Beth Eliyahu Torah Center was initially called Congregation Beth Torah.
Most of the members belonged to the synagogue in Tijuana, but they wanted to have Sephardic and Orthodox services. At the time, the synagogue at the Centro was led by Cantor Max Furmansky, who was both Ashkenazic and a member of the Conservative movement. Before the new congregation was organized formally, a group assembled in 1978 for theHigh Holy Days in Chula Vista, with Cantor Haim Mizrahi persuaded to come in from Mexico City to lead the services.
Afterwards, they brought him to San Diego and started "Beth Torah". About 15 families were involved in the start up of the new congregation: including those of Mauricio Amos, Morris Benguiat, Mario Adato, Abraham Hanono, Isidoro Lombroso, Solomon Mizrachi, Jose Nakash, and Mauricio Adato. The sisterhood proved to be an important part of the congregation. Although the congregation's members came to the Mexico-U.S. border area from a variety of LatinAmerican countries, their families traced their roots to countries throughout the Sephardic world, including Israel, Syria, and, in some cases, Turkey.
Cantor Mizrahi served the small congregation for about ten years, before moving to a position in the Los Angeles area. The congregation was then too small to afford both a full-time rabbi and a full-time cantor. It chose to seek a rabbi, rather than a cantor, as Mizrahi's replacement. The first man they hired came from Argentina, but Rabbi Ben Shimol returned there in less than a year, for a better financial opportunity. Next came Rabbi Shlomo El-Harrar, an Israeli of Moroccan parentage, who served the congregation for five years before moving on to Miami. During El Harrar's tenure, founder Solomon Mizrachi offered the congregation a deal it could not refuse. It could have for its home a group of buildings Mizrachi owned at the intersection of Bonita and Central Avenues, provided that the congregation agree to remain both Sephardic and Orthodox and that it rename itself as Beth Eliyahu Torah Center in memory of Mizrachi's father, Elias Mizrachi. Solomon Mizrachi later died, but his family remains quite active in the congregation' affairs. His brother Mo and sister-in-law Grace Mizrachi recently moved to Panama. Mr. Mayer Adato recalls that "Rafael and I went to see Rabbi Fradkin (of Chabad of San Diego) and asked him if he could send us a young rabbi, a student rabbi, from the yeshiva of Chabad but we wanted a Sephardic rabbi." As it turned out, Rabbi Srugo already was preparing to come to help Polichenco in Tijuana.