Dear Bayit Alumni and Friends, Happy Chanukah!
Chag Sameach! We hope the light of the Chanukah candles warms your homes and brings hope to our world for a brighter, more just 2021!
We are excited to share that we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Bayit with a virtual reunion on SUNDAY, JANUARY 31st at 4pm Pacific. This will be an opportunity to:
Celebrate: Celebrate the 40 year accomplishment of a continuously running Jewish communal household on a college campus. A place for Jewish college students to explore and develop their Jewish identity, education, and leadership skills, creating a progressive Jewish home and developing educational, cultural and religious programs for themselves and the wider campus community.
Connect: Meet the current students living in the house! Learn about how the current Bayitniks are doing and see a virtual tour of the house. Connect and network with the Bayit alumni community - even though we all had our own unique experiences in our year - we have common bonds of shared values and belonging to a strong Jewish communal house that helped build our Jewish identities. We will have time to gather as a whole community and time to gather with housemates from our year(s) in breakout rooms.
Thank: Thank the founders for their dedication and vision in creating the Bayit. Thank UAHC (now URJ) for their initial investment in making the Bayit a reality. Thank the board members, volunteers, supporters of the Bayit over the past 40 years - without their tireless commitment the Bayit would not exist.
Share: Share your memories and the impact the Bayit had on you. What advice would you give to current Bayitniks? What do you wish you knew when you lived in the Bayit?
Please mark your calendars and save the date. Sunday, January 31st, 2021, 4pm Pacific. More information and RSVP link coming soon. If you haven’t already - please join the Berkeley Bayit Alumni page on Facebook.
Where are they now? Bayit Alumni Brief Bios (Thank you to Daniela Rabbie for
interviewing these alumni and writing up the stories)
Marc Dollinger, PhD, Professor, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair, Department of
Jewish Studies, San Francisco State University
Marc Dollinger (Bayit 1983-1984) first connected to the Bayit when he was a freshman through “Open Shabbat.” Once a month, the Bayit hosted a peer-led, camp-style Shabbat service followed by a potluck dinner. “It became an anchor for me,” Marc said, remembering the feeling of being welcomed when he walked into the house – a Jewish home and a Jewish space – and celebrating Shabbat with other students. He was inspired to live at the Bayit, where he met other people who were involved in Jewish leadership on campus. During those years, when the war in Lebanon was beginning, Jewish students were responding to anti-Israel energy on campus. “The Bayit was the center,” he said. “It was instant friends, instant socializing, instant organizing.”
Living at the Bayit (and his experience at Camp Swig) also changed Marc’s career path, influencing him to become a Jewish Studies professor rather than the lawyer he thought he would be when he first came to Cal. Marc noted that many Bayitniks have become rabbis and Jewish educators, perhaps as a result of experiencing what he described as a turning from “being Jewish” to “living Jewish.” “The Bayit opened up my eyes to Jewish education,” he said, “and it worked out.”
Rebecca Bray, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist
Rebecca Bray (Rebecca Bobell when she was at the Bayit from 2008 to 2011) is the first of the second generation of Bayitniks. Her parents (Rochelle Frank and Michael Bobell) lived in the Bayit in the 1980’s. Rebecca heard about the Bayit her whole life. So, not surprisingly, when she decided to go to Berkeley, the Bayit was an obvious place to live. Her first year, she lived in the tiny room that could only be reached by walking through one of the singles. She measured it – it was smaller than a room in a maximum-security prison. The next two years, she lived in a room with a closet (instead of a room that was a closet). She recalls the communal aspects of the house, including weekly house meetings, chores (which “may or may not have gotten done”), cooking in pairs, and eating together. She learned a lot about the nuances of kashrut from her more Orthodox housemates. Interestingly, all beer and hard alcohol is kosher (as long as it isn’t brewed with food items, such as apricots or agave) and could be served at the pirate-themed Bayit party. The Bayit was a huge influence on Rebecca’s life. Not only had she been a part of the Bayit community through her parents and their friends, but she also met her husband when she was living at the Bayit. “The fact that I exist and the fact that I married my husband are because of the Bayit,” she said. In addition to being an occupational therapist, Rebecca is also an amazing artist; you can view her work here: www.rebeccabrayfineart.com.
Rabbi Liora Alban, MA, Director of Education, Peninsula Temple Sholom
“I have so many memories from the Bayit,” said Rabbi Liora Alban (Bayit 2011-2012 and 2013-2014). “One of them is how we used to sit at the kitchen table late at night and talk. We talked about school, clubs, relationships, and drama in the Jewish community. We used to make quesadillas in our pajamas and eat together around the kitchen table.”
When Liora lived in the house, the Bayit was as Jewishly observant as the most observant person. This meant that the house was fully kosher and lights were kept on during Shabbat in all the shared spaces. Because she was the only identified Reform Jew in the Bayit, she found herself defending Reform Judaism to her housemates and discussing Judaism with people who “did Jewish” differently than she did. “This played a huge role in my becoming a Reform rabbi,” she said. “After going to Israel and exploring more of Judaism, I found that I believed in Reform Judaism and its values and I wanted to hold fast to the values that I find important.”
The Bayit was also a home base while she was a student. “I can’t imagine what my Berkeley experience would have been like without the Bayit,” she said. “Berkeley can be an overwhelming place where it can be hard to find community, but the Bayit gave me a place that was my own.”
Current Bayit Bio - We have such a great group of students living in the Bayit right now. Here is one short bio - stay tuned for more or check out our Facebook Alumni Page:
Kayla Cohen (‘22)
Kayla is a junior studying English and Hebrew literature and Arabic language as a Comparative Literature major. She moved in at the beginning of her sophomore year, and hopes to stay through graduation in 2022. Though the pandemic has changed much about school and life, the Bayit is still full with 11 housemates going to online classes and spending time together. They work in their rooms, in the dining room, in the living room when privacy is needed, outside in the yard, and even in the basement.
At the end of last school year, when it became clear that Berkeley’s graduation ceremonies weren’t going to happen, the Bayitniks organized their own graduation ceremony for the four Bayit seniors. They presented diplomas, had a graduation address, shook hands with the graduates, and even had a seating section for “cheering moms.” “It was very sweet,” Kayla said, “and it worked because we had really bonded as a group and all liked each other.”
While living in the Bayit, Kayla wrote a book about her experiences on the gap year program KIVUNIM, which she spent living in Jerusalem and visiting Diaspora communities around the world. The book is titled: “The Full Severity of our Connection.”
“The Bayit gave me the space to write that project,” she said, “and it’s also a good place to ask questions and get complicated answers from my peers.” Though Kayla isn’t sure about her next steps after graduation, she plans to continue to integrate Jewish tradition into her home life in the future. You can read more about her upcoming book here:
We look forward to connecting with you in 2021. If you are interested in volunteering with the Board to help keep the Bayit running smoothly - please reach out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for help with financial management, fundraising, property management, alumni engagement, social media, and website upgrade and maintenance.
THANK YOU to all of the Bayit alumni and community members who have served on the Berkeley Bayit Board over the years or have contributed in any way to keep the house running. Without these tireless volunteers and supporters, the Bayit could not exist today. Wishing you and your families all the best. Be safe, wear a mask and stay home!
The Berkeley Bayit Board of Directors
Karen Goldberg, Board Chair
Joel Siegel, Board Treasurer
Lauren Goldstein, Board Secretary
Barry Cohn, Board member
David Ginsborg, Board member
Marci Fox Greene, Board member
Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, Board member