This month we feature two generations of the Williams family. Marilyn and David Williams shared their stories from the very earliest days of the Wise community; Felice and Doug Williams were kind enough to tell us about their experiences as Wise members.
Marilyn and David Williams
In 1964, we attended a meeting with Rabbi Zeldin at a private home in Westwood with 35 other couples where we decided to form a new congregation and build a new temple. A committee was formed to select a site that would be the center of Jewish life including a children’s school and a synagogue that became the central core of Jewish life in Southern California. Our son, Douglas, began Hebrew School and became Bar Mitzvah at Leo Baeck Temple while waiting for our temple to be built. Mark and Susan were able to complete their B’nai Mitzvah training at Stephen Wise Temple.
We followed Rabbi Zeldin to Wise: we loved his enthusiasm and his gentle way. We were next-door neighbors with Shy and Florence and their sons, Joel and Michael. It was an easy decision to follow him.
We were involved in many adventures with the community. Our children, Doug, Mark, and Susan were in Hebrew School and then Confirmation. In those early days, David was chairman of the Ways and Means committee and Marilyn was on the Oneg Shabbat committee. It was our privilege to travel to Israel and Russia with Florence and Shy and other members of the congregation. Today, David attends Rabbi Yoshi’s Talmud Class on a weekly basis.
Hopefully our children and grandchildren have learned by our example that the future of their Jewish heritage depends upon continuing education and their involvement within the community.
We are very grateful to have had this wonderful journey.
Felice and Doug Williams
When did you first become part of the Stephen Wise Temple community?
Felice: I was introduced to Wise when Doug and I became engaged and asked Rabbi Zeldin to officiate at our wedding in 1981. Doug grew up at Wise as his parents, Marilyn and David, were founding members and moved from Temple Emanuel to help establish this wonderful place. Additionally, the Zeldins were Doug’s family’s next door neighbors for many years and Rabbi Zeldin sometimes drove Doug home from Hebrew school!
Doug: Wise was without an official home until for several years. I was used to Shabbat services in churches, and later, Hebrew school at Leo Baeck Temple. My Bar Mitzvah service was in Leo Baeck Temple’s sanctuary. In 1970 the confirmation class was celebrated at the new site of Hershenson Hall.
What attracted you to Wise?
Felice: I loved its progressive, modern practice of Judaism that was more open, inclusive, and responsive to the times we were living in than what I grew up with. Later, I loved the Holiday Workshop program, the Havurah Program, the Parenting Center (ECC), the nursery school and elementary school for our daughters. We met many lifelong friends through our involvement in our Wise Havurah.
Doug: After we married, we sought out the Jewish community through the Temple. As Felice described, the classes and the Havurah program were central to our involvement, as was getting involved with Board events and early schooling for our daughters.
What are you involved in at Wise? What do you hope to be involved with in the future?
Felice: Currently, I enjoy the Melton School curriculum and have participated in the program for the past seven years! I have served on the Melton Advisory Board and I love exploring the Jewish topics I’ve studied from an adult’s academic perspective. I’ve also enjoyed learning with so many of my friends and peers from the Wise community! Doug and I enjoy attending many of the Center for Jewish Life programs, especially Rabbi Woznica’s dialogues with scholars and philosophers of our times. We also enjoy attending Soulful Shabbat, Learning in Your Neighborhood mini-courses, and look forward to participating in more stimulating programs! Recently, I’ve had the honor of joining the Board of Directors and hope to do my part to achieve the Wise mission and core values. In our earlier years of involvement, Doug served on the Board of Directors, and together with Mark and Penny Berns, we chaired the Purim Dinner and Auction event for three years.
What is a message that you want to teach future generations?
Felice: I hope that they will choose to make their Jewish cultural and religious heritage and values a priority in their lives as Doug and I have. It has always been very fulfilling to be part of a community that personifies our values and to be part of something larger than ourselves that strives to make the world a better place. I hope that our involvement and action will motivate our children and grandchildren to do the same!
What motivates you to give so generously of your time and financial resources?
Felice: I love the community of involved members at Wise and want to be an integral part of it! Additionally, I love the Clergy and learn so much about how to live a meaningful, authentic life from all the wise people that I’ve gotten to know in this wonderful community!
Doug: Mitzvot. We Jews are the ones who will sustain Jewry around the world. Our small personal contributions, when pooled together with many other contributions, whether time, money, or wisdom, combine to provide that continued sustainability.