Members Spotlight: Levine/Levitt Family
The day Andrew Levitt and Noah Levine lead their B’nei Mitzvah service together in fall of 2020 will be a special day. But every Bar/Bat Mitzvah is special... so what makes this one different?
Andrew and Noah are the first generation in their family to become B’nei Mitzvah at Beth Am. In 2005, Wendy and Carl had thriving professions in Connecticut. The Levines were an East Coast family; Paul and Jill grew up at Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, NY. According to Carl, “the beginning of our westward migration” started when Paul was selecting a business school and visited Stanford. He called home to say, “Snow was on the ground when I left Boston. I’m walking around in shorts! I found where I’m going to school!” Paul moved to the Bay Area where he later met and married Susie, a Southern California native who also had a sibling living nearby.
In 2004 Jill and Brian’s first son, Alex, was born, followed closely by the birth of Lauren to Susie and Paul. Wendy and Carl, the new grandparents, found their hearts split between two coasts. One day, Wendy and Jill had a phone conversation, floating the possibility of moving to California. Somehow it went from a casual discussion to a serious one. “We’ll move if you move,” Jill told her mom. Jill called Paul, “What do you think if we moved out there? The kids could be raised near each other.” Paul loved the idea. He asked every friend he had if they knew of job openings in GI (Brian’s specialty) in the Bay Area. Brian found a job, and he, Jill and Alex moved out - while Jill was pregnant with Andrew! She started up her practice afresh here. The next year Carl and Wendy put their house on the market and, as grandparents, entered a new job market. It meant uprooting established practices and careers, but the family was together. Grandkids got to spend time with grandparents; cousins got to grow up playing with each other.
All three families say it’s worth it. “We all live locally but we’re not on top of each other,” Carl says. The cousins are friends and know each other’s friends. Having the grandparents nearby is great for everyone.
They all have their own careers, homes and lives, living about 15 minutes apart but in separate towns and school districts. Everyone gets time to spend with each other - and Beth Am helps them connect as a family. Several of Paul’s friends recommended Beth Am. Wendy and Carl joined, and started building a circle of friends. Going on two Israel trips - one to Spain then Israel, another to Italy and Israel - helped them form close friendships here. They both have volunteered through Beth Am. Wendy, whose passion is hand therapy, has become very active in Health Initiatives, a Beth Am group for health professionals that offers education programs for the congregation at large. Eventually their kids became members too. As the children went through Sunday Program they would get to spend time with their cousins, and their parents would connect and sit together during Sunday Program T’fillah. Their children built up strong friendships at Beth Am. Lauren’s group of friends named themselves after their Hebrew Program teacher - “The Chuck Squad.” They’ve enjoyed holidays together here and volunteered at Home and Hope.
When asked what attracts them to Beth Am, several family members gave strikingly similar answers in independent conversations. Wendy says she loves the services: they’re meaningful and give her a place and time to reflect. “Both our parents’ plaques are here,” she added, “so it’s like they’re here. There’s an umbrella feeling of spirituality here. It’s a spiritual place.” Carl, Paul and Jill all noted that they like the clergy, that they’re smart, spiritual and approachable. “I think all of the rabbis are wonderful people that you would love to chat with and hang out with,” Jill said, “The services are always beautiful and make me feel connected, not just to religion, but to community.” “When I go to services,” Paul said, “I feel connected to Judaism in a way that’s meaningful to me.”
And that is how it came to be that cousins Noah and Andrew will celebrate their B’nei Mitzvah together at Congregation Beth Am in 2020. The Great Westward Migration of the Levine/Levitt family!