Behind The Scenes at Pico Shul

We want to share with you an update, so you can know even more about what is going on with our Pico Shul Center for Jewish Life.

Some highlights since January 1, 2019

  • 251 people have made donations to Pico Shul and Pico Shul Directed Chesed Campaigns.
  • Installed the new Pico Shul Sign.
  • Volunteers from Pico Shul staffed Shabbat Tents at Sundance, Coachella, and Lightning in a Bottle music festivals hosting thousands of festival goers.
  • Volunteers from Pico Shul organized Passover Seders again at Coachella.
  • 25 new classes were taught on Hebrew and Jewish philosophy.
  • 250+ Came for Megillah readings and Purim Celebrations.
  • 80 people joined our sponsored Community Seder on the first night of Passover.
  • 75 people attended our second annual Burning Lamb Celebration 
  • Pico Shul is hosting programs for Etta Israel, an organization for adults with special needs.
  • Rabbi Yonah led a trip to Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, and we prayed for members of the community at the graves of Tzadikim there. 
  • $10,000+ raised for those in need including for Purim, Passover, and helping save a life by paying for a woman’s medical care.
  • 1,280 Bowls of chulent have been served.
  • SINCE JANUARY we have four more engagements, four new weddings, and a handful of new babies!

We just returned from the mountains where we experienced an incredible Camp Neshama retreat. Ninety Jewish singles from around California and beyond gathered at the Dovid Oved Retreat Center for four days, and experienced a truly joyous, inspirational, and uplifting weekend. Camp Neshama brings more life to our Neshamas! 

Camp Neshama is a special program and we call it Neshama because it’s crafted to uplift our souls. As one of the participants wrote from this year:

Thank you very much. This is a great way to build the community. I can’t possibly wrap my brain around everything I would want to say right now–I’m still processing everything from this past amazing weekend–but in short, THANK YOU. The experience I had at Camp Neshama was my wildest dreams. My neshama is on another plane right now <3

Additionally, Camp Neshama is a place where people can get closer in touch with their Jewish heritage, in a non-judgmental and immersive way. As a participant from this year wrote:

I grew up in a Reform household in New Mexico. I did not grow up around many other Jews and very much felt like an outsider in my community. Now, in my mid-30’s, I am reconnecting to my Jewish faith. I had been encouraged to join the camp by friends I had made. At first I was hesitant to join, but the price was extremely reasonable, and I figured that if anything, I’d get a weekend in the mountains and away from Los Angeles. I left the camp feeling much more spiritually connected with a handful of new friends. I had a glorious weekend. One of the first things I did when I came back to LA was to call my mother and thank her for making me Jewish. It has been a long journey for me, but I feel so, so grateful to be a part of this heritage.

We want to thank you to the Alevy family for generously underwriting camp this year, and bless them with good health and joy for all they do for the Jewish people! We are very grateful to all of the other sponsors, participants, staff and volunteers who spent Memorial Day weekend 2019 at a Jewish retreat, with spotty cell service, away from the comforts of home – but willing to grow, explore and meet new people.

We also want to thank again Lori Palatnik, our guest speaker from Israel, for her very helpful talks, and one-on-one’s with the “campers”.

Lastly, we could not possible do camp without the amazing efforts of the staff and volunteers that help to make the program possible. Yehuda Prero, Jenn Schulman, Marcus Freed, Shira Sasson, Roy Kimia, Fraida Rimson, Avi Silver, Jeremy Lunzer, Fabian Lijtmaer, Eli Staiman, Ruby Antolin, Cheston and Lara Mizel, Melanie Ehrlich, Josh Kaplan, Naftali, Shlomo and Moshe Bookstein, Azi Yag, Shayna Sorentino, Levana Roahi, Steve Lackner, Sam Benshimoun and our hard-working registrar Erin Eldridge! THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!

Due to the unseasonal rain and snow (Yes it snowed Sunday night!) most of the activities this year were indoors. The weather thankfully did not in any way negatively impact the program. Being surrounding by clouds and intense weather conditions actually brought a whole other dimension to our experience. The surveys are coming back with fantastic reviews, and we are all still on such a high level from the excitement and energy of the weekend in the mountains.

Camp Neshama was one of the big programs in May. And there were others!

Thanks to volunteers, Pico Shul also organized a huge Lag B’Omer Beach Bonfire on May 22nd for hundred+ people. The night was magical and special, including special appearance by Evyn Charles on guitar, who accompanied Rabbi Yonah jamming on guitar by the fire. 

More than 80 people crowded into Pico Shul for sushi and a class with Lori Palatnik on May 28th. Lori delivered a talk on Four Keys to Jewish Growth, and we are thrilled that we finally had our chance to host Lori and her enthusiasm and joy for Jewish living and Torah!

The Shabbat Day Experience at Pico Shul continues to grow and be a source of community building, enthusiastic prayer, and communal participation. We are serving lunch for more than 75 people every week at our Kiddush Lunches. Our Kiddush lunch is known as the place to come for singles, and for those looking to connect with community. We are very grateful that people can find a delicious, healthy Shabbat Lunch with with community, and we are provided a critical service to Los Angeles’s Jewish community. 

Pico Shul’s daily 8:15 morning minyan collaboration with Kahal Chassidim and Happy Minyan is going strong. We all enjoyed a Lag B’Omer breakfast feast sponsored by Jeff’s Gourmet (eggs, beef bacon, sausages!) The morning Learning Chaburah meets after minyan. We regularly have eight men who study 20 minutes with Rabbi Yonah digging deep into Jewish practice and philosophy. It’s a totally UPLIFTING way to start the day. We also serve craft coffee and oatmeal each morning too.

Mazal Tov’s and Celebrations continue to pour in. Thank Gd, after getting more involved in the Jewish community through Pico Shul, we have three engagements since the start of Passover that we are celebrating. Additionally, we have celebrations of life, with the birth of more Pico Shul babies!

And that is a look behind the scenes at Pico Shul since Jan. 1, 2019!

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