Our Rabbi is from a traditional Jewish family. His grandfather, an Orthodox Rabbi, was ordained at the well-known Slobodka Yeshiva in Lithuania, about one hundred years ago. The family came to the United States in 1923 and settled near relatives in Pittsburgh.
Rabbi Pennes was born in Alhambra, California and grew up at Alhambra Synagogue Center, which later became Temple Beth Torah. Like Temple B’nai Emet, Temple Beth Torah was a traditional congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. In addition Rabbi Pennes remembers attending services at the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights where his father would say “Kaddish” on weekdays. After his Bar Mitzvah, Rabbi Pennes continued his Jewish Studies at the Los Angeles Hebrew High School through his graduation from Alhambra High School. It was during that time that he became affiliated with Temple B’nai Emet, as Hebrew High classes met in Montebello during the week. Rabbi Pennes received his B.A. at U.C.L.A. while also studying at the University of Judaism at the same time. After
Warmth and Tradition
Temple B'nai Emet
receiving his B.A. in 1972, he continued pre-Rabbinic studies at the U.J. and graduated with an additional B.A. in 1974. He next attended the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York receiving a Masters degree in 1975 and ordination in 1978. During this time he also studied for a year in Jerusalem, as well as at Columbia University in New York City.
After graduation Rabbi Pennes returned to Los Angeles, where he assumed his first pulpit in Newport Beach. The next year he married Wendy, who he had met while studying in Jerusalem. Together they have three children, Alice, Charlie and Sophie. Rabbi has a love for children, and a belief in teaching and role modeling the values of our tradition. However, after serving at B’nai Emet for several years, Rabbi Pennes began to fully appreciate Judaism’s (and his own) veneration of the wisdom that comes with aging. In truth, at that time, B’nai Emet was clearly an aging community. As the number of children and B’nai Mitzvah declined, he turned his attention to the needs of the aging and infirmed. In fact, in 2000, he began working in hospice, even founding a Jewish Hospice support non-profit to provide help to the Jewish community. His experience with the reality of aging led him to the simple observations that the elderly are filled with wisdom and value. Indeed, if wisdom is a gauge, then age is beauty. The more we age, the more fruitful in wisdom we become. In Jewish law, we rise in the presence of the wise, and we rise in the presence of the elderly, usually defined as over 70. Naturally we respect our parents and our grandparents as well as all our elders. But, at the same time, age often comes with illness and disability in various forms. Yet, we remember that our tradition teaches that the original shattered tablets containing the Ten Commandments were later placed in the ark together with the intact second set, as if to accentuate that one who is broken remains holy. Respect, veneration, admiration - these are the basic parameters within which we approach aging, the aged, and the treatment of the elderly. Jewish tradition is suffused with sacred obligations regarding the aged. In truth, we know that our children and grandchildren will also face these issues in their lifetimes. Our role is to transmit our values and beliefs to each other as well as to future generations. This indeed is at the heart of a Jewish way of life.