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An egalitarian Conservative congregation serving the diverse Orange County Jewish Community

The Genesis of CBI

“In the beginning of God’s creating…and God saw that it was good.”

Following Yom Kippur in 1983, visionaries Jay Witzling, Bob Sklar, and Ralph Stern decided to form a long-range planning committee to create our permanent CBI home beyond the rented cinder block “B” Street warehouse.  Communication with The Irvine Company to purchase land began, but three years passed and other options were being considered.

Lo and behold at last a response came in 1986.  A parcel would be coming up on the market that was appropriate for our use!  The magnificent eight—Jay, Bob, Ralph, Ron Morrison, Hal Hurwitz, Mark Cross, Andy Bernstein, and Mike Schneider then embarked on three more years of negotiations, as the journey of “Project Genesis” began.

A site plan, based on Mike Schneider’s sketch on a napkin one evening, was developed into a blueprint by Mike Palmer.  In September 1989 the Genesis Committee closed escrow on the 3-acre lot that was to become our home at Bryan and Browning.

Fundraising efforts proceeded the CBI merger with Temple Sharon was completed in 1991, and ground breaking on our “field of dreams” took place in early 1992.  Imagination became reality with the completion of Phase I of CBI.  Design work, fundraising efforts, and construction projects continued for several years. Then, in August 1999, Phase II, the Sharon Sanctuary, was dedicated.

Thanks to Rabbi Spitz, Sheila Witzling, Sharon Chase, Mike Palmer, and the David Ascalon Studios, our light-filled sanctuary is beautiful, graced with a magnificent Ark. By mid-2004, under Ed Levin’s leadership, Phase III, the Family Life Center, was completed.  Thanks to the impeccable bookkeeping of Leslie Kaufman, Pam Kauss, and Marsha Sklar, Project Genesis was able to show all bills paid!  Truly, the success of Genesis was possible because of the support of the entire congregation and all of our past residents.

Rabbi Spitz appropriately expressed our hopes and prayers:

Let us build a synagogue that embodies the warmth of our community.

Let us build a synagogue which facilitates the Jewish lives and harmony of our families.

Let us build a synagogue which is a center for Jewish life in our county.

Let us build a synagogue in which we feel the presence of God.

And let all of us say, Amen.


Watch the beginning of Congregation B’nai Israel and see how our building came to be: