Friday, March 24, 2017

Olympia Temple Saves Star of David

Above: Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia points toward a broken window pane on the Star of David, recently obtained from the congregation's original Temple, which was built in 1938. The Star will undergo a full restoration.“I had no idea what color it was – I just saw it from afar. I never realized it was green and purple. It’s beautiful,” said Goldstein.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Temple Beth Hatfiloh just accomplished a financial goal to preserve an 80 year old stained glass Star of David, recently removed from its original synagogue in downtown Olympia.

Through a brief GoFundMe effort, $1,608 was raised by 41 people in 13 days. The goal was to reach $1,500 goal by mid-June to receive a matching grant.

“The funds raised were not necessarily just from our congregation. I didn’t recognize some of the names of those who donated. Some may have been interested in historic preservation. Some I knew and some were from other faith communities,” said Temple Beth Hatfiloh’s Rabbi Seth Goldstein, in an interview with Little Hollywood on Friday.

“It was amazing. It’s not like this is just for us. This is for the whole community,” he said.

The Star of David is an important piece of Olympia and Washington State Jewish history.

It is in need of overall restoration and one window pane is broken, but that will be easy to replace, Goldstein said. After its restoration, it will be put on display in the synagogue.

Above: The original Temple Beth Hatfiloh at 802 South Jefferson in downtown Olympia as seen on Friday. The building is currently for sale and under contract with an undisclosed party, says the property’s listing agent.

Established in 1937, Temple Beth Hatfiloh serves the Jewish community of greater Olympia.

In 2004, the growing congregation sold the single story, wooden building at 802 South Jefferson to Calvin Johnson of K Records, and moved three blocks west to their more spacious, current location at 201 8th Avenue.

A clause built into the Temple’s sale of the building to K Records, and any future owner, states that if there were any major renovation to the building or a demolition, the synagogue would retain possession of the Star of David and the building’s four memorial cornerstones.

“It was bittersweet when we moved, knowing we couldn’t hold onto the building. We were glad to sell it to Calvin, who we knew wouldn’t knock it down. We obviously had no control over what people did to the building, but we could at least include this one piece into the contract, reclaim the Star, and bring it back to our community,” said Goldstein.

A few months ago, someone with K Records unexpectedly informed Rabbi Goldstein that the area around the Star of David had structural issues, causing leakage issues. The Star was removed, and the area was boarded up.

Rabbi Goldstein walked to the building, thinking he would just carry the Star back to the Temple.

“It was a lot bigger than I thought and I had to go back and get the car,” he laughed. 

The Star measures about 3 ¾ feet in diameter, and was scheduled to be picked up by professional stained glass restorers on Friday.

When it is returned, Temple staff will plan a dedication ceremony of its restoration in memory of Ben Bean, who passed away this past summer. Bean was present at the Temple’s original dedication in 1938. His father, Earl Bean, headed the Temple’s building committee, along with Jacob Goldberg and Rube Cohn.

There is no place to install the Star in the current Temple on the outside of the building, so it will be placed in an interior alcove facing the front doors of the synagogue.

Above: A close up of the Temple's stained glass Star of David with a broken window pane.

According to a Thurston County historic property inventory report, the original Temple was built in 1938 using the Centralia synagogue's architectural plans. At the time it was built, the Olympia area Jewish congregation numbered sixteen. The property was purchased for $537.12.

Above: The siding of the former Temple shows damage from a fire on the Fourth of July last year. The cornerstone memorials on the building are for Isaac and Minnie Cohn, Helen Bean, Fanny Goldberg, and Getz Neishuler.

Membership grew to about 80 families during the 1970s and 1980s, due, in part, to the establishment of The Evergreen State College. 

The congregation later affiliated itself with the Reconstructionist Movement in 2001. Reconstructionists define themselves as progressive, pluralistic, democratic, and communal, according to the Temple’s website.

The Temple’s membership now numbers about 160 families and serves other community members as well, said Rabbi Goldstein.

Acknowledging the many sweet memories associated with the original Temple, Goldstein said that the congregation once explored keeping the original Temple as an annex.

“We even thought, for about five minutes, that we could move it to our current location, similar to what the synagogue in Boise did,” Goldstein laughed. “They moved their building - it’s gorgeous - but, for us, it just wasn’t feasible.” 

The building was damaged in a Fourth of July fire in 2016, and is in need of repairs. K Records moved out, and the building is currently for sale. The listing price is $399,000 and is now under contract, said Brad Kisor, the property’s Coldwell Banker listing agent, on Friday. Kisor declined to disclose the interested buyer.

The building is listed on the City of Olympia’s inventory of historic properties, but is not on any local or national historic register.


Temple Beth Hatfiloh has a wide variety of spiritual life and learning events and classes for its members and the community.

The Temple’s popular Blintzapalooza, an annual fundraiser for local nonprofit organizations, is on Sunday, March 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at 201 8th Avenue.

Temple members and community volunteers will serve blintzes and bagels with lox and cream cheese in the synagogue’s social hall. A used book sale in the synagogue’s second floor classrooms will run from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Frozen blintzes by the dozen and canvas grocery totes will also be for sale. Only cash and checks will be accepted.

The event also features a cooking/baking competition for the region’s best kugels. Awards designed by local artist Jean Mandeberg will be presented to the bakers of the winning kugels. Judges for this year's competition are Abbie Rose of Bagel Brothers, Jeremy Schwartz of San Francisco Street Bakery, and Lisa David of Nineveh Assyrian Food Truck.

The beneficiaries of the proceeds from this year's event are Cielo Project/Radio Ranch, Nisqually Land Trust, Thurston County Teen Council of Planned Parenthood, and League of Women Voters of Thurston County.

For more information about Temple Beth Hatfiloh, go to or on Facebook,

Monday, March 20, 2017

First Day of Spring 2017

Above, left to right: Reed Tomita, 5, with his cousin, Connor Stephenson, 4 ½, and Alexander Kahn, 4, had a blast creating and chasing bubbles on the first day of spring at Percival Landing in downtown Olympia.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Folks aged four to ninety braved uncertain weather to welcome the first day of spring at the 25th annual community bubble blow. 

Held near “The Kiss” statue on Percival Landing in downtown Olympia, the celebration goes on, no matter what the weather - come wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, high tide, sea-level rise, or maybe even sun. 

Luckily, the rain held off during the noontime event and a good time was had by all.

Several batik windsocks from the nearby Procession of the Species studio added to the festive frivolity. Bubbles and bubble wands are provided.

Above: Connor Stephenson, 4 ½ , with his mom, Susan, is amazed by a monster bubble.

In contrast to the frenzied energy of several children, first-time bubble maker Dawud Al-Malik demonstrated a calm demeanor. His strategy served him well, earning his bubbles several ooh’s and aah’s from supportive bubble makers.

“The technique that I use to create the bubbles is being in harmony with the forces of the wind, he explained as he held his arm high. 

I was fortunate enough to get the right angle with the wind, turning the wrist slowly,” he added with a smile.

Above: First time bubble maker Dawud Al-Malik of Olympia was in harmony with the forces of the wind on Monday.

The annual event is sponsored by People-Who-Know-We-Live-In-A-Great-Place.