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A dedication to community

Profile: Rabbi Mark Blazer

Posted: March 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Rabbi Mark Blazer stands in front of a pair of art pieces created by Temple Beth Ami women’s groups.

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Editor’s note: This is one story in a series about inspirational people.

Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami in Newhall is charmingly low key in person. He moves with an easy strength and a sense of purpose through the cozy quarters of the temple until he reaches his “office.”

“I’ve never had an office here before,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to be locked into sitting in an office.”

The tiny office is as unpretentious as the man. It is a converted storeroom, adjacent to a preschool classroom in a modular building.

The office is furnished only with a simple desk and a few chairs.

Temple Beth Ami

Blazer, 43, has served as rabbi of the temple, a Reform Jewish congregation, for 11 years. In June, he will celebrate his 12th year with the community.

The Newhall synagogue, which currently serves 250 member families, was previously a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall for 40 years before it was purchased in 1997 by the temple community.

When Blazer arrived in 2000, the synagogue served only 65 families. In addition to member families, Blazer estimates there are another 150 or so families served by the synagogue.

Synagogue members speak glowingly of Blazer’s dedication and his ability to be “in touch” with their lives.

Blazer grew up in the San Fernando Valley, the son of Phil and Jackie Blazer.

He grew up in Northridge and graduated from Granada Hills High, before he started college at the University of California, San Diego. Blazer studied for a year at Oxford University in England before he started rabbinical school in New York.

Initially, the life of a rabbi was not Blazer’s chosen destiny. He expected a career in his father’s business. Phil Blazer is the host of a
Jewish television show and has published a Jewish newspaper since 1973.

The SCV

Blazer’s roots in the Santa Clarita Valley are deep. His uncle was the well-known resident Milt Diamond, owner of the Newhall General Store and founder of the Newhall Western Walk of Stars.

“I used to come out here frequently,” Blazer said. “I used to camp out here. I remember this area when there was literally nothing out here.”

Blazer said Diamond was a long-time resident of the SCV.

“Where we are sitting right now, in this building, my uncle lived only about 100 feet away for 50 years,” Blazer said.

Blazer said an annual ritual in his family was visiting Diamond’s store each year so Blazer could be outfitted for the new school year.

“Every year, at the beginning of September, we’d come out here so I could get my new school clothes,” he said.

In addition to Diamond’s store, another member of Blazer’s family, a cousin, owned Billy’s on the corner of Main Street and Lyons Avenue.

Becoming a rabbi

Blazer had been told by relatives and friends for years, “You are going to be a rabbi someday.”

It wasn’t an idea that Blazer initially embraced.

“For me, being a rabbi meant that I would have to live a life that was completely separate from everybody,” he said.

That kind of life didn’t appeal to Blazer.

“I didn’t like that idea,” he said. “I always knew I would be involved in the Jewish community, but I didn’t think I would be a rabbi.”

However, Blazer discovered he could create his own vision of what kind of rabbi he wanted to be.

“I realized that I could live the life I wanted to live and still be a rabbi,” he said. “I am not going to pretend to be somebody I am not.”

For Blazer, “being one of the guys” is important.

He played sports in high school, and enjoys watching football and having an occasional beer.

Blazer currently is receiving physical therapy after he dislocated his shoulder playing in the synagogue’s annual “Turkey Bowl” the day after Thanksgiving.

Temple Beth Ami is currently the reigning synagogue softball league champion.

Life and work

Blazer and his wife, Tracy, have three daughters, Rachel, 15, Dina, 12, and Shira, 7.

They first moved to the SCV on the advice of his father, who lived in the SCV at the time. Blazer commuted to Agoura, where he served as a rabbi for a private Jewish school.

When Blazer got the offer to become the rabbi of Temple Beth Ami he knew it was a natural fit.

“I already loved the SCV,” he said. “I wanted to create a stronger and more vibrant Jewish community here because I already lived here.”

The most rewarding part of his job, Blazer said, is working with people of all ages.

“In one day, I can work with teens, the preschool and adults,” he said.

Blazer recently signed a 10-year contract to continue as rabbi of Temple Beth Ami.

“I intend to stay here,” he said. “I could have signed a 20-year contract. I have no intention of ever leaving Santa Clarita.”

For more information about Temple Beth Ami, visit http://ca018.urj.net/.

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