Jane Spitzer made her first trip to Southern California from her hometown of Montreal, Canada during her senior year in college. She found the environment so “warm and welcoming,” that it came as no surprise to anyone who knew her that shortly after graduation, she would board a plane and permanently relocate.
Member Spotlight's blog
On Shavuot, we invite people who have converted to Judaism to share their story -- how they came to Judaism, why it touched them, how they celebrate being Jewish.
Good morning. When invited to speak today, I started about five different documents on my computer with various tangents discussing different aspects of my journey here today. I had so many thoughts and ways to tell this story, but only having an hour to talk (just kidding), I wanted to get to the core of what I believe, so will be starting with what I know...
Sometimes, personal interaction and establishing a relationship can make a tremendous difference for new members. That’s exactly what happened when Stephanie and Allan Walsh attended synagogue and school events and got to spend time speaking with Rabbis Feinstein and Hoffman, shortly after they joined VBS about 13 years ago.
It should come as no surprise that two people raised in families that surrounded them with Yiddishkeit would choose Valley Beth Shalom as their synagogue. So a little over five years ago, when Amanda and Brett Marz moved to Encino, that’s exactly what they did.
When Louise Spitzer moved to the Valley some 45 years ago, as a new single parent of three boys, it didn’t take her long to decide which synagogue to join. “It was a no-brainer,” Louise recalled. “It had to be Valley Beth Shalom and Rabbi Schulweis was the attraction.
With all the varied programs and activities at Valley Beth Shalom from the College of Jewish Studies to the Counseling Center, Hazak, Sisterhood, Men’s Club and Homelessness Task Force, just to name a few, there is one activity that many members may not be aware of -- the VBS softball team. Yes Virginia, (make that Shoshanna), there really is a VBS softball team.
When Ari Moss first noticed Simonne Leb on the bus they shared going home from Sepulveda Junior High, he knew they had chemistry together. Unfortunately for Ari, Simonne felt that the only chemistry they shared was being in the same chemistry class a couple of years later at Grant High School--definitely not the kind Ari had envisioned.
Alan Ullman is someone who is always up for a challenge. About six years ago, when Rabbi Hoffman wanted to create a more welcoming atmosphere for people attending services or other programs, Alan stepped up to take on the task. Given his background as an engineer with a Ph.D. from Stanford, he went about it in the way any engineer would.
Yonah Fisch swears that he didn’t become a marine biologist because of a famous 1994 “Seinfeld” episode. That’s the one in which the George character pretends to be a marine biologist to impress his latest girlfriend and later accidentally saves the life of a beached whale.
One Sunday morning a few years ago, as Rabbi Feinstein was leading a group of new members around the synagogue, they ran into Shirley Lowy. The rabbi introduced her to the group and said, “Shirley is always here, greeting people as they enter and offering a warm, smiling face to make them feel at home. She is the heart and soul of this synagogue.”
After Jackie and Michael Waterman had their first child, Matt, in 1982, there was one thing they both agreed was a pivotal factor in their decision about which synagogue they would join–– education. “We knew that getting a good Jewish education, along with Jewish youth experiences, would offer our children a strong Jewish foundation that they could rely on for the rest of their lives.” Michael said.
Elaine Berke knows the importance of being part of the Jewish community. As a matter of fact, she thought it so important, that the first thing she did after she and her family moved from the Crenshaw area to Encino some 60 years ago was to join Valley Beth Shalom – on the very day she moved!
Longtime VBS member Barbara Gales Miller had a unique path to Judaism and to Valley Beth Shalom. Raised as a Baptist, she found herself attracted to the Jewish religion at an early age and chose to convert as an adult before she met her husband, Michael. “I was always fascinated with the Jewish religion from a fairly early age,” Barbara said. “The warmth and the sense of community were very appealing. And Valley Beth Shalom is the personification of that.”
To say Ilyse and Kamyar Boudai are busy people is the perfect example of an understatement. With four children between the ages of seven and twelve, a thriving real estate business, and as proprietors of the Kidz Korner, an “indoor playground” for children’s parties and other celebrations in Encino, one would assume their time for anything else would be severely limited. Yet that is far from the case.
Pat Kater and his wife of more than 65 years, Natalie, moved to the Encino area more than 50 years ago and were looking for ways to get involved in the Jewish community. They heard there were many exciting events and volunteer opportunities at Valley Beth Shalom, and decided to get more involved. They officially joined VBS in 1967 and have been here ever since.
As hundreds of people travel back and forth through the central hallway of the main building of VBS every day, few are aware that the center of crucial service to the community lies just below them on the lower level —the VBS Food Bank. Thanks to the efforts of Michael Wolf and a dedicated team of volunteers, our Food Bank proudly offers a 24-48 hour supply of food for the hungry in our community, including VBS members and members of the local community.