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Gather 'Round the BONFIRE!

Dear Beth Jacob Community,

We miss you… davening together in our beautiful Park Boulevard Shul, seeing the children run around on Shabbat, sharing meals and schmoozing together at Kiddush. We miss the simchas, standing shoulder to shoulder at sad occasions, and the joyful spirit of the Annual Gala.

While the restrictions of the Pandemic may have curtailed our movements, they have not slowed our creativity. Staying connected is important to us, so we invite you to come together for a re-envisioned “Gala”


This Lag B’Omer, on Sunday night of May 2nd - Register before 4/23 to get a Bonfire Provisions Box!

We’ll get together for virtual Schnapps, S’mores, Hot Chocolate and more! We will meet with old friends, make new acquaintances and embark on a journey to rekindle connections over the coming months.

SPARKS will fly!

Several curated-for-social-distancing events (both in-person and virtually) will kindle opportunities to visit for fireside chats, performances and discoveries - stay tuned for dates!

SHOW UP to create and connect!

How is a Bonfire different from a Gala you might ask? A carefully planned and executed Gala connects a small dedicated group of volunteers with the larger community when we all show up at the event. To get connected at a virtual Bonfire takes getting up close and personal by showing up throughout the process.

You are invited to join the fun of BONFIRE brainstorming, planning or moving around town with your fellow shul-ers.

Tell us how you WANT TO GET INVOLVED

Stay well, and talk to us:

Joanne Jagoda - (510)414-8930,

Mila Wichter - (650)255-2895,

Co-Chairs, BONFIRE 2021

Meet the leadership team spearheading the effort to bring the congregation together around the BONFIRE

Rabbi Gershon Albert

In the summer of 2014, we packed up our creaky New York City apartment and took a leap of faith across the country to Oakland, where we've had the great honor of being the Rebetzin and Rabbi of Beth Jacob ever since. No longer the "new kids on the block," our four children were born in this remarkable community (including one who was delivered by community member Leslie Wilkof!). We've shared in some of life's joys and challenges with our Beth Jacob family, and have tried to bring our authentic selves to the community - whether that's been by discussing issues like fertility and domestic violence (Meira), or talking too much about coffee and music (Gershon). Throughout, as much as we've tried to give, we've only received more back in return - which is just one of many reasons we are privileged to call Beth Jacob our extended family and spiritual home. 

Deborah Sosebee

My attention to detail, efficiency and grammatical minutiae (to the chagrin of some people) often serve as the entry point to volunteer opportunities within my community. With a four-year tenure as BJC President and various stints on boards of local institutions in the rear-view mirror, I continue to be involved behind the scenes at Beth Jacob. Mother of three grown children and grandmother to two toddlers in Israel, I enjoy cooking and baking, crossword puzzles, Hebrew lessons, jigsaw puzzles, playing piano (not particularly well), Ken Ken, Bananagrams and an occasional sip of bourbon.

Maxim Shusteff

I was born in the former Soviet Union, emigrated to the US at age 10, and grew up in the Northeast.  Having minimal access to Jewish practice and education as a kid, I was hungry to learn more as I entered adulthood, so finding the perfect "opt in" community at Beth Jacob when I moved to the Bay Area in 2007 was a thrill!  The community's warmth and generosity have guided me on his Jewish journey, and have inspired my first steps into communal service. When not at shul, I do research at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, which fits well with my love for just about any geeky and scientific subject.  My Bay-Area-native wife and I live in Piedmont with our four children, who remind me constantly that even though I might know a thing or two about science, I still have plenty to learn about humans.

Lilly Krenn

I have been married to my college sweetheart, Chris, for 26 years, and we are the proud parents of Hannah (18), a senior at College Prep, and Joe (15), a freshman in Production Design at Oakland School for the Arts. I am so grateful to have spent a week wilderness canoe-camping (and bonfire building) in the Lake Temagami region of Northern Ontario the summer before the pandemic began. I have learned so much since arriving at Beth Jacob almost three years ago and am super-grateful to Rabbi Albert, Deborah Sosebee and Maxim Shusteff for their patient guidance. Making community connections always brings me joy - like that time when I got in touch with an Orthodox Jew working for a hot tub company, who now cares for our mikvahs!

Mon, April 19 2021 7 Iyyar 5781