May 2017 Member Spotlight & Builders Circle Member Profile: Marilyn and Ron Schilling
Transplants from Brooklyn and married for over 55 years, Marilyn and Ron Schilling have a deep attachment and dedication to their Beth Am “family.” Together they have created a lifelong circle of friends, been leaders of various community projects and programs, and have built a life based on Jewish values that they have passed on to their three children and nine grandchildren.
Marilyn and Ron arrived in the Bay Area in 1983 with three teenage kids for Ron to take a position at Diasonics, a company that was at the cutting edge of MRI technology. HHaving been members of Conservative congregations in their previous homes in New Jersey, Arizona (where Ron served as President of Har Zion Congregation in Scottsdale), Texas and Wisconsin, they initially sought out a Conservative synagogue here. But after coming to Beth Am one Shabbat evening, Marilyn recalls, “I knew this was where we wanted to be. I loved the music, the whole setting was so spiritual – I knew I could relate to this.”
Ron recalls being a little more hesitant about the decision – but soon came to the same conclusion as Marilyn. Coming from an Orthodox upbringing, Ron had doubts about fitting into a Reform congregation – that is, until he met Rabbi Akselrad and Cantor Unterman, who had also been raised in Orthodox homes. After thoughtful conversations with them and a better understanding of Reform Judaism at Beth Am, Ron knew that he fit in fine here.
And to say they “fit in” is an understatement. They are still today part of an active havurah that’s going strong after 33 years, and each has held many leadership positions at Beth Am. Marilyn served as Beth Am Women President and Membership Committee Chair, served on Rabbi Janet’s 10th anniversary committee and Beth Am’s 60th birthday committee, and has been selected as the Chair of the Beth Am Women kickoff event this Fall. Ron, too, has been passionate about serving the Beth Am community, participating on the search committee for Rabbi Block, the Religious Practices Committee and helping to get the Legacy Giving committee off the ground. He was the creator and funder of a program for parents and grandparents called “Will Our Children Remain Jewish?” which has been run at Beth Am and at other congregations in the Bay Area. The program looks at the factors that typically lead a young adult to choose a Jewish partner and raise Jewish children, an area that Ron feels very passionate about. In fact, Marilyn and Ron feel profoundly proud of the fact that their three children and nine grandchildren are active in Jewish community life. Their son Rob and daughter Karen are members of Beth Am with their families; their second daughter is a member of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.
Both Marilyn and Ron were also active in Beth Am’s groundbreaking émigré program, helping new arrivals from the former Soviet Union get their footing in the area by providing them with practical help and moral support in their new home
When asked about their favorite moments at Beth Am, Ron fights back tears when he recalls reading haftarah with daughter Karen at the High Holy Days in 2016. “I have read haftarah at the High Holy Days in every congregation I have ever been a part of, and to read with her was a very special moment for our family.”
Another big highlight of their Beth Am experience has been their frequent trips to Israel – in fact, with five congregational trips under their belt, they probably hold the participation record. As Ron says, “Going with the synagogue is the most incredible thing for us – going with my extended family to the place I came from – what can be better than that?” Marilyn and Ron have also taken their children and grandchildren to Israel, and plan to continue going as often as possible.
Philanthropy is a core value of the Schilling family, and Marilyn and Ron are dedicated to doing all they can to ensure the continuity of Beth Am through their regular support and their legacy gift. Marilyn credits the Jewish community with enriching her family's life. “We support Beth Am so that our children will remain Jewish – we need places like Beth Am to be as strong as possible – perhaps now more than ever!”
The Beth Am Builders Circle is the group of members who have included a legacy gift such as a bequest to Beth Am. For more information about making a bequest or other planned gift to Beth Am, please e-mail Director of Development Mandy Eisner or call (650) 493-4661, ext. 211. For sample bequest language, please visit the Planned Giving page of the Beth Am website and download the brochure.