Rabbi Asa embodied a Judaism that went beyond labels and categories such as reform, conservative, orthodox, secular and religious. He succeeded in reaching out to Jews of all backgrounds and prided himself on building bridges between individuals who would not typically have the opportunity to interact with one another.
Dedicating a synagogue building in Rabbi Asa’s memory in Israel for the Zemer HaZayit congregation is one way in which his legacy will be honored. An additional endeavor, however, has been initiated as a way of way of continuing Rabbi Asa’s life’s work. This initiative involves building a new bridge between Jews of different backgrounds. This bridge is being created between members of the Temple Beth Tikvah congregation in Fullerton, California - which Rabbi Asa served for over 30 years - and members of the Zemer HaZayit congregation in Efrat, Israel.
This relationship will likely be the first of its kind between a reform temple in the United States and a modern orthodox synagogue in Israel. It will establish a bond between two wonderful Jewish communities that are religiously diverse and located on opposite ends of the globe.
Temple Beth Tikvah has already dedicated a building in honor of Rabbi Asa – the Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning – while Zemer HaZayit hopes to construct and dedicate a synagogue building in Rabbi Asa’s memory in the not so distant future. These two congregations have chosen to honor Rabbi Haim Asa not only through a physical building, but by forging a relationship that will embody the values which he cherished.
This relationship was spearheaded by the first Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture which took place on April 26, 2015 at Temple Beth Tikvah. This lecture was titled, “Building Bridges: Moving Beyond Denominational Judaism” and was presented by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the Chief Rabbi of Efrat. Rabbi Riskin is wholeheartedly supportive of this initiative and also works to create links between Jews of different backgrounds.
Additional plans are underway to strengthen the relationship between these communities. The Zemer HaZayit congregation has already made people-to-people connections with several members of Temple Beth Tikvah by hosting them for Shabbat and holidays during their visits to Israel. Zemer HaZayit looks forward to welcoming many more visitors from Temple Beth Tikvah to its vibrant community.
Temple Beth Tikvah Visits Zemer HaZayit
Shabbat of June 10, 2017
On Parshat Beha’alotcha, June 10, 2017, Zemer HaZayit hosted over 20 members of Temple Beth Tikvah who were in Israel on a synagogue trip led by their rabbi, Nico Socolovsky. Members of Temple Beth Tikvah joined Zemer HaZayit for Shabbat morning tefillot (services) and then were hosted by Zemer HaZayit families for Shabbat lunch. This was the first of hopefully many opportunities for members of both synagogues to become acquainted with one another. Members of both synagogues were very enthusiastic about the experience and a number of them have maintained contact with one another after the Temple Beth Tikvah group returned to California.
"What a wonderful Shabbat we had in Efrat yesterday! EVERY one felt comfortable and welcome. The community was remarkable. We were warmly received and treated like royalty. My husband David and I had the honor of having lunch at Aviva and Daniel Zahavi-Asa's - along with two of their children and the Zemer HaZayit Rabbi's family. The Rabbi’s wife Caroline gave a brilliant D'var Torah and honored Rabbi Haim Asa and our Temple Beth Tikvah community by sharing some beautiful and most appropriate thoughts. We loved spending time with the community."
- Alyse Kirschen, Past President of Temple Beth Tikvah
“When a group of Reform Jews from Southern California spends Shabbat with Orthodox Jews in Efrat, Israel, you have to wonder (and worry) what the results will be. Each looking for meaning and purpose in their lives but through a very different practice of Jewish experience. At Zemer HaZayit, there was no reason to worry. The better word for this meeting of hearts and minds was "amazing". Weeks after we returned to the USA, our group of 21 is still recounting the welcome and help they received at the Shabbat service. Seating was reorganized, prayer books shared and guidance offered with unpretentious support. If that was not enough to drop barriers between two Jewish denominations, then Shabbat lunch was the closer. There is nothing more accommodating for Jews to share ideas than breaking bread. The host homes were amazing venues for learning about each other’s lives and practices. The similarities far outweighed any differences. The day was a perfect example of Am Israel Chai. We pray that others in our worldwide Jewish tent experience it as well, together.”
- Henry Cohen, President of Temple Beth Tikvah
The Zemer HaZayit Synagogue in Memory of Rabbi Haim Asa, z”l
Attendees at the first
Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture
“Rabbi Riskin was amazing!
Everyone was so impressed. All the way home, my husband couldn't stop talking about how good it felt to hear such a positive message of inclusiveness
and unity for the Jewish people.”
– Cindy Jacobson, Co-President of Temple Beth Tikvah, Fullerton, California
Article about the Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture and Building Bridges, Temple Beth Tikvah Scroll, page 17, March 2015
“Temple Beth Tikvah Launches Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture and Celebrates 50th Anniversary” - Kosher Orange County, March 30, 2015, by Ilene Schneider
Advertisement for the First Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture, Orange County Jewish Life, April 2015
Advertisement for the First Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture, Temple Beth Tikvah Scroll, April 2015
Introduction to the First Rabbi Haim Asa Memorial Lecture, April 26, 2015 by Aviva Zahavi-Asa
“Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Believes in Respect and Mutual Understanding” – Kosher Orange County, April 29, 2015, by Robin Silver-Zwiren
Shabbat of February 22, 2020
On Parshat Mishpatim, February 22, 2020, Zemer HaZayit hosted an additional group of 12 members of Temple Beth Tikvah along with their rabbi, Nico Socolovsky. The Zemer HaZayit congregation warmly welcomed members of Temple Beth Tikvah for Shabbat morning tefillot (services) and then were hosted by Zemer HaZayit families for Shabbat lunch.
“From the moment we walked into the sanctuary of Zemer HaZayit that Shabbat morning, the welcome and warmth from the congregation was simply amazing. The entire congregation made us feel like we belonged and were part of the community and not just visitors from California. We were "Mishpocheh". My wife Beverly and I were overwhelmed with such a fulfilling Jewish experience. We can't wait to return to see the progress of the new synagogue. Rabbi Haim Asa would be so proud.”
- Gary Steinberg, Member of Temple Beth Tikvah