Who says you can’t go back in time?

I met my oldest sister in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for a good old fashioned trip down memory lane.

Even though we grew up in the northern Orange County area, we stayed in Santa Monica so we could be close to LAX and enjoy the trendy shopping and entertainment that the Los Angeles area has to offer.

Our hotel was conveniently located right near the I-10 Freeway, allowing us to easily address prominent items on our itinerary that were in Orange County: specific landmarks in our home town of Buena Park and neighboring towns of Fullerton and La Mirada.

We made two separate trips along the I-10 Freeway eastbound to the I-5 Freeway southbound in order to travel 35 miles and 35 years back in time to visit the neighborhood, Synagogue, schools and favorite foods of our childhood.

There is so much to share that I will separate it into several posts so as not to overwhelm anybody with TMI, including myself.

First stop on our journey: Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, California

We were excited to attend Friday night Shabbat services at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, the shul of our youth! We went to Religious school, became Bat Mitzvahs and were confirmed at this small Synagogue on the border of Southern California’s Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Both of us were active in the Temple youth group, BOTY, during our high school days and I’m pretty sure we each managed to aggravate a Hebrew school teacher or two on the small faculty there with our talkative tendencies.

Through the magic of Facebook, and the fact that I keep in touch with several of my former Hebrew school classmates, 5 members of the Confirmation Class of 1978 were also in attendance. We sat together during services, chanting the prayers and singing the songs to the familiar tunes of our kinderhood, uniting the past and present in mutual celebration.

Posing on confirmation day with my sisters

My official confirmation photo from 1978

At the Oneg we reminisced about Religious School teachers, youth group days and whipped out our cell phones to share photos of our own kids who are presently in college and high school and having their own B’nei Mitzvahs.

When I describe what it was like to grow up Jewish in Buena Park, California in the 1960’s and 1970’s I tell them that it is very similar to my own children’s experience in Kapolei, Hawaii. I was one of few Jewish kids in my school, along with Jon Sherman and Jason Oxman. There are only a few Jewish families on the west side of Oahu and significantly fewer in the state of Hawaii than in California then or now.

Temple Beth Ohr had a small congregation of about 200 families. Temple Emanu-El of Honolulu’s congregation is of similar size.

I would also tell you that the facilities are of similar dimension and that is where I would be wrong. You know how you remember things from your childhood as being much bigger and then when you go back to visit them you realize that your perspective has changed? That happened to me a few times on this trip. I was surprised at how in reality both the sanctuary and the social hall are much smaller than memory serves. They look the same, they are lovely, just smaller than I remember.

BOTY Shabbat service held before new sanctuary was built circa 1973

My youngest sister's official 1974 Confirmation photo in front of the stained glass window in the old sanctuary which is now the social hall

My oldest sister and I in front of the same stained glass window which is now in the new sanctuary.

Confirmation Class of 1978 Reunites: Lorraine Gershun, Jon Sherman, Suzanne Atlas Skorheim, Lisa Grossman Bloch, Stacey Ellig Campbell, Don Bloch

While we enjoyed the sumptuous Oneg sponsored by the Sisterhood, we got to talk to Ellie Ursis who was the youth group advisor when my sister was in high school, Rhonda Atlas who’s home I spent as much time in as my own hanging out with her daughter when I was a teenager, Harley Rockoff who was the Temple President when I was a kid and who’s son is still a friend of mine and Sandy Bloch who’s husband was also a Temple President of my childhood and son a classmate and Facebook friend.

Then benefits of small town Jewish life shined as 1978 classmates Lisa Grossman and Don Bloch come now as a unit, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch and the new Rabbi, Rabbi Goldfarb is cousins with one of our Temple Emanu-El congregants. Jewish Geography at its best.

It was truly a Shabbat Shalom and a great way to start a nice long weekend connecting with my sister and our past.

A word about my father

Theodore Leonard Gershun


We went to Friday night services at Honolulu’s Temple Emanu-El  so that I could say Kaddish for my father. I finally used one of the yartzeit candles that I bought last September for the anniversary of his death on January 2nd.

My dad passed away 22 years ago.

I am standing with my mom and sisters after his funeral

Before he died he knew that I was moving to Israel to live there for a while. What he never knew is that it turned out to be a short while and I soon moved to Hawaii. He never knew my life here. He never knew my first husband or my second (who often reminds me of him!) He never met any of his grandchildren in person. But he lived a full life until it was cut short by cancer.

I wasn’t with him the day that he died, but I was with my mother the days before and after. I’d always call her on January 2 and she and I would talk each year about the New Year’s Eve dinner we had together in between trips to the hospital  and the meeting with the staff at the mortuary to make the final arrangements.

We’d laugh remembering  how the guy at Forest Lawn suggested we inter my father’s ashes next to a huge statue of Jesus as a perfect spot and renew our satisfaction of our choice, The Wall of Knowledge, overlooking the freeway, assuring ourselves that he would be happy to overlook the “Road to Vegas,” one of his favorite getaways.

I missed talking about it with her this year. With my mother’s death so recent and that particular loss so poignant, I don’t talk or write about my dad very much. But he was a very interesting man.

My younger sister recently wrote a short biography of him for a family genealogy and I would like to share it here. I guess you could call her our guest blogger of the day. Thanks boo.

Theodore Leonard Gershun, b. February 19, 1924, d. January 2, 1990

Ted Gershun was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the second child of Selma and Ben Gershun (although his sibling Shirley often introduced herself as his younger sister). Ted believed strongly in education, the stock market, up-and-coming technology, his ability to beat the house at the dice tables in Las Vegas, and supporting the underdog. He trained as a bombardier (he was too short to be a pilot) in WWII and was sent to Japan but the war ended before he saw combat. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of Iowa in 1948 and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1955. Ted worked in the aerospace industry in Southern California for 20 years, most notably contributing to the development of the heat shield for the Apollo spacecraft. In the 1970s Ted returned to school and received a law degree from Western State University College of Law. After passing the California State Bar exam (first try!) in 1975, Ted bought a used pickup truck so he could haul around evidence if the need arose and he practiced small-town law for another 15 years.

Ted married Gloria Polsky in 1948, and in 1961 they relocated to Buena Park, CA  where they raised three daughters — Martha, Elizabeth (Betsy) (boo), and Lorraine (Lorrie) — in a house filled with the coolest toys (who else had a unicycle, a tandem bicycle, a pogo stick, AND stilts?), the complete volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia, and the biggest swing set in the neighborhood. Ted liked nothing better than to take his family to Shakey’s Ole Time Pizza Parlour for two large pizzas (one with sausage, one with portugese linguica) and to sing along (loudly) with the resident piano player. He always grilled a perfect steak and only liked iceberg lettuce and radishes in his salad (covered with bleu cheese dressing). Ted’s idea of a family vacation was to pack everyone into the car and drive five hours to Las Vegas, where he would gamble through the nights and use his winnings to support his wife’s and daughters’ daytime shopping excursions.


Ted loved gadgets and tools, manual or electronic. He owned an amazing set of slide rules and protractors, which he tried in vain to teach his young daughters how to use. But they were more interested in the first electronic calculator he brought home in the 1960s — it cost $99 and was the size of a box of Kleenex. (Oops! Make that a box of tissues; one of his pet peeves was using a brand name as a generic noun.) Ted had a quick (and slightly off-color) sense of humor which he shared with anyone who would laugh at his jokes. While he was not at all athletic, he was a strong swimmer and he was always willing to take a ride on the Matterhorn or the Mad Hatter’s Wild Teacups at Disneyland. Ted died in 1990 and his ashes are interred in a cemetery that overlooks the freeway that leads to Las Vegas.