A Reflection of Rabbi Asa’s Values
Rabbi Haim Asa, z”l valued Jewish community, Am Yisrael – the people of Israel – and Eretz Yisrael – the land of Israel. The synagogue was Rabbi Asa’s home away from home and a synagogue building dedicated in Israel would exemplify the values that he cherished.
Adjacent to Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton, California, which is the synagogue which Rabbi Asa served for 30 years, stands the Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning. Given that a building serving the Jewish community and bearing Rabbi Asa’s name already exists outside of Israel, nothing would represent a greater tribute to his memory, to his life’s work, and to his values than a synagogue that bears his name in his beloved Israel.
The Zemer HaZayit Congregation in Efrat, Israel will benefit from a building in Rabbi Asa’s memory. Before Rabbi Asa passed on to the next world, his eldest daughter, Aviva Zahavi-Asa who is a member of the Zemer HaZayit Congregation, shared with her father her intention of having a synagogue building in Israel dedicated in his honor. Upon hearing this, Rabbi Asa lit up, smiled and put his hand on his heart and she understood that this would please him greatly.
The Zemer HaZayit Congregation merits a building named in Rabbi Asa’s memory for several reasons. During biblical times, King Asa ruled the region in which Efrat is located. Rabbi Asa used to tell his children that they were likely descended from the biblical King Asa. A synagogue building that would carry the Asa family name and that would be situated in the same geographic area in which the biblical King Asa once reigned is a fitting way to continue Rabbi Haim Asa’s legacy.
At its core, the Zemer HaZayit Congregation is committed to furthering women's participation in community life and prayer, in accordance with its commitment to Jewish law. As a Reform rabbi, Rabbi Asa encouraged girls and women to take on leadership roles within the Jewish community and the religious sphere. He was proud of the many women who he influenced who now serve Am Yisrael in this way. It was important to Rabbi Asa that girls and women be actively involved in creating and maintaining Jewish community. A synagogue building for the Zemer Hazayit minyan which values women’s leadership and involvement within the public religious realm would help realize this value that Rabbi Asa held so dear.
Lastly, the synagogue building for the Zemer HaZayit Congregation in Efrat will also be dedicated in honor of Bulgarian Jewry. Rabbi Asa was a proud Bulgarian Jew who spent almost 50 years recognizing the heroic efforts of Bulgaria in rescuing all of its Jewish citizens during the Holocaust. As a way of continuing Rabbi Asa’s legacy, the synagogue will serve as a platform to publicize this story and in this way will honor Rabbi Asa’s life mission.
Articles about the synagogue building project:
"Legacy to a Beloved Leader: Asa family spearheads attempt to build synagogue in rabbi’s memory in Israel", Kosher Orange County, September 3, 2014, by Gail Martin
"Asa destroys the idols" by An illustrator of Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, France, 1372 - Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale (manuscript "Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 23"). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Asa_destroys_the_idols.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Asa_destroys_the_idols.jpg