Member Spotlight & Builders Circle Member Profile: Maddie & Jeff Carmel
How does a nice Jewish girl from Newcastle, PA, meet a nice Jewish medical student from Los Angeles? On a nice blind date, of course! It was a “mixed” marriage (Maddie went to USC and Jeff to UCLA), but it worked, and they were soon on their life adventure together, crisscrossing the country and ultimately settling in Portola Valley.
Part of a founding family of Los Angeles Reform congregation Stephen S. Wise Temple, Jeff grew up nestled in an active Jewish community life. Maddie grew up in a family with varying Jewish practices – one third of the family was Reform, one third Conservative, and one third Orthodox. Maddie was exposed to it all and developed a very strong Jewish identity.
After a medical internship in Rochester, NY, Maddie and Jeff planned to move to the Bay Area for Jeff’s residency at Stanford. But this plan was interrupted by the Vietnam War, where Jeff served as an Army physician for two years before finishing his Stanford training. During this time Maddie taught school in rural Alabama -- the first year schools there were integrated. Upon returning to Stanford and the Bay Area, daughters Jodi and Jennifer came along. Maddie and Jeff then joined Beth Am for the Jewish community life they had always known and desired for their children. The girls became Bat Mitzvah and Confirmands, went to Camp Swig and Israel, and are now raising their own active Jewish families -- one in the Bay Area and one in Israel.
Soon after joining Beth Am, Maddie served on the Board of Directors and became particularly interested in enhancing the spiritual life of the congregation. “At Board meetings I was always talking about spirituality, and people thought I was nuts!” Maddie’s other focus was on making Beth Am a more welcoming community. She recalls how, during her term as Chair of the Community Committee, what a difference it made when she suggested assigning greeters for Friday evening services. There volunteers would take a moment at the beginning of services to meet and greet attendees seated nearby, a practice that still endures. She also helped to develop and implement the Beth Am Caring Corps, assisting congregants in need.
A professional interior designer, Maddie currently serves on the Beth Am Fine Arts Committee, helping to beautify both interior and exterior spaces. She and Jeff designed and implemented our beautiful Beth Am Women-funded Meditation Garden next to the Beit Kehillah with Jeff researching the plants (all of which are referenced in the Torah) and writing a syllabus that is available at the garden and in the Beth Am office. Maddie and Jeff are both members of the Shabbat Committee and the Jewish and Israel Advocacy Committee.
Israel is a shared passion for Maddie and Jeff, and they visit their family there at least once a year. Their daughter Jodi, Chabad rabbi son-in-law, and six kids have connected them to Israel in ways they never expected. Says Jeff, “We learn so much from them! Our son-in-law is an amazing scholar and is always sharing with us new insights into the teachings of Torah.”
Jeff loves learning and is enjoying his retirement, attending weekly Talmud and Hebrew classes at Beth Am, Beth Am Men activities, and attending Torah Study with Maddie. Maddie and Jeff rarely miss the Asilomar Adult Study Retreat as well, and they are regulars at Friday evening services. “Our services are so welcoming, beautiful, and meaningful,” says Maddie. “Rabbi Janet has transformed the feeling into one of such spirituality and ruach.” Jeff notes how especially important Shabbat was when he was working, when Friday evenings were a much needed respite. “It was a chance to slow down, take a deep breath and welcome Shabbat.”
Today, with their children grown and their 10 grandchildren enjoying wonderful Jewish connections and opportunities, Maddie and Jeff feel a deep passion for making that possible for other families. They are particularly concerned about young Jews going off to college unprepared for possible anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity that has become more prevalent on campuses today. "What we love most about Beth Am is that it educates our youth to be strong and proud Jewish adults. We planned our legacy gift to Beth Am to ensure that this continues for generations to come!”
The Beth Am Builders Circle is the group of members who have included a legacy gift such as a bequest or retirement fund beneficiary designation to Beth Am. For more information about making a legacy gift to Beth Am, please e-mail Director of Development Mandy Eisner or call (650) 493-4661. For sample bequest language, please visit the Legacy Giving page and download the brochure.