Kehillat Ma'arav

1715 21st Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404 / (310) 829-0566

Mission & History

To foster a welcoming, participatory Jewish community rooted in God, Torah, and Israel that strengthens our tradition and identity through educational, religious, and spiritual growth.

Who We Are

“L’Dor Va Dor” – Kedusha, Prayer Book

We’re a congregation of almost 300 families. With our ages ranging from birth to 94, we truly embody the meaning of l‘dor va dor, “from generation to generation.”

“Do not separate yourself from the community” – Rabbi Hillel, Pirkei Avot 2:5

We are the only conservative synagogue in Santa Monica, yet the 39 zip codes in which our members live span far beyond Santa Monica’s borders.

“Build Me a community that I may dwell among you” – Exodus, 25:8

We’re a welcoming community where you don’t get lost; your face is known to many and you know many faces.

What We Seek

“Get Wisdom, Gain Understanding” – Proverbs 4:5

Striving to achieve the Jewish ideal of being a light unto the nations, we offer the following classes, ranging from K-Adult.

Religious School: Students from K-7th grades gain a deep understanding of their Jewish identity by studying: culture, music, Torah, history and Hebrew in our fully accredited Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) Religious School.

A Bar or Bat mitzvah doesn’t mark the end of a Jewish education; rather it’s the start of another chapter. Children participate in Community Service and Family Education Programs.

Adult Education: From Rabbi Gotlieb’s weekly classes, to our Eber Lecture series, to studying for B’nai Mitzvah with the cantor, to Holiday Workshops and Havurah, through learning we form ties that sustain us throughout our lives.


A Brief History

In late 1980 a meeting was held at the home of Jerry and Jan Rogoway. Present were Jerry and Sandy Helman, and Beryl Weiner and his wife Judy Bin-Nun. They explored the possibility of creating a new synagogue on the West Side. Dr. David Lieber of the University of Judaism gave them a list of about 10 other families in the area who were looking for a more intimate synagogue experience.

There followed a larger organizational meeting at Leo Baeck Temple. At this time a group of about 40 families emerged who had been meeting together for a few months after having broken away from Adat Shalom synagogue.  Both groups decided to merge and pool their financial resources. With this nucleus, Kehillat Ma’arav Synagogue was formed, under the leadership of Rabbi Michael Menitoff and Cantor Laurie Rimland.

This new group sought to have Kehillat Ma’arav be unique in several ways.  It would reflect an egalitarian philosophy with respect to ritual practice, lay leadership, and administration.  To foster these aims, the group decided there would be no Men’s Clubs or Sisterhoods, but rather form smaller groups around shared interests, regardless of gender or financial status. Now, a quarter of a century later, KM’s flexible leadership team has responded to the will of our dynamic membership by approving the formation of both a sisterhood and men’s club. The groups will maintain KM’s egalitarian philosophy, enjoy equal standing within the congregation and have the authority to set their respective goals and objectives. At first, services were held in members’ homes.  The first High Holiday services were at Paul Revere Jr. High School, and the second were at Emerson Jr. High School.

As the congregation grew, we began renting space at the Brentwood Presbyterian Church where we had a small office, held weekly Shabbat services and began an afternoon religious school beginning in 1982. Subsequently, and for many years thereafter, our High Holidays were at the Miramar Hotel.  The relationship with the church has continued to the present day, by celebrating Thanksgiving breakfast together, alternating between the two congregations.  At present our High Holiday services are held at the Olympic Collection.

Following the departure of Rabbi Menitoff and Cantor Rimland, we were led by Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, who served for 10 years, and Cantor Jeremy Lipton.  Currently we are led by Rabbi Michael Gotlieb since 1995, and Cantor Malachi Kanfer.

The afternoon religious school grew from 15 students to over 100.  Our first principal, Daphna Schneider, returned later on as a teacher of the 7th graders.  One of our most beloved teachers, Aaron Rubinstein is now a Rabbi in Memphis, Tennessee.  After Principal Esther Dubin’s departure in 1991, the position of Principal-Cantor was created, and was filled by Cantor Barry Caplan, of blessed memory.  He was succeeded by Cantor Keith Miller until 2012, followed by Cantor Samuel Cohen. Now the position is split into two, with Masha Savitz Keys as Interim Director of Education and Cantor Malachi Kanfer.

In 1986, we formed a Search Committee to find a home of our own. Stan Ziegler, a founding member and CPA, arranged a “shidduch” between KM and his clients, Jack and Goldie Nomberg. Through their extraordinary generosity, Jack and Goldie provided us with a gift of one million dollars, and we began a capital campaign with the help of professional fundraisers.  Many congregants made generous contributions which, combined with the Nombergs’ gift, enabled us to purchase our own place at 1715 21st Street, south of Olympic Boulevard, found by then-member, Sam Tooch.

A building committee was formed and chaired by member Jack Topal and an architect was found by member Maurice Kurtz. Renovation of the existing building commenced under the expertise of member/contractor  Carmella Pardo and a friend of hers, contractor Uri Farkash, whose  long-time dream it was to be the builder of a synagogue. Pat Solomon, also a member, designed the stained-glass panels of the ark.  Many other members assisted as the work progressed.  We held our first services in our own home in August 1990.

In the course of our history we have been fortunate to have many members who have given generously of their wealth, wisdom and work to enhance our KM family.

Our goal is to maintain a congregation of 300 to 400 families and to keep the homey and welcoming atmosphere as the cornerstone of our community.