Erika Glazer Gives Big to Historic LA Synagogue

The Wilshire Boulevard Temple is set to receive its moment in the spotlight.

Philanthropist Erika Glazer has announced plans to donate more than $30 million over the next 15 years for the restoration of the synagogue, along with the addition of other social programs. Aside from receiving naming rights, Glazer's donation will also help cover debt payments on tax-free bond financing for the $150-million initiative. 

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder said, "The day that Erika said yes, I felt an enormous weight…lifted from my shoulders. We have cleared an enormous hurdle."

The temple's forerunner, B'nai B'rith, was established in 1862, making it one of the first reform synagogues in the United States. It moved to its present location at 3663 Wilshire Boulevard in 1929, where it became the place of worship to some of Hollywood's biggest moguls (including huge names like Louis B. Mayer, Adolph Zucker, the Warner Brothers, and Irving Thalberg).

Glazer, daughter of shopping mall magnate Guillford Glazer, has been a member of the congregation from an early age where she used to listen to the sermons of Rabbi Edgar Manin, nicknamed the "rabbi to the stars."

Some of Glazer's money will go towards funding a kindergarten through six grade day school, a parking structure, and a social services facility that will work to feed, clothe, and provide medical and legal aid for locals.

But the biggest improvement will be the restoration of the Byzantine auditorium. With more than 1,850 seats, the floor-to-dome renovation began back in October 2011. The murals, which were created back in the '20s by Hugo Ballin, were some of the first paintings to mark the walls of a synagogue since ancient times.

Philanthropist Tony Pritzker, who is also helping with the restoration, said, "It’s about the stories that are on those murals and making that an integrated part of kids’ education."

Workers are upgrading the auditorium by inserting concrete walls from the basement to the bottom of the dome. Steel columns are also being added to both sides of the decorative windows.

The auditorium is set to reopen on September 4, in time for Rosh Hashanah services.