NEWPORT BEACH : Temple to Leave City for Irvine Building

Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, the oldest Reform Jewish congregation in southwestern Orange County, will move from a shared church property in Newport Beach to a new facility in Irvine next month.

The congregation, founded in 1968, was originally called Harbor Reform. The name, changed in 1974 as a memorial to 23 teen-agers killed in a massacre in Ma’alot, Israel, means “song of spiritual ascent.”

The temple has shared quarters at 2100 Mar Vista Drive with St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church for 25 years.

“After 25 years as joint tenants, we are looking forward to having our own home,” Rabbi Bernie King said. “The location is both picturesque and convenient. More importantly, once we move in we will be able to expand our offerings to include child care, catering services and additional programs for our congregations.”


Temple publicity coordinator Judy Uttal said the synagogue has been looking for a new home for the past two years.

The new home, in a former sports club at 3652 Michelson Drive, fits the congregation’s needs, Uttal said.

“First of all, it was in Irvine. It was important for us to be in Irvine. We wanted to attract young families and we thought Irvine was good for that, and it’s central,” Uttal said.

The building was appealing partly because it is next to a golf course that affords a peaceful view and partly for engineering reasons.


“Structurally, it really lent itself to be adapted,” Uttal said. “It has high ceilings and was kind of a more open type of building, versus an office building or something like that.”

Ultimately, the temple will look like a more traditional synagogue, Uttal said. Plans call for a dozen classrooms for religious school and day care, a kitchen and social hall, a library, teen activities room, gift shop and a sanctuary for 200 worshipers. The congregation will make its move Sept. 4, just in time for the High Holy Days.

Congregation members will carry the Torah three miles from the old site to the new one that day. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Sept. 5.

“We’re going to do a Torah relay. We’re going to walk the Torahs and hand them off,” Uttal said. “It will be nice to get the whole congregation involved.”