February 28, 2008
Rabbi-impresario brings Broadway to Beverly Hills
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"Of course, everything is a gamble," Baron adds. "We've got this giant mortgage to pay off. But in life you've got to take risks."
Baron, 57, is no stranger to risk-taking. Descended from a line of Chasidic rabbis (his father was a cantor), he was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem and intended to become a lawyer when a guest stint at a Conservative synagogue led him to the pulpit full time. When he moved to Los Angeles around 1980, what he perceived as a disengaged Jewish community led him "to incorporate the arts into the religious experience"; he founded his own Temple of the Arts in 1992.
Baron continues to lead services once a month while meeting with theater consultants, some of whom who are studying the S. Charles Lee archives at UCLA to bring the theater back to its former splendor. As he observes the faded brown faux marble painting on the theater's columns and muses about a new color scheme, he describes learning a little-known fact about the architect.
"Lee's daughter told me the surname was made up; Lee's real name was Simon Levi," the rabbi-impresario says. "But he couldn't get work as a young Jewish architect in the '20s. So he asked himself, 'What's a good non-Jewish name -- how about Lee?'"
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