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Member Spotlight: Emma Goss and Héber Cruz Berber

Meet new members Emma Goss and Héber Cruz Berber. Emma’s name might be familiar to some of you. Not only did she grow up at Beth Am, but she’s The Orchard’s new peer connector. (The Orchard is a Jewish community for adults in their 20s and 30s — with or without children — in Silicon Valley.) Héber was born in Mexico City and came to the United States with his family as a small child. “Berber” is not a common Spanish surname and while researching the origins of his name, Héber discovered that his family emigrated to Mexico from Europe in the early 1900s and that his great-grandmother may have been Jewish. This began his exploration of and eventual conversion to Judaism.

Emma and Héber met at Temple Beth El, a small Reform synagogue in Bakersfield. Héber was on the board; as an accountant he was part of the financial team. Emma was new to the area and organized a meet and greet at a local wine bar for other Jews in their 20s and 30s. Héber was the first person to show up. As part of this seven person “mini-Orchard” in Bakersfield, their friendship grew into a romantic relationship and partnership.

Héber describes feeling an instant connection to Judaism from the first time he set foot in a synagogue. He felt as if he had arrived home and something dormant had been awoken in him. Aside from meeting Emma, it was the first time he “fell in love.” As part of his Jewish journey, Héber took Introduction to Judaism, learned Hebrew to be able to read and recite the prayers and became an adult Bar Mitzvah in March of 2021 (during the pandemic) over Zoom with Temple Beth El. He is incredibly grateful for the generosity of Rabbi Watenmaker and Beth Am for lending him one of our Torah scrolls for his ceremony. This meant a lot to Héber, and allowed him to form his own personal connection with Beth Am.

During the shutdown, the couple trickled back into Beth Am by streaming services. Emma moved back to the Bay Area during the pandemic and Héber joined her in 2021. Once they were both here, they immediately started going to Orchard events. They describe Chanukah and Shabbat dinners with Rabbi Prosnit and other young Jewish adults as wonderful community experiences for both of them. They also really enjoyed Beth Am’s Second Night Passover Community Seder in April. Emma appreciates being able to participate in Beth Am Women events, such as the Celebration in the Garden and Molly Dillon book talk, with her mother, Valerie, who is currently on the BAW Board.

When not at Beth Am, Emma and Héber can be found at home in Mountain View with their three rambunctious cats. Avid runners, they run 7-10 miles together every Sunday, and are planning  to run in the Tel Aviv Marathon in 2024.

Wed, May 29 2024 21 Iyar 5784