Today is May 8, 2021 -
1300 North Sepulveda Boulevard|Los Angeles, CA 90049|Phone: 310.476.2861
Rabbi Sanford Ragins is almost a native Angeleno. Chicago-born, he grew-up in Los Angeles and earned a Bachelor’s degree at UCLA. A member of the first class to study for the rabbinate on the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR, he spent a year of study in Jerusalem before completing his rabbinical program and achieving ordination at HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati school in 1962. By then, Sandy had met and married Masayo Isono, an HUC-JIR graduate student from Waseda University in Tokyo. While Sandy served a synagogue in Hingham, Massachusetts and pursued a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas at Brandeis University, Masayo earned a Master’s degree in the University’s Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department.
In 1964, Leo Baeck Temple invited Sandy to serve as its Rabbi while Leonard Beerman was on sabbatical. He was persuaded to stay on as the temple’s very first Assistant Rabbi for the following year. He went on to serve other congregations in places as diverse as Nebraska and New York, but he eventually returned to Los Angeles and Leo Baeck Temple and became our Associate Rabbi in 1972.
When Rabbi Beerman announced his retirement in 1986, Rabbi Ragins was chosen as Senior Rabbi of the temple. It was our congregation’s privilege to have Rabbi Ragins serve in that capacity until his retirement in 2003.
Devoted to many religious and communal organizations, not only in the United States but in Israel and in Europe, Sandy has held countless leadership positions. He has served three times on the National Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and has held the challenging position of that organization’s Chair of the Ethics and Appeals Committee. Rabbi Ragins has been a member of the National Board of the Union of Reform Judaism and President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. Sandy has lectured at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, at Waseda University in Tokyo, and at the Institut Kirche und Judentum in Berlin. He has been a long-time visiting professor at Occidental College in the Los Angeles area.
Sandy’s writings include articles on Judaism and homosexuality, Eastern European Jewish history, and Zionism. He has published a book on Jewish responses to anti-Semitism in Germany before World War I.
Sandy is spending his retirement hard at work … teaching, writing, and continuing to find ways to bring peace and healing to a broken world. He enjoys having more time to spend with his family, Masayo, Arona, Marc, Noam, Mindy, Yohanna, and especially with his grandchildren.
Leonard I. Beerman (April 9, 1921–December 24, 2014), the Founding Rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple, was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He received a B.A. from Pennsylvania State University and two degrees, a Masters in Hebrew Letters (1949) and an honorary Doctor of Divinity (1974) from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He also was honored with doctoral degrees from Lafayette College (2001) and Washington & Jefferson College (2007) and numerous commendations from a variety of other institutions. He served Leo Baeck Temple for 37 years until his retirement in 1986 and continued to participate in the life of the congregation on a regular basis until his last Yom Kippur morning sermon in October, 2014.
Under his leadership, the Temple became a beacon for social justice and activism, known as a place where controversial issues were engaged and openly discussed. He consistently took a stand against injustice and human suffering, courageously speaking out about the Communist scare and “witchhunts” of the 1950s, actively participating in the Civil Rights movement, protesting against the Vietnam War, counseling conscientious objectors, advocating for better wages for workers and better living accommodations for the poor and homeless, and expressing deep concern for the lives and welfare of Palestinians. In 1979, he and Reverend George Regas of All Saints Church in Pasadena co-founded the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race. Building connections with those of other religious faiths was always an essential facet of his leadership, as exemplified in his status as “Rabbi-in-Residence” at All Saints and his friendship with leaders in the Muslim community.
Leonard married Martha Fechheimer (1923–1986) in 1945, and they had three daughters: Judith (Neil O’Hanlon), Eve and Elizabeth (Lewis Rothbart). In 1988, he married Joan Willens and welcomed her children Elara and Scott (Marina) into the family. He was a loving grandfather to Matthew, Kate (1985–1993), Emily, Michael, Emma, Leo and Evan.
Working for peace and justice throughout his life, Rabbi Beerman brought conscience and faith to bear upon many important issues of our time. The legacy of his integrity, compassion and longtime commitment to helping all those who are “despised…humiliated…unwanted”, to standing up against “whatever is miserable or inhumane” continues today.
The life of Cantor William Sharlin (1920-2012) is in some ways the story of the American cantorate. He was born in New York, and his early Yeshiva and musical studies took place both in New York and in Jerusalem. He was a member of the first graduating class of the first cantorial school in America: the School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College (HUC), and a founding member of the American Conference of Cantors. In 1954 he was hired as Cantor at Leo Baeck Temple. His nearly forty years there were among the most musically inventive in the history of the cantorate. During his lifetime, he composed a large number of published works and in 1972, Cantor Sharlin was commissioned to compose the inaugural service of President Alfred Gottschalk at the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. His music has been recorded and performed around the world. He is recognized as the first professional Jewish camp song leader and the first to play a guitar in the synagogue. He was one of only a handful of cantors with an advanced degree in composition (Manhattan School of Music) in both Piano and Composition. He developed the Department of Sacred Music at HUC in Los Angeles and taught there for fifty years. He trained women to be cantors before they were allowed into the seminary. In May 1994, William retired from HUC and was awarded a degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
He was married for over fifty years to the former Jacqueline Drucker (1926-2016), a concert pianist, who often premiered his compositions for piano. Their daughters Ilana and Lisa proudly keep the memory of their parents alive through their music and the loving spirit of family that was so important to William and Jacqui. Ilana and her husband, Brent, live with their daughters Kira and Simona in Cape Town, South Africa, while Lisa and her husband, Mark live in Portland, Oregon.