Stephen Wise Temple: A Place to call Home


During Yom Kippur services at Stephen Wise Temple on Sept 16, 2021, Phil Koosed shared his family story from the past when his grandfather was the only survivor in his family from the Holocaust to the current generation when his own father now has eight grandchildren and Phil is spearheading the efforts of The Big Fill to Save the Syrian children. His family’s leadership has saved countless children, brought hope and sent over 50 pallets of supplies to Syria. They have raised over $550,000 with over $127,000,000 in-kind donations.

I had never felt bigger in my life.  I was 6 years old and I had just received my celebratory Torah during the Hagigat ha torah ceremony at Wise Temple.  My grandfather, a holocaust survivor with one amputated leg, hoisted me high onto his broad shoulders.  I could feel his pride radiating out as he marched around Wise with a joyful smile across his face.  But just four decades before that moment, my grandfather’s life had been shattered. His entire family had been murdered in the holocaust. His father, his mother, his brother, all his cousins, all his aunts and uncles.  All of them.  And as he rode alone in a packed train car heading to the camps, it seemed as if Judaism would die with his generation.  

Yet, through a miracle of G-d, he escaped and survived and here he was, carrying his grandson around this beautiful temple continuing the link of Judaism. L’dor v’dor. From generation to generation.

Fast forward ahead to last year and I am at my son’s Hagigat ha torah.  It is a little different because it is during Covid and Rabbi Stern is in my front yard with a mask on, a hazmat suit and some kind of contraption to hand a torah to my son from 6 feet away. But as Rabbi Stern starts to say some beautiful words and a prayer, my eyes well up.  First a single tear streams down my face, then a waterfall.  This was yet another link in the chain.  I was doing my small part in the 5,000 year history of our people.  I was doing to my part for my grandfather. L’dor v’dor.  From generation to generation.

Wise Temple was not only a part of this journey for me, it made this journey possible.  My parents, who are here today, signed up to be members of this temple over 40 years ago.  A young couple just trying to figure out how to raise Jewish children in LA, and not face the traffic of going to the city. They started going to services and then put me and my two sisters in the Wise school.  As time went by, we all had our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs with Rabbi Herscher, went through the confirmation program, spent every high holy day here, got married by the Wise clergy and made lifelong friends.  In recent years, the Wise community supported my family to help our charity, Save the Syrian Children, send over 50 pallets of humanitarian aid to children in war torn Syria!  And now, our sons and our 3 nephews attend Wise school causing even more chaos than I caused when I was here.  I am sorry Ms. Itri, Coach Star, Ms. Volterra and many of our multigenerational teachers who have had to deal with multiple generations of us.  As we all pursued our careers and got caught up with the busyness of life, the one constant for our whole family has been Wise Temple. 

There is no doubt that Judaism has struggled to find its path with my generation.  Sadly, I have seen some of my friends over the years become jaded and completely disconnected from Judaism.  

Without a place like Wise Temple, life can get busy and Judaism can fade away.  Not all at once.  Just slowly, generation by generation.

But Wise Temple won’t let that happen. Because Wise Temple is an amazing community of love and tzedakah that lives up to its creed of making meaning and changing the world.  But it is not just that.  It’s bigger than that.  It is also fundamental to the continuity of our Jewish faith and traditions. Wise Temple gives families like mine and yours the opportunity to pass Judaism from generation to generation making sure, that not only does Judaism survive, but that it thrives.  

I ask that you join me in supporting this vital mission.  Give today not only to support this incredible community, all it stands for and the change we make together.  But give today to preserve the very existence this Jewish faith that we all so dearly love.  Too many generations before us, too many, have made the greatest sacrifice for us not to do everything we can to make sure that our bright light continues to burn from generation to generation.  Shana tova.



Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal. Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.

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