"Everyone that drives by or walks by tells me it reminds them of Jerusalem," said Rabbi Shimon Kashani, SCJC founder. "This is not just another synagogue, but a center where people can get recharged as far as Judaism is concerned."
After spending $2.8 million on the property and nearly $3 million for construction, Kashani has plenty to be proud of, as the new state-of-the-art center includes an elegant and elaborate synagogue, a Jewish day school and after-school program, summer camp, day-care center and three mikvahs, all under one roof.
While Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services will be held this year at the new SCJC location, Kashani said the center's official grand opening will not be until December. On Sept. 10, SCJC members danced down Westwood Boulevard and inaugurated a new Torah specially made in Israel for their synagogue.
One aspect of which Kashani is particularly proud is the inclusion of both men's and women's mikvahs, as well as an additional mikvah for utensils and cookware. "Before the construction of the mikvahs, we brought in Rabbi [Gershon] Grossbaum, who is a famous mikvah specialist, as a consultant," Kashani said. "These are not your typical mikvahs; they have nice marble floors, private showers and rooms, jacuzzis and the mikvah itself."
Kashani founded the SCJC in Westwood in 1992 with only 80 students and a synagogue, but since then the organization has grown to include several hundred students and many more families. In 2002, the SCJC sponsored trips for 22 Israeli victims of terror to tour the United States, and this year it donated Jewish religious texts to Israeli soldiers fighting on the front lines in northern Israel.
"Support for Israel is very important to us, because we're all connected to someone there," said Kashani's wife, Vered, who is also involved in many of the organization's outreach efforts.
But the SCJC's aid has not been limited to Jewish causes alone. For Thanksgiving 2002, the group teamed up with the 98th Street Community Youth Organization to donate turkeys and cars to families in South Los Angeles.
Even though Kashani and many of the those attending the SCJC's Orthodox services are of Iranian decent, Kashani said his organization is not intended only for Iranian Jews, but welcomes Jews of all backgrounds.
"We're trying to bridge the gap between the affiliated and the nonaffiliated Jewish community, between the Iranian Jews and Ashkenazi Jews -- we want this to be a place where Judaism will thrive," Kashani said.