Brentwood Is An Oasis in a Crazy City, Rabbi Says

University Synagogue's job is to be a place of spirituality, learning, caring and community-building, says its rabbi, Morley Feinstein.

's Rabbi Morley Feinstein  grew up on the Westside, attended Beverly Hills High and graduated from Cal. Now he's in the business of building community and repairing the world.

We first met Feinstein over the phone researching   and later in person at the of the Brentwood Community Council, where he is a member of the Board of Directors. 

Brentwood Patch: Where is the center of Brentwood?

Morley Feinstein: It's just a wonderful neighborhood, but it's not a city with a center; it's a neighborhood with lots of different places to be.

One of the issues in Brentwood is building community. ... It's harder to build a sense of community and attachment.

L.A. is a community where so many people are so busy trying to be able earn a living and people drive great distances to do so, so that when people get home they're happy being home and home is an oasis. ... It can be very very tough on people ... filled with traffic and filled with busy-ness and noise and pollution. ... When we come home that's our own individual castle. And people want to be able to have that sense of privacy when they're here. And yet they come out to these wonderful events on San Vicente, whether it's arts or running or the , they draw the community towards the center.

Patch: So where does the synagogue fit in?

Feinstein: We're in the job of community building. We recognize that life is crazy outside of this synagogue, the rush, the pace of life, the fact that we have to spend our lives getting from here to there, and it sometimes can take minutes and sometime can take hours for the exact same trip. We have to find a place where we can get to know one another and find the values that sustain us. Our synagogue's job is to be an oasis of spirituality and learning and caring and community-building within this wider crazy community of ours.

Patch: The sign outside says "repair the world." What's that about?

Feinstein: My time spent on the Brentwood Community Council is important because it expresses that the values of the synagogue aren't only about the synagogue and this synagogue is a community center for lots of the people who live here. We host classes for seniors sponsored by the LAUSD...Alcoholics Anonymous is here every Wednesday night, so we're saving lives every Wednesday night. The vast majority of people who come to that meeting aren't members of the synagogue, or members of the Jewish community but we feel a really great honor to be able to help.

We have neighborhood associations that meet here in the synagogue as well, and then we try to reach out beyond the walls of the synagogue. Over the last few years we've been very involved in the Mayor's Big Sunday event [see PDF.]

We're involved in all kinds of social justice projects. We have a garden here and we've already gleaned over 250 pounds of snap peas and lettuce and tomatoes that we donate to the poor. The congregation is also involved in Community Supported Agriculture. We just got our vegetables today from Moorpark.


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