Orot Hacarmel: The “New-old” Synagogue in Carmel Valley
Twelve years ago, a group of Jewish families came together to form a new synagogue in the Carmel Valley area. The goal of the founding members was to establish the first Orthodox synagogue in San Diego County that was fully supportive of the State of Israel, including prayers for Israel during its regular services and holding special services on Israel’s Independence Day. This synagogue was called Kehillat Ahavat Yisrael (KAY).
Last year the leaders of another group of families approached the KAY board with the idea of forming a larger and stronger community that was still committed to the ideals of the original founders of KAY. “We felt that as a reflection of our rapid growth, our community needed to be given the opportunity to consider choosing a new name”, said Board President Lior Issacof. As a result, a community-wide election was held, and the name Orot Hacarmel was chosen.
“Orot HaCarmel means Lights of the Carmel”, said Rabbi Baruch Rock. “This name expresses the tapestry of life and commitment to our families and homes here in the Carmel Valley. Simultaneously, it reflects our intimate bond with our people in the land of Israel. These two elements together are made manifest in the power of our community, the bonds we share: The Lights of the Carmel. Orot means LIGHTS in Hebrew. It is also the name of a book by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel) which is considered the cornerstone of religious Zionism. The Carmel is an area in northern Israel that includes Mount Carmel. The area is famous for a conflict between the Prophet Elijah and a vast group of idol worshipers where Elijah and the belief in Hashem (G!d) prevailed. There are also many similarities in climate and topography between the Carmel region in Israel and our home here in Carmel Valley.”
Rabbi Baruch Rock has been devoted to working with Jewish communities in the United States and Israel for over 15 years. In addition to his Rabbinic Ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary, he holds a BA in History and Journalism from New York University, and a Master of Arts in Desert Studies from Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Rabbi Rock currently teaches at the Maimonides Upper School of the San Diego Jewish Academy. He has many different interests and seeks to always integrate those interests to present a vision and experience of wholeness in his work as a rabbi, a teacher, and as a global citizen. Rabbi Rock is honored and thrilled to be leading the wonderful Orot HaCarmel community of Carmel Valley. Most recently, Rabbi Rock is heading up the Orot HaCarmel: Summer Learning Institute, see www.orothacarmel/events for more information and to sign up for classes.
In addition to Rabbi Rock, who began serving as spiritual leader last Fall, Orot Hacarmel has also initiated a new youth program directed by Rabbi Daniel Bortz. Rabbi Daniel Bortz grew up in San Diego and attended local Jewish and public schools, followed by some time at U.C. Santa Barbara. He had a strong desire to explore his Jewish identity further, and left everything to study in Jerusalem. Five years and many books later, he was an ordained Rabbi and back in San Diego, ready to share his knowledge and passion for Judaism with others.
In 2011, Rabbi Dan created JTEEN of San Diego, a non-profit movement for Jewish youth, from middle school through high school. JTEEN has become a flourishing group with its own leadership board that plans activities for teenagers around the city, primarily in Carmel Valley. This includes weekly relevant, interesting discussion classes, social events, community service programs, and much more. (See jteensd.com & facebook.com/jteensd for more). He visits Jewish clubs at public schools around the city weekly, with pizza and a program, including at CCA and TPHS.
Rabbi Dan also prepares Bar & Bat Mitzvah students, bringing Judaism alive for his students in a fun and meaningful way. As the youth & young adult director at Orot Hacarmel, he also organizes social & educational events for young adults. Be on the lookout for a new, monthly middle school program for 2015-16 that is filling up fast. Rabbi Bortz is available for anyone who would like to meet and chat, for a class or conversation, and looks forward to the growth of Jewish life in San Diego for years ahead!
“The addition of Rabbi Bortz allows us to reach out to families with children and provide meaningful programming in a way that previously was not possible for us” said Issacof.
Orot Hacarmel holds most of its services at the San Diego Jewish Academy campus, including Sabbath services on Friday night and Saturday morning, as well as on all major Jewish Holidays.