Photo Gallery: Shabbat service

REDLANDS - Congregation Emanu El held its first Shabbat services Friday evening at its brand-new 15,000-square-foot synagogue at 1495 Ford St.

Many hugs and a few tears were seen at the congregation's new facility, which will serve as a place of worship as well as classroom and office space to the Jewish community of Redlands and neighboring cities.

The congregation, transplanted from San Bernardino, first broke ground on the new synagogue in September 2011.

Carl Mitchell and Margie Orland in the memorial room.
Carl Mitchell and Margie Orland in the memorial room. (John Valenzuela/Staff Photographer)

And on Friday evening, the smell of new paint still filled the synagogue as congregation members gathered in time for Friday night services to begin.

Many congregation members were astonished at how good the building looked. There were comments on its beauty and amenities.

An outdoor patio also provides an area for reflection and an opportunity to see the view of the mountains surrounding Redlands.

"I'm overwhelmed. It's just beautiful," commented one congregation member

Friday night's Shabbat services were preceded by the affixing of mezuzas on the synagogue's entry doorposts, the placement of Torah scrolls in the Holy Ark and the lighting of the Eternal Light above the ark.

Rabbi Doug Kohn called the religious facility a blessing.

"This is a gift to the Jewish people," he said. "This is the oldest congregation in Southern California and the newest synagogue, as of this evening, and so it is a gift to the Jewish world, the Southern California Jewish community and to the community of Redlands, California, and the Inland Empire."

Before coming to Redlands, the congregation was located at 34th and E streets in San Bernardino for 50 years, but traces its roots in the San Bernardino Valley as far back as 1851.

The congregation was officially charted by the state in 1891.

Once in Redlands, it took up residence at a temporary facility at 1473 Ford St. until enough funds were raised to build and design the new synagogue and until its construction was complete.

Jeff Spears, a longtime member and a capital campaign co-chair who helped raise funds for the new facility, expressed joy while walking into the synagogue for the first time.

"I'm coming out of my skin," he said. "I'm so excited. I walk into this room and I feel spiritual and I feel close to the higher power of God. I feel God in this building. It's an absolutely unbelievably significant moment in the life of this congregation.

"It's so wonderful."

The congregation's first morning Shabbat service and Torah reading in the new synagogue will be held today, starting at 10 a.m.

An open house for the public to tour the new facility will be held in the spring.

To learn more, visit emanuelsb.org or contact the congregation's office at 909-307-0400.


Reach Kristina via email, or call her at 909-793-3221, or find her on Twitter @TheFactsKris.