The OCeeker: Temple Beth Sholom and the Rabbi From Cuteyville

Shalom, y'all. That's right, the OCeeker recently drove his goyisher self to Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana for a Shabbat evening service. 

First things first: Rabbi Heidi Cohen is one cute clergygirl! Decked in black slacks and a red blouse, with a loose-fitting, long-sleeve black outer garment, the slender Cohen also wore a lady-like white kippah on her lovely head. She donned a prayer shawl too. It's called a tallit. Cohen's brown eyes lit up every time she smiled, which was through most of the service. A hot woman in Orange County who is pious and can string together more than three lucid sentences? Who knew?

Cohen has led Temple Beth Sholom since 1998. According to the temple's website, she brings traditional Jewish concepts to a Reform Judaism context; that means cherry-picking the wisdom of the ancients and mixing it with some liberal ideas about inclusion and letting women take shit over.

Adar 1, 5772; 7:30 p.m.

Temple Beth Sholom was founded in 1943 by 25 families who gathered in the home of one of its members. The oldest Reform Jewish temple in Orange County, its first building was at the corner of Eighth and Bush streets in Santa Ana. The congregation moved to its current location at Tustin and Fairhaven avenues in 1962.

The pale building sits across the street from a Shell gas station. The campus is clean and well-kept. Inside the lobby, one is greeted by a marble wall, with a glass case to the left wherein is kept several examples of dishes and other collectibles one can purchase for a shekel or two.

The sanctuary is filled with long pews that stretch over a mauve carpet, with six gold chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. A simple wooden pulpit stands in the middle of the stage, which is flanked by Old Glory one side and the flag of Israel on the other. The wall behind the stage is festooned with a large menorah on the left, and Hebrew script on the right, with the English words "Know before whom you stand this day before the Eternal our God." In the middle of the wall there is a mysterious double-door that rises to the ceiling, decorated ornately with what looks like sharp, golden icicles that shoot downward. 

The OCeeker was approached by an elderly women who couldn't have been more than five feet tall. She seemed to be visiting for the first time, asking, as she looked to Cohen, who stood behind the pulpit, "Is she the rabbi?"

Kosher cougar, R.I.P.
​Why, yes she is, my kosher cougar.

The OCeeker took his seat on the left side of the sanctuary, next to a wall filled with plaques honoring dead relatives. Adonai bless John Fainbarg and Maud Fogler. Upon the backs of the pews, gold plates honor of more relatives. The OCeeker paused to reflect on the memory of Ruth Given Holzman.

Roughly 100 worshippers were in attendance, and only a handful of the men sported kippot. Unless one finds Beatrice Arthur and Abe Vigoda attractive, Temple Beth Shalom isn't the place to cat around on a Friday night.

Bumper sticker in parking lot: "Cowgirl up"

Cohen greeted the congregation with a warm "shalom Shabbat", and handed over the service to Cantor David Reinwald for an acoustic nigun, a Jewish religious song. 

One lonely Beastie he be
​Reinwald earned his kesef by leading the congregation through several ditties. On this night, Cohen didn't exposite the Scriptures, but joined Reinwald in singing the songs, and peppering the celebration with  blessings and prayers for those in attendance. The OCeeker joined along by opening up a prayer book, which is bassackwards and has page one where a glossary would start in a regular ol' English book. The Hebrew words were augmented by an English translation, and the songs were based off the Scriptures. Not to get all human shit, but the OCeeker was moved many times by the chorus of Hebrew lyrics sung in a soft and delicate cadence that must have touched the heavens. Kinda like King-Ad Rock spittin' "I'm a funky-ass Jew and I'm on my way/and I got to say fuck the KKK."

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