In the 30s, the communal life of Riverside Jewish families centered about the Riverside Jewish Welfare, under the leadership of Mrs. Esther Lerner, and the newly-formed Riverside Lodge 1221 of the B’nai B’rith. Meetings were held in the American Legion building in Fairmount Park, private homes, and a hall in the Grout Building at Seventh and Main Streets. With World War II, the influx of both military and civilian personnel to March Air Force Base, Camp Haan and the Port of Embarkation known as Camp Anza, brought new obligations to the minuscule Jewish community of less than twenty active families. They undertook the responsibility of providing for the religious needs of hundreds of servicemen, and the social needs of those who brought their families. Seders were prepared and served to over three hundred soldiers. Housing was found. Weddings and social events took place at residents’ homes, including those of Philip Kustner, Irving Olsan and Moses Lerner.
In 1942, the American Legion Hall was no longer available and the hall at Seventh and Main was no longer suitable. The willingness of the small community to contribute so much in time and money brought realization to Moe Lerner that a building of our own was not only desirable but feasible. He called together Jack and Esther Bauman, Barney and Gertrude Bauman, Albert and Leona Cohen, Irving and Sophie Komorow and Wilford and Sarah Sklar, who made the original pledges toward the purchase of a building.
A corporation known as the Riverside Jewish Community Center was formed in November of 1944, with twenty-one charter members. They purchased the building of the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 3559 Twelfth Street for $5,500. The first High Holy Day services were held in the building in 1945. TBE became a member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1949. Membership was 52 families.
During the second term of Philip Kustner, the community center was remodeled. In 1961,the Board engaged a professional fundraising organization with a goal of raising $200,000 for a new building. In October, 1961, the congregation authorized the purchase of the present site. First use of the Temple was a Friday night service on June 12, 1964, conducted by Rabbi Harry Sherer, who came from Las Vegas for the purpose of conducting the service. The next night the Sisterhood held the inaugural ball, which was a highly successful affair, socially as well as financially, and showcased the beauty and usefulness of our new facility to all in attendance.
Regular Friday night services began in August of 1964. The High Holy Day services for 1964 were held in our new Temple, with the doors between the Sanctuary and the social hall thrown open to accommodate almost five hundred worshipers.