Dear CBA family,

I’m Laura Vrobel Alexander, and I am the newly elected President of Congregation Beth Ami. My family has been a member of Beth Ami for nine years, and we have been very active in the Religious School. You might have even heard some of our musical family members (my father-in-law on clarinet, my son Nick on tuba or trumpet and my son Ben on clarinet or piano) at one of Beth Ami’s musical activities. For those who don’t know me, one reason I took on this job is because I like people: learning about, talking with and working with people— so I hope to meet you very soon if I haven’t already.

Laura Alexander and family

President Laura Alexander and the guys: Rabbi Miller, son Nick, husband Abe, son Ben, and father Jim Vrobel, on the occasion of Nick’s Bar Mitzvah last August.

I was born in Southern California but I’ve lived in Sonoma County for over thirty years, so I consider myself a Sonoma County native like my husband Abe. After graduating from Santa Rosa High School, I was accepted into a 10 month exchange student program through American Field Service to the Dominican Republic. Eventually, I graduated from Sonoma State with a degree in Spanish with additional classes in Political Science. Now I work full time for Sonoma County Child Protective Services, supporting the social workers as a Spanish bilingual Senior Office Assistant. When my boys are a bit older my plan is to return to school to get my Master’s degree in Social Work. When not working or at Beth Ami, our family usually heads outdoors: camping, hiking, kayaking and seeing lots of wild and beautiful places. I feel my closest connection to G-d when I am surrounded by nature’s wonders such as Yosemite, the Grand Canyon or Lake Tahoe.

Some people have asked me about my journey as a Jew-by-choice. It’s something I’m very passionate about and I love to share my journey, since it’s been a happy and fulfilling one. My husband Abe and I had been married six months when I decided to convert. I was pregnant with our first son Nick, and I knew I wanted to convert before his birth. Abe and I had dated for 12 years, so I’d had plenty of time to think about it. I enjoyed my studies of Judaism, and have continued studying long after my official conversion. Though some may consider converting to Judaism to be difficult, I feel very accepted and that I can truly be myself.

Our family was introduced to Beth Ami by Berenice Fox who invited us to a Tot Shabbat program the year before Nick started kindergarten. She volunteered as part of the Jewish Federation program; she came to our home and offered us Jewish studies and a friendly face and connection to Beth Ami. To this day she is still a significant part of our sons’ lives. Her example reinforced for me the importance of reaching out and making connections in the community, and as I’ve participated and volunteered I’ve felt that the community was there for me as well. Since 2005 when we came to Beth Ami, Abe and I have celebrated our 10th anniversary with a Jewish wedding ceremony, our son Nick’s Bar Mitzvah in 2013, and are now preparing for his brother Ben’s Bar Mitzvah in 2015.

My goal for this year as president of Beth Ami is to reach out to families with young children, and to have activities that are friendly to them. As I learn from the experienced members of the board, I hope to build the next generation who will take on their responsibilities. I know I can count on Arnold Drake and the board to help me as I begin my tenure as president— I hope I can count on all of you to help me with your talents, expertise and good wishes.

Shalom, Laura Alexander