We really like CBI and the way it balances both being a traditional community and having progressive Berkeley values. Also we love the fact that CBI is on the cutting edge when it comes to feminism in an Orthodox setting.
About twenty years ago, Jenny and I began to discover the richness of being observant Jews. Even though we both grew up in secular homes, we have had a long Jewish journey. Jenny had attended a Jewish preschool and day camp at JCC, but her family didn’t belong to a synagogue. I was in recovery from substance abuse and was interested in spirituality – I began to explore the religion I was raised with. At that time Jenny was turning to Judaism because she was a teacher in a disadvantaged school, and she was immersed in different cultures. She craved going to Shabbat services to find strength in her own roots.
I have to say that reconnecting with Judaism was extra challenging because I am a patrilineal Jew. As we became more observant, I realized that meant I had more steps to go through. The East Bay is a wonderful place to become Jewishly observant, and CBI ended up being the best fit for all of us. I am so grateful that I ended up in such a supportive community that has allowed me to live an authentic Jewish life.
For us it was really about finding a community that made us feel comfortable. CBI is a community that supports our whole family. We joined in 2015, fifteen years after we began our Jewish journey. We were impressed with how the community was oriented towards hospitality. We watched how our children quickly made friends with children at CBI and OHDS.
Jenny and our daughter studied Torah trope when our daughter started to learn how to leyn for women services. We heard from so many people who were impressed that that was happening in an Orthodox shul. Jenny’s aunt from said that she was reminded of ecstatic services Safed in Israel when she attended our daughter’s bat mitzvah.
We loved seeing our son at the bimah when children sang at the end of the services. We look forward to him being at the bimah again when the shul reopens. Kiddush is such a wonderful experience at Beth Israel because it is cross generational and a time for visiting and learning. While grown ups are busy talking, children are busy planning their play date for Shabbat afternoon.
We had some learning at the Mishmash (parent-child learning). Many kids in the community come with their parents and pick up a book and study. That program has been a lot of fun. During this Sukkot another great thing that happened for the youth was a treasure hunt. It allowed the children to visit people’s sukkahs in a safe way during Covid. It was like a sukkah hop that ended in the rabbi’s sukkah, where he gave them candy.
As for our professional lives, I am a therapist and work with people with addiction problems. Jenny is a Spanish medical interpreter at a children’s hospital. We love gardening, playing music, cooking, and we do a lot of reading.