The first synagogue in Studio City, Congregation Beth Meier, is entering its 56th year of service to both Jews and non-Jews in the community. Originally meeting in the backyard of its founding spiritual leader and his wife, the late Rabbi Meier and Rochelle Schimmel, the congregation later purchased a two-family duplex on Moorpark Street and converted it into the unique domed structure, meant to resemble Rachel’s Tomb in Israel, it occupies today. A number of the founders and their descendants are among the active members of the synagogue.
The name Beth Meier means “house of light” in Hebrew, the language of the Torah and prayer books utilized in the synagogue. The name was chosen to honor Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess (“the illuminating master of the miracle”), a 2nd century CE rabbi in Israel. The goal of the Studio City synagogue, under Rabbi Schimmel and his successors, is in its motto, taken from the Talmud, “love of all living things and bringing them closer to Torah.” Rabbi Schimmel also composed “The Brotherhood Prayer” which congregants recite at the beginning of each service. Following Rabbi Schimmel’s death in 2005, the congregation was led by his assistant Rabbi Aaron Benson, who recently moved to New York.
Beth Meier’s new rabbi, as of July 1, Richard Flom, came to lead the congregation in atypical fashion. According to Rabbi Flom, “Synagogues and rabbis go through a placement, interview, and tryout process which is akin to a couple getting married after just two or three dates. But my family and I came to Beth Meier a year ago as members, having previously become familiar with the congregation while I served another synagogue in the area. We came to know each other well during that year, so we could agree that it was a really good match.”
Rabbi Flom and the congregation intend to continue Rabbi Schimmel’s tradition of a committed spiritual community, accepting all comers with love and respect. Rare for synagogues, holding hands at the beginning and conclusion of prayer services is yet another expression of Rabbi Schimmel’s deep belief in unifying people of all faiths and backgrounds as equal in the eyes of God.
A Conservative synagogue, Beth Meier conducts prayer services every Shabbat evening and morning, as well as on all Jewish holidays. It offers a Hebrew School for ages 5-13, as well as a number of programs open to the community. The synagogue is located at 11725 Moorpark St.; telephone (818) 769-0515; website bethmeier.org.