The property at 1500 Sunset Boulevard was purchased in 1945, and the building was dedicated on September 9, 1949. Our building, constructed in the modernist style of Frank Lloyd Wright, was designed by congregant Lenard Gabert and MacKie & Kamrath Architects, and has been recognized as one of the most innovative buildings in the country.
The first meeting of Congregation Emanu El was held June 8, 1944, attended by 190 families. Rabbi Robert I. Kahn was invited to lead the congregation while serving in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Rabbi Kahn accepted the pulpit and served as the congregation’s Senior Rabbi until 1978, when he was named Rabbi Emeritus and Rabbi Roy A Walter was selected as Senior Rabbi. Rabbi Walter had been hired in 1970 and served as Assistant and then Associate Rabbi prior to his new role. In 2011, Rabbi Walter was named Rabbi Emeritus, and the congregation selected Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss as Senior Rabbi. In June of 2015, Rabbi Oren J. Hayon joined Emanu El as Senior Rabbi.
The two statements above our pulpit, “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God” and “Be a light unto the nations,” reflect the dual commitment of Emanu El: to teach the values by which Jews live their lives with spiritual meaning, and to bring those values to life through service to the Jewish people and all humanity. Our congregation has always held an influential leadership role in Jewish social action and community service: aiding the homeless, feeding the hungry, and serving the marginalized and vulnerable segments of our society. Our ongoing commitment to the moral work of Jewish conscience inspires our members to make a difference in the lives of others, fulfilling our ancient mandate of faith and service.
Today, Congregation Emanu El is dedicated to the fulfillment of a vision which sees our synagogue exerting a visible and consequential force on the spiritual, moral, intellectual and cultural life of our city. Our calendar is filled with a wide variety of programmatic offerings, including nationally-renowned speakers, signature events in arts and culture, and innumerable opportunities for our members to engage with each other and with the wider world.
For Emanu El, which has grown from those original 190 families to over 1,650, our history provides an important statement about who we are and what we hope always to be: a vital, vibrant religious community, dedicated to the survival of Judaism and the Jewish people, doing our part to improve the world and the lives of those who make our congregation their home.