HomeSoutheast Asian AmericanActivist pushes for Cambodian temple in Northern California

Activist pushes for Cambodian temple in Northern California

Northern California activist Lyna Lam is working to bring a Cambodian Buddhist temple to San Jose, per The California Globe. The community is reportedly home to a local Khmer Krom population of around 6,000, which represents one of the biggest diaspora populations of Cambodians in the United States. 

“I want it to be more than just a religious place to come and worship,” Lam, whose family survived the Cambodian genocide, told the Globe. “It should be a place that the community can come together to support one another. A place where we can teach the young kids the language and our history and traditions, and to provide leadership and resources to other temples if they need it.”

Lam said she decided to push for the architectural project, which will be located in the Evergreen community, because she was tired of issues like corruption, lack of resources, and fighting emerging at a current temple in San Jose that she had converted from a small house. “The last time that it happened, I was like, ‘Okay, enough. I’m just going to start brand new. We will build a true temple for the community,’” she recalled.

In February, the fourth version of a plan for the temple was submitted to the City of San Jose by Wat Khmer Kampuchea Krom, a Khmer Buddhist Temple Foundation. Seven months later, the Globe is reporting that the architectural project finally appears to be on the verge of breaking ground. The current plan reportedly proposes that eight monks will live on the temple grounds, with weekly weekend service bringing in roughly 50 visitors and special events periodically drawing crowds of up to 300 people.  

Plans have been scaled down after feedback from concerned neighbors. In addition to an underground parking lot that was eventually scrapped, Lam said people were worried about the length of the construction, the excavation, the dust. “They came up with everything that you can think of, so I hired an incredible landscape architect where we are still going to have a beautiful temple [despite the many design changes],” the Bay Area native of more than 40 years said. 

An effort to bring politicians on board may have also played a factor. According to Lam, both the outgoing and incoming mayor have been supportive of the temple. Per the Globe, the East Bay Insiders newsletter reported on September 23 that Lam had “contributed $50,000 this week to help the campaign of Livermore mayoral candidate Mony Nop,” who is also a refugee from Cambodia. 

The project has also been backed by community members beyond the Khmer such as Faisal Yazadi is the President of the Evergreen Islamic Center that is near the proposed temple. 

“I’m a man of faith and I’m a man of family,” Yazadi told the Globe. “Looking from those two perspectives, I don’t see how building this temple can do harm to any objectives that most of us have in this neighborhood. If you go from one end of Ruby Avenue to the other, you start with a Korean church, then hit one of the biggest gurdwaras [Sikh temples], come a few blocks to my house of worship, and in between, you’ll have this Buddhist temple. Given the diversity of the community, if anything, this will bring the community together.”

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