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Transcript of interview with Rabbi Malcolm Cohen by Barbara Tabach, December 16, 2015






In this interview, Rabbi Malcolm Cohen speaks about observed differences between British and American Jewish communities as well as new Temple Sinai initiatives to build community and engage younger congregants. Rabbi Cohen and his wife have two children, Elijah and Rachel.

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen was born on October 7, 1973 in London, England. He describes having the typical Reform Jewish upbringing of a second generation Londoner. His mother worked as an office assistant, and his father ran a bookshop and also prepared youth for their bar and bat mitzvahs. It was his father?s dedication to Jewish education and service that greatly influenced his career path. After earning a degree in psychology from Southampton University, Rabbi Cohen went on to get a professional qualification in youth and community work. He subsequently became the British Reform movement?s first outreach officer, leading the efforts to engage 20- and 30-year-olds to Judaism. At his wife, Sarah?s, encouragement, Rabbi Cohen enrolled in Leo Baeck College to become a rabbi. Upon finishing his studies in 2006, he got a job at West London Synagogue, a large Reform congregation, where he worked with a team of rabbis. In 2009, Rabbi Cohen took the position as Temple Sinai?s rabbi, where he has served ever since. In this interview, he speaks about observed differences between British and American Jewish communities as well as new Temple Sinai initiatives to build community and engage younger congregants. Rabbi Cohen and his wife have two children, Elijah and Rachel.

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Rabbi Malcolm Cohen oral history interview, 2015 December 15. OH-02521. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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AN INTERVIEW WITH RABBI MALCOLM COHEN An Oral History Conducted by Barbara Tabach The Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries ii ?Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV ? University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers: Barbara Tabach, Claytee D. White Editors and Project Assistants: Maggie Lopes, Stefani Evans iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader?s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iv PREFACE Rabbi Malcolm Cohen was born on October 7, 1973 in London, England. He describes having the typical Reform Jewish upbringing of a second generation Londoner. His mother worked as an office assistant, and his father ran a bookshop and also prepared youth for their bar and bat mitzvahs. It was his father?s dedication to Jewish education and service that greatly influenced his career path. After earning a degree in psychology from Southampton University, Rabbi Cohen went on to get a professional qualification in youth and community work. He subsequently became the British Reform movement?s first outreach officer, leading the efforts to engage 20- and 30-year-olds to Judaism. At his wife, Sarah?s, encouragement, Rabbi Cohen enrolled in Leo Baeck College to become a rabbi. Upon finishing his studies in 2006, he got a job at West London Synagogue, a large Reform congregation, where he worked with a team of rabbis. In 2009, Rabbi Cohen took the position as Temple Sinai?s rabbi, where he has served ever since. In this interview, he speaks about observed differences between British and American Jewish communities as well as new Temple Sinai initiatives to build community and engage younger congregants. Rabbi Cohen and his wife have two children, Elijah and Rachel. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Rabbi Malcolm Cohen on December 16, 2015 by Barbara Tabach in Las Vegas, Nevada Preface?????????????????????????????????..?..iv Shares about his family background and their ending up in London; childhood experience in a Reform Jewish family; parents? careers; influence of father?s dedication to Jewish education on his professional choices. Talks about path that let him to Las Vegas, from working at West London Synagogue and becoming rabbi at Temple Sinai. Recalls stress of getting visas to come to United States once hired????????...........................................................................................1-5 Talks about his education; working in youth and community work; becoming outreach officer targeting people in their twenties and thirties for Reform movement in London. Decides to become rabbi, attending rabbinical school in London, with year abroad in United States. Mentions wife?s teaching career. Compares Jewish communities in U.S. and England, including membership norms, philanthropy.??????????????.?????????????.?.6-11 Describes professionalization, growth of local Jewish institutions; efforts amongst leaders to promote cohesiveness. Explains origins of Temple Sinai, in the merging of Adat Ari El and Beth Am congregations. Mentions funder Steve Haberkorn; investing funds in new infrastructure. Reflects upon Jewish identity; developing traditions within diverse congregation????.12-17 Talks about programming initiatives to involve children, and other programs to engage people in twenties and thirties, including Downtown Lights, Pop-up Shul. Share thoughts about local reaction to current politics surrounding refugee crisis. Talks about local interfaith activities, organizations; working on public education funding???????????????...18-24 Index........................................................................................................................................25-26 vi 1 Today is December 15, 2015. This is Barbara Tabach and I am sitting with Rabbi Cohen. For our transcriber would you spell your first and last name? Malcolm Cohen. Usually I like to start, for the Jewish Heritage project, on your roots. If you can tell me what you know about your ancestral story? Yes. Both sides are Ashkenazi. We come from various towns in Eastern Europe, Kanenets, Podolsk. There's a small town called (Sukavilla) northeast of Warsaw, Poland. My great?grandparents pretty much all spoke Russian when they got to London at the end of the nineteenth century. The Jews in England at that time mostly lived in the East End of London, so that's where my family is from. It's comparable to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My grandma and grandpa, who I never knew, lived partly in a place called Stamford Hill and also in a place called Haringey in North London; I ended up living pretty close to there. What was it like growing up Jewish in London? For me, it was pretty idyllic. I don't know if it was a fact that there was no real anti-Semitism or just that I was sheltered from it by my upbringing. I had a pretty standard Reform Jewish upbringing in a big Reform synagogue. I always remember enjoying all the different generations together in shul. I went to Jewish Scouts, and even though I went to public school initially for my elementary school, a lot of the kids were Jewish; it was a pretty diverse group. You just felt enjoyment, positivity, and pride in one's Jewish identity. It was really never threatened, all those feelings. Then I went to a private school and, again, there were a lot of Jewish kids there. On Jewish New Year, there weren't many kids in school. I had loads of Jewish friends, loads of non?Jewish friends, and it was just all pretty amazing, and pretty lucky, if you think of all the other places and times you could be born. I always said, "I won the jackpot." Not that my 2 corner of London is necessarily a paragon of excitement. It's kind of boring now if I look back on it. For a kid growing up, it's pretty safe and enjoyable. As you grow up you get to see the more dynamic parts of Jewish community. I was part of my Zionist youth movement and part of a thing called (Leemode), which is an all?encompassing festival of Judaism which started in England. It was really exciting stuff. Is it different between the countries growing up Jewish, do you think? When was the first time you came to the United States? The first time I came to the United States was on a family holiday in 1990, because my uncle, aunt, and first cousin moved out here to Ventura, California. So I don't really know what it's like to grow up Jewish here. I can see what my kids experienced, but that's completely biased because I'm the rabbi and they're part of a Jewish community in a wraparound fashion. So for them I suspect it's pretty comparable. It just depends what town you're in and what your dad does for a living and what your mom does. What were your parents' occupations? My dad ran a bookshop for most of the time I was growing up. My mom helped in the bookshop quite a lot. You use a slightly different term. When you say "administrator" here in America, it means more a high?level management position. So my mom didn't necessarily have that. She worked like an office worker. More like office or secretarial. More like personal assistant, but not just personal assistant to a particular person. She worked in offices for part of her life, for Frank Cass, a book publisher. My dad was at the independent bookstore. The way it ended, though, was like You've Got Mail, the Tom Hanks movie with Meg Ryan except it wasn't a happy ending because, number one, he didn't fall in love with the owner of the big chain bookstore around the corner; and, number two, he wasn't able to survive when the big chain store moved in. But he did 3 work in the bookstore for most of his career and had his own bookstores. When that went down the pan, he had been teaching. He always loved teaching on and off in Jewish setting; he became a Jewish educator, got a master's in Jewish education. He did a really great job for a while and then he left there and took English as a second language, and got qualification in that. These are new immigrants coming to England. My mom went on to the local branch of the National Health Service to work in one of their hospitals. So that's what they've been doing. That's an interesting resume for both of them. Yes. My mom is quite happy; she's retired now. My dad is still teaching English as a second language. He's working very hard, but I think he kind of likes that. So how did that influence you and the path that you took? Because my dad was a Jewish educator. Even when he was running the bookstore, he was still doing Jewish education, teaching kids bar and bat mitzvah. He taught me my bar mitzvah learning. He always had a love of Judaism. He grew up Orthodox and had some pretty good, positive, emotional memories of being Orthodox. But when my brother was born and when I was three, we moved to a Reform synagogue. He was really inspired by Rabbi Michael Lee, who was the rabbi at the Reform synagogue at the time. He got a real love of Judaism and became heavily involved, and then passed it down to me. My mom, she didn't necessarily?I think I maybe influenced her in terms of the Judaism because she went on to adult learning classes and she was strung on to adult learning classes by my dad as well. She's very Jewish, but she doesn't spend as much time on it as us two. The men in her life. So coming to Temple Sinai, to Las Vegas, that seems like?there's so many ways I would approach this. The first one is like, what the hell? Right? Right. How does one end up in Las Vegas? But for you this is not just a move to a new city in the 4 country, but a new country. What can you tell me about that? The story is essentially that I was in a large Reform synagogue in London, part of a team of rabbis, not the senior. It was really an enjoyable job. I was working at the West London Synagogue for British Jews, specifically for British Jews, in that title because in 1840 when they were founded they specifically wanted to welcome Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews. There was a bit of separation back in the day. To learn how to be a rabbi in a fuller sense, you've got to go out on your own a little bit and be the rabbi somewhere else and to learn a different skillset; when you're the assistant or associate rabbi in a big shul, you get shielded from all the politics and responsibility, which some people like. But to me, to get to another level, you have to be exposed to it and jump in up to your neck. The Jewish community in England is very small. The Reform community is smaller than the Orthodox; it's the reverse, obviously, in America. There are only a tiny handful of synagogues where I could see myself enjoying being the rabbi there. I knew the rabbis there well enough, the incumbents, to call them up and say, "Are you going anywhere any time soon?" And they knew me well enough to say, "No, back off." So then we started looking further afield. My wife, Sarah, is very astute. I became a member of the Central Council of American Rabbis (CCAR). It gives you the right to apply for jobs in the American Reform movement. We started looking at those jobs that were being offered and Las Vegas came up. Because I had no reputation in America, it was hard for me to get in what in the American Reform movement we call the Category B congregation, three-hundred to six-hundred-family units. When you're just ordained, you can only go for zero to three-hundred-family units. When you've done three years, you can go for three-hundred to six-hundred, but those are harder to get if you have no reputation in America. She said, "Well, let's look at Category A congregations, the smaller ones, and if you find the right one, maybe you can turn it into a Category B." 5 She looked at Vegas; we've lived in southern Israel before, so we love the desert. We know there's lots of unaffiliated Jews here. So we know there's potential to grow a community instead of being somewhere where everyone's dying and moving away. Temple Sinai itself wasn't in a great shape, but it seemed like it had lots of potential. People had the will for it to succeed in a big Jewish neighborhood in Vegas. All the conditions were there. It was ripe. Then the push factors away from London...It's much harder economically. The cost of living is ridiculous, more of a struggle. The weather is crap. The traffic is bad. It takes an hour to get anywhere. That's how we ended up here. Looking back, it worked out really well. We had a hundred and thirty?five families when we got to the synagogue. Now we've got about three hundred and sixty. So we turned it into that Category B congregation. Looking back, it was a ridiculous risk, uprooting the whole family and traveling thousands of miles, and you didn't know if it would work out. That was 2009. Did you have children at that time? Yes. Elijah was one and a bit. Rachel was born in Summerlin Hospital here, Las Vegas born and bred. Never thought I'd have a daughter about whom you could say that. Really, yes. That's unique in and of itself for sure. Yes. So 2009 Las Vegas, what would you tell your children that Vegas was like in 2009? The world that we dropped into was a pretty benign suburban America, fairly removed from the glitz of the Strip. I remember the first few days we were sitting in the shared hot tub of our condo complex. My son was sitting in the hot tub with a cup of apple juice. I was like, okay, so this is Vegas, then. It felt like we were permanently on vacation. The specifics of how we got here is actually pretty dramatic because we had the interview in April 2009 and signed a contract in May 2009. As my wife and I were coming back on the plane, from the 6 interview, we were saying, "Oh, I think they're going to offer it to me," because it went really well. Like, what the hell are we going to do now if they offer it to us? It was like we thought we could come out here, but then it became real tangible real quick. But then if you want to get a religious worker's visa, an R?1 visa, it doesn't takes ages, but there's a certain amount of time?three months. Back in the day there was a lot of fraud around that visa. People were saying, "Yeah, I'm going to go to Vegas and be the minister of the first church in Las Vegas." Right? Just making stuff up. You have to have a site visit from the immigration service and they don't obviously tell you when that is. So we were worried that we wouldn't make it for High Holy Days. The congregation had to wait a few months for me. So you sign the contract in May, open the visa process, September 17th that year was the High Holy Days and people here were just worried. I was having conversations with Seymour Kaplan??Kapi??about when it was going to happen. "When is this site visit going to happen; when can we get the visa; when can we come over?" Everyone was really, really worried and I was sort of at loose ends in England. I was pretty sure it was going to happen, but at the same time I thought, it's not going to be a great situation with me to miss High Holy Days; that would just look really bad; it would just be a really bad start. In the end?I can't remember who helped the process?but people made some calls and then we heard they did the site visit. Then they said, "You've got the interview at the embassy in London in Grosvenor Square." That was on the Tuesday. And then they said, "We'll send you the visa in a couple of days, but we forgot we told the immigration law office to send them the visa; it wasn't open early enough and they got there too early." So they said, "Oh, yes, sorry, we couldn't deliver it." You have to imagine this scene. I said, "Well, where is your depot?" They're like, "Near Waterloo station." So we went up to Waterloo Station because we said to them on the phone, "Great, we'll meet you there." Then we called them and the guy was like, "Oh, yeah, my boss told me that we're not allowed to 7 deliver it in a public place; it's got to be a private address." You have to imagine my wife kicking a rubbish bin, a trash can, across the plaza of Waterloo station and letting out a barbaric yelp of despair. But then we got the lawyer to call them and they delivered it to the law firm or something. We picked up the visa on a Friday. We flew on the Sunday with Elijah. The following Friday was the evening Rosh Hashanah. So it was pretty dramatic. My first service was Rosh Hashanah. It was great. It was a great time to start. Then you can start in a blaze of glory, baptism of fire, if that is an appropriate phrase. It was a thrill to have you here at that time. At that point they would have been pretty thrilled to have a rabbi turning up at the post. But, yes, that was good. Did you have to go back and forth to move? No. We had shipped our stuff. The visa process, was that because?we've had trouble at UNLV trying to get somebody who is Canadian for a position who has the perfect qualifications for a position, but they won't allow it because they say somebody else in the United States can do that. They didn't have that with the religious workers visa. You don't have to prove you've got better skills. That was never spoken of. About fifty people put their resumes in for this job. But I don't think you had to tell the immigration service that. You just had to have a bona fide ordination and then it had to be an authentic religious organization this side of the pond. What was your education path? How did you get into it? I had an undergraduate degree in psychology, which as you might know is not really worth the paper it's printed on unless you add a master's or a Ph.D. to it if you want to work in that field. It was fun just getting an undergraduate degree. Then I got a professional qualification in youth and community work 8 because I was in the middle of?I worked as a detached youth worker, which means you go to housing projects and work with the young people in their territory instead of outreach workers trying to bring them into a youth center. I did that for a bit and I got professional qualification. I was working at the synagogue doing youth work as well. Then the Reform movement in Britain opened up their outreach office to people in their twenties and thirties, the generation they don't necessarily see in synagogues. I was the first outreach worker for the Reform movement for that. I got the professional qualification. Then my wife said, "Why aren't you becoming a rabbi? It seems like it would be a good fit for you." I basically told her it seemed like a lot of responsibilities. She told me to man up, and if fear was the only reason for not doing it, then I should just get the hell on with it. So I went to Leo Baeck College, which is the rabbinic seminary in London, for five years. Middle year we had the opportunity to go to Hebrew Union College in New York, our sister seminary. They had a reciprocal arrangement at that time. I'm not sure how many Americans went to Britain, if any. But that gave me an opportunity to get to know American Judaism. Twice a month I had an internship down in South Carolina. So I flew down from New York to Florence, South Carolina; great town, great people. In rabbinic ordination, a five?year process, you start with more academic stuff, and as you go through you do more practical rabbinic work in synagogues. So that took me through to 2006. I got a job at West London Synagogue where my wife had grown up, where we got married, actually. My in?laws are still members there. I did that for three years as one of their team. Your wife is a good partner it sounds like. Oh, gosh, yes. I couldn't do anything without her. She's amazing. Does she have a career? Yes, she's a teacher. In England there's no separation of church and state. It's actually in the national 9 curriculum to do comparative religion in public schools. They do Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, the big six as it were. She taught that full time. Now she teaches at the Adelson Educational Campus. She teaches comparative religion, psychology, and Jewish history. She's a very talented teacher. That's great. She also helped me. She ran the religious school for a year here while we were looking for someone, pretty much as a volunteer. That's a partnership for sure. Yes, really. So that's interesting. You were in New York and Carolinas. How did you observe American Judaism? Firstly, it was observing America. Once you get outside the New York bubble, you realize what a conservative country this is, which is quite a surprise because you can be loud if you live in New York and think everyone's far to the left. There's more confidence and creativity in America. Jews in Britain look over their shoulder a bit more. They're a bit more worried about the outside world, a bit more worried about persecution, whereas in America there's just more confidence in we're Jews and we don't really care who's anti?Semitic; we're just going to do our thing. Do you think that's because of the history of World War II and all that stuff? Yes, the closer you are to that heart of darkness? It's geographically there. ?yes, then the more Jewish guilt you have and the more worry you have about anti?Semitism. I think in Britain that affects people a bit less than in the European continent, but I think it's still true. [Jews] can be 10 more creative here, particularly in the Reform movement, because the Reform movement itself has more confidence because it?s a million and a half people, nine hundred congregations, the majority of affiliated Jews in America. Even in Reform Judaism in Britain, tradition has a greater pull on you whereas you can do new stuff here in the Reform movement with less ties to tradition. It's a tough balancing act. My husband and I are from Iowa. S our experience with his Jewish upbringing and culture was very much Iowa until we moved west. He's observed differences here. I don't know what the root of that is. Do you have any ideas when you see a city? What were the differences he observed, and then I can diagnosis the reason. There were three congregations. One was Reform, one was conservative, then more ultra-religious. We had a Chabad there, too. But there's twenty something synagogues in Las Vegas. It's like a buffet. There were some rabbis who did terrible things and broke up congregations. That's part of the reason. What about the history of Las Vegas Judaism did you hear? I won't mention any names. But there are rabbis who basically used the synagogue as a jumping off point to do lots of private weddings and funerals in addition to being full?time rabbis. There are rabbis who stole money from synagogues. There are rabbis who got their ordination on the internet and weren't that authentic. There are rabbis who in Reform synagogues put up a mechitza or divider overnight from one Shabbat to the next and tried to make it into an Orthodox place. So there are rabbis who did a lot of stupid stuff, which was wrong, and so they caused the splintering of the shuls. Did you know all of that history before you came here? I don't know if I knew all of it. I just knew tiny snippets. When you vet as a rabbi looking for a position?you gave me some of the criteria already that you were looking for. But what did you want to know about Las Vegas history before you moved here? 11 I'm guilty of this when I moved here. I had this image. It's kind of a cinema image of? No, we didn't have that. We had done our research, particularly Sarah. She saw if you live in Summerlin that it's kind of like American suburbia, and that you can be connected to the Strip if you want, and the low cost of living, very beautiful desert. So that is what we had. We didn't really have an image of the Jewish community. Now, having been here, I think you've got the same things, the same issues or problems in the Jewish community, stupid synagogue politics. You've got members of the community who are more worried about what cookies are served on a Friday night rather than what the vision is for the synagogue. So, yes, that's pretty much the same the world over. In America, I find it easier to get people to join synagogues. In England, you've got a very weird system where partly your synagogue membership is tied to your burial rites, so where your plot is, your cemetery. So membership is much more static. If you're doing a really great job in a synagogue, then you can get the members. It's a bit more fluid, though, in America. People will jump ship and go to another place. That's a good word. There's more of a culture of philanthropy in America in Judaism. There is? Yes, much more. Fundraising is not such a dirty word. English have an instinctive suspicion of it, like it's sullying the holiness of the work, whereas Americans realize you've got no hope; if you can't pay for a good rabbi and an education cantor, then you're screwed. So there is regional culturalism in being Jewish that varies from one country to another. Yes. In terms of money, guilt, tradition, yes. It's interesting. Do you see the Jewish community in Vegas continuing to grow and be stronger? 12 Yes, I think we're still in the upswing. If you look at the key institutions, they're paying good salaries to good professionals whereas before we would try and get by with, well, let's go on the cheap and get someone part?time or somebody without that much experience. You look at Jewish Federation, JCC, JFSA and the synagogues?you've got pretty good professionals in place, experienced people, and then you've still got people moving to Vegas. You'll probably get a JCC building built in the next couple of years. Everyone's upped their game. So, yes, I think we're in an upswing that will continue for a while. So you've kind of settled in now. You've been here six years. The JCC has been something that people have talked about that never has really happened. Is there something that will make it happen? Yes. Sheldon Adelson wants to build the Adelson Jewish Campus for Family Life or something like that, Adelson Family Campus for Jewish Life or Adelson Campus for Jewish Life. So that seems pretty tangible from what people are saying. Federation has said, "Okay, you do that." That will be on the west side where Costco is on Park Run. They're going to build on there soon to not lose the right to build there. It's meant to be in the offing. The offer would be open to other Jewish organizations to be in there as well, to rent space. Do you think that that will divide the city even more, the east and west? Yes. It's hard for the JCC to do more than pay lip service to programming in the east, and it will be even harder when they have a building here. That will take some effort on their part. How do with the rabbis, the leadership in the Jewish community, Jewish Federation, make it still a cohesive community? Federation under Elliot Karp was?he's left now?pretty good at trying to bring everyone together. He really worked his ass off doing that. The new guy, Todd Polikoff, will be in the same vein I?m sure. So that's a good umbrella organization. The Board of Rabbis of Southern Nevada includes all the Reform and 13 Conservative rabbis. Unfortunately, Chabad and the generic Orthodox rabbis won't join us because that would endorse our rabbinic coordination. So we get together. But we work with the Orthodox in other respects. Sometimes we've had the Global Day of Jewish Learning and the Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron and Ha'atzmaut, where everyone comes together, the JCC barbeque where everyone comes together. So that's pretty good. I study with an Ultra-Orthodox rabbi every couple of weeks. We study a bit of Talmud together. I think it's all down to your will. By sheer force of will you can make it cohesive. There are other people in the community who would still have that competitive stance. But the more people doing good Jewish stuff, the better it is for everyone. You don't have to see it as a threat. It seems like you represent a new generation, too. That's always a challenge, isn't it, when you've got that establishment and then the younger people come in? I guess so. But if you look at someone like Sandy Akselrad, he's always been good at reaching out and being supportive to meetings. I got here, sharing of his wisdom. He's an experienced congregational rabbi. I'm not calling him old; I'm just saying he's experienced. Well, he's got some seniority here. Yes, the new generation, they've got a new cantor over there; we've got a new cantor over here. They grew up in Vegas together. We're going to try to do some joint projects with the Women from Judaism Conference comes here, the national conference; we're going to do a Friday night service. It's going to be over at Ner Tamid, and we're going to close our shul and go over there, and have a sense of the Reform movement. Again, it's about force of will; if you decide that you want to collaborate, then you can. That's really good. It's about an attitude. Yes, it is. Let's think about the history of Temple Sinai. What were they doing before you came? 14 Who was the spiritual leader? Did they have a rabbi before? Yes. Temple Sinai in and of itself is not an old institution. It's about eight or nine years old because it merged from two Reform synagogues, Adat Ari El and Beth Am. Adat Ari El was more famous for meeting in shop fronts, storefronts, and Dr. Mark Ohriner, he's the optometrist, one of his offices once. Adat Ari El, I'm pretty sure there was this guy Gary Golbart. He was, I think, a former performer on the Strip and he got rabbinic qualification. Also, I want to say there was a guy Craig Rosenstein, who's now at Bet Emet in one of the Sun City congregations. I think maybe he was here. There was definitely a guy, when they needed a rabbi in a pinch, Rabbi Hillel Cohn from Southern California. He came a couple of times a month or something. He was much beloved to help out Adat Ari El. Beth Am was actually here on this campus, Rabbi Mel Hecht for many years. They had portables on this campus and a bare desert floor where they would hold services. Eventually Rabbi Hecht and his wife, Mickie, got the money together for the big events center, the big square one that we have in the corner of our campus. I can't remember which of those two congregations Rabbi Ken Siegel became the rabbi of, on the cusp of the merger. Meera Kamegai and Seymour Kaplan, ?Kapi??I can't remember which one was from which congregation?met at a conference and said, "Our shuls aren't doing great." They realized, wait a minute, we could get together and merge. So the merger became Temple Sinai. Dr. Larry Copeland was the first president and he's still around. He's a very talented doctor, used to be chief of staff at Summerlin Hospital, and now he's out there on his own. He did a great job; he, Kapi, Meera, and some of those folks in the beginning [did a great job] of keeping the doors open, because they were in a lot of debt. Steve Haberkorn, who's been our main funder in the last few years, his life was saved by Larry and he wanted to repay him. He saw Larry killing himself trying to keep the shul afloat. So Steve paid twenty thousand dollars for a meeting with Sheldon Adelson, and said, "I've got a million bucks. If you give me four, we'll clear the debt on this place. We really want a shul on the west side for 15 Reform Jews." Adelson said, "No." His stock was in the toilet at the time, and Steve invested the one million in that and it went through t