Hello from Laura Alexander

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

Santa Rosans in the big city.

I’m happy to say that when members from our Santa Rosa dance group go to the monthly dance in San Francisco, we make a very respectable showing. I’ve been trying to go over dances that are popular there, and our dancers get out on the dance floor and really contribute to the energy of the event. We are a small but talented group, if I do say so myself. In September and October or schedule is a bit crazy because of holidays: September 3 in the Friedman Center, September 17 in the Social Hall, October 1 and 29 in the Friedman Center.

Here is a dance, “HaLev” that seems to be getting popular elsewhere. It’s a love song, has a medium tempo and might be nice for us to learn:

We have also been working on Katonti. The words are a biblical quote. It was taught at the Free Folk Festival.

Here’s one that kind of got away from us– we were doing it a while ago…




President’s Message, November 8, 2013

Dear CBA family,

This week we were all shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden and untimely death of John Metz.

John and his mother Florence have been part of the Beth Ami family for many years. Mieneke and I met John when we first visited Beth Ami. We both appreciated his infectious humor and his warm welcoming manner. We enjoyed many evenings in his home.

John has been a true pillar of Beth Ami for a long time. He frequently read Torah and chanted Haftorah in his own memorable style. He has anonymously sponsored the Kidduah Club on Shabbat mornings. He worked behind the scenes to make many activities successful. John was one of those people who “never met a stranger.” Just being in the room with him made him your friend.

In his professional life, he worked to aid persons who were unfairly financially burdened by some experience with the health care industry. He worked with many legislative efforts to improve the financing of health care. He was always ready for a vigorous discussion of the topic that was his life’s work.

Personally, Mieneke and I have felt a grievous loss. As a family, we have all lost a beloved family member.

Shabbat Shalom.


President’s Message, November 1, 2013

Dear CBA family,

At our recent Board retreat, your Board of Directors completed a two year project of rephrasing our mission, (what we are trying to do) and our values.

Our rephrased mission statement is as follows

“Congregation Beth Ami enriches our lives, transforms our hearts, helps heal the world and sustains our Jewish heritage. We are deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and welcome all to our community through celebration, learning, education, and prayer.”

We enumerated 12 values: They are listed only in the order we discussed them.

  • Appreciation Hakarat Hatov
  • Respect Kavod Ha-Briot
  • Family Mishpachah
  • Caring for our environment Shmirat
  • Joy Simcha
  • Respecting and welcoming all Jews Klal Yisrael
  • Israel Medinat Yisrael
  • Spirituality Ruchaniyut
  • Commandedness Mitzvah-Halacha
  • Deeds of loving kindness Gemilut Hasadim
  • Healing the world Tikkun Olam
  • Prayer Tephilah
  • Engaging in the study of our holy texts Talmud Torah

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share with you the Board’s (and Rabbi Miller’s) thoughts on some of these values.

Jeffrey Sheff, Chair of Adult Education, has announced two new classes for Fall: Tuesday night, 7-8:30 in the evenings, Make a scene with Rabbi Danzig. Students will help read and recreate Biblical scenes from the theatrical stage.

Tuesday mornings, from 10-11:30 am, students will discuss articles from current Jewish news sources, and discuss them.

Both classes promise to be exciting!! Full details in the cybershul.

Enjoy your Shabbat dinner, at your home or with us and Andrea tonight.

Shabbat Shalom!!


President’s Message, October 25, 2013

Dear CBA family,

Congratulations to everyone who volunteered for or participated in our Rockin’ Shabbat last week. We had dozens of excited participants, and the Beth Ami and You program before hand was also successful.
We are so proud of our Rockin’ Shabbat program: it has continued to grow each month. If you have not attended, please consider coming to one of these very musical, very different Shabbat programs.

On October 30 Shani Simkovitz will give a special presentation from 7-8:30 pm. This is a special program to tell us about Gush Etzion, its’ role in the Israeli War of Independence, and the museum and memorial being established to commemorate this. It promises to be an interesting evening.

This week your Board of Directors again discussed the possibility of locking our gates at night. This is to discourage vandalism and trespassing, and is considered a valuable security action. The Board felt there still was not enough information available to make a decision. We also heard an update on the SAY(Social Action on Youth) project on the Warrick campus. Also, we continue to take actions to change our name from the Jewish Community Center of Santa Rosa to Congregation Beth Ami. After all these years, we still have areas we need to clear up.

Please join us this week end for lay-led services.

Shabbat Shalom!!


President’s Message, October 18, 2013

Dear CBA family,

Thank you to everyone who volunteered to help the children at tonight’s “Rockin Shabbat” for Beth Ami and You, and later for the dinner for the entire congregation. We appreciate eveyone’s volunteer efforts

And thank you to all the volunteers who are working on our 70th Anniversary celebration, the weekend of January 24-26, 2014. The big event is only 3 months away!!

Your Board of Directors will hold our Annual Retreat this Sunday. We hope to finish our work, and be even more energized to serve you!!

The regular monthly meeting of the Board of Directors will begin with evening prayers Tuesday night, October 22 at 6:45 pm. As always, interested synagogue members may attend as observers.

Shabbat Shalom!!


Social Action Scoop – September 2014

As we prepare for the High Holy Days, the Social Action Committee is planning upcoming events. As has become our custom, we will offer some type of welcoming at the first day of Rosh HaShanah. We feel very strongly that it is a time to welcome everyone in our community. We want everyone, members and guests, to feel welcomed, seen and heard. Please join us as we greet each other.

On Yom Kippur, we will also have conversations during the break between the morning and late afternoon service. Although we haven’t decided on the questions to be pondered, we want to use this time to engage our community in meaningful conversations. More details will follow.

During the last 2 months, we have been active at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, and the JFCS pantry. We had 2 volunteer days at the food bank and were pleased to have some of our younger members join us. We are never too young or too old to do a Mitzvah for those less fortunate than ourselves.

People have asked to have a more regular schedule for volunteering at the food bank. So, starting in September, we will pack produce the first Wednesday of every month from 10–noon. It is a wonderful activity, not too hard, but a way to do a mitzvah and get to know each other.
The dates are:
Wed. Sept 3rd
Wed. Oct. 1st
Wed. Nov. 5th
Wed. Dec. 3rd

Just call Elizabeth in the office 360-3000 or contact me at lylanathan5@gmail or 526-7438.social Action women
The Soup Sisters have made a hearty minestrone soup that is available in the kitchen’s freezer. There are also small challahs to go with them. If you or anyone you know is in need of some TLC, just stop by the office or call and we will get it to you. We will be making more soup in the Fall. If anyone would like to help—and we always like help—please let us know.

Finally, we continue to support the JFCS, (Jewish Family and Children Services) During the High Holy Days there will be bins to collect food. Please consider bringing a few items or even a full bag. These will help stock the pantry at JFCS.
Items most needed are (no pork or high sodium foods please):

  • Peanut butter
  • Canned tuna or chicken
  • Low fat cereal
  • tea bags
  • condiments
  • Hearty canned soup
  • Pasta
  • Canned fruit (low sugar)
  • Canned beans or stew

Wishing everyone a pleasant final few weeks of summer. Hope to see you all at Beth Ami during the next weeks.

Lyla Nathan and Ellen Mundel

President’s Message October 11, 2013

Dear CBA family,

The suspense is over!! We can all mark our calendars!!

Mark Rosen, Chair of the Congregation Beth Ami 70th Anniversary Committee, has announced that the Committee chose the week end of January 24-26, 2014, for our 70 year Anniversary Celebration. (This is the week end with no football, one week before the Super Bowl! And it will be held after the Beth Ami and You event that morning.)The exact program will be announced in the near future.

We are still looking for volunteers for a few of our committees. And IF you would like to join a new Chavurah, please let me know.

Please join Rabbi Miller for Shabbat services this week end.

Shabbat Shalom!!


New Year, New Hope

New Year, New Hope: These days you have to have a strong heart to listen to the news! ISIS, Gaza, Russia, Ukraine, Ebola, the Border Immigration Crisis and the drought to name just some. Sometimes one wonders if the world is coming apart at the seams. The level of inhumanity in some areas borders the unspeakable. There are times when I find it hard to believe that we live in the 21st Century. The acts of barbarity such as wholesale beheadings go beyond what might have been practiced over a thousand or even two thousand years ago.

Contrast this to a tradition that considers every human created in God’s image. This suggests that whenever possible, barbaric cruelty must be addressed through legal proceedings. When that isn’t possible, there is still the possibility of honor on the field of battle.

Again, our tradition perceives these coming months as a time when the world is judged by its Creator. It’s hard to believe that this past year has been a source of great satisfaction to our Heavenly Parent! What implications does this have for the year to come?

Most of us don’t fall under the category of president and potentate; yet, from the Divine perspective, which is infinite in time and space, the difference turns out not to be quite so sharp. We all a part of a family or a community and the degree to which we show appreciation and respect; avoid sarcasm—especially to those we love—and practice patience affects us not only as individuals, but starts to have a positive impact on the community at large.

There’s a midrash that tells of a time when the waters of Creation were about to flood the earth. Each grain of sand seemed insignificant and powerless to overcome such a force. But the grains decided to join ranks and in gathering all together they were able to set up a barrier that withstood the mighty waters.

Each of us can be compared to a grain of sand, yet in our determination to live according to the moral principle that every human being is creating in the image of God, and in forming strongs bonds as a community, we can withstand the waters that threaten to devastate the world.

May we all experience a Shanah tovah, um’tukah—a good and sweet year!

Rabbi Mordecai Miller