I was born into the CBI community—when my parents started dating, they also started dabbling in Beth Israel. At first, they’d come to services and stand in the back. Then they started staying for Kiddush. Then they started going out to lunch with members of the congregation. The process really paralleled their courtship. By the time I was born, they were fully immersed into the community.

Growing up at the shul was a big part of my life. It has always been home to me. I’ve celebrated every Jewish lifecycle event, from my own baby naming to my wedding to the naming of my daughter.

It was not until I moved away for college and visited other communities, however, that I really understood what a gem we have here in Berkeley. There is no shortage of people wanting to help in challenging times and glad to celebrate in joyous ones. People at CBI understand the value of showing up. I continue to see the investments I make in CBI repaid tenfold.

When I moved to Berkeley from Denver for graduate school, CBI immediately felt to me like the kind of place where everyone took the time to get to know each other. So I just assumed that in time I would know them, too. And I have.

I really appreciate that Beth Israel is such an inclusive environment. There is no expectation that people here are all the same, even when it comes to their own Jewish journeys. There’s an acceptance that people ebb in flow in their involvement with the shul, and, even more broadly, in their Jewish observance. It really strives to be a community that works for everybody, that makes room for a variety of outlooks. (For example, while CBI’s party line is that one should not drive on Shabbat, we’ve had presidents who drive.)

It’s a statement on Orthodox Judaism, not who should be part of our community. There are people who are shocked not just that they belong to a congregation that has a mechitza, but that they end up feeling so comfortable here.

In November 2013, Rachel and Jacob welcomed their daughter into the world.