temple Emanu El on Wed., April 19. For more information, call (818) 845-9934 (TTY), (818) 845-9935 (voice); or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Adam Wills, Associate Editor