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Member Spotlight: Catherine and Sergey Levi

Meet new members Catherine and Sergey Levi and their son, Simon. (They are expecting their second child in July.) Sergey was born in Azerbaijan, part of the former Soviet Union, to a family with Jewish roots. His family emigrated to Israel and Sergey grew up in Eilat, which is at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba with an extremely warm desert climate. After his military service, he returned to Russia for his higher education. Catherine was born in Murmansk, Russia, which is north of the Arctic Circle. Growing up, Catherine spent three to four months of the year at her grandmother's home in Talne, a small town near Uman, in Ukraine.

Catherine and Sergey met in 2005 at St. Petersburg State University where they both studied mathematics and computer science. They worked on many projects together in school and still enjoy working together. They married in 2007. The day after Catherine defended her thesis, they received notice that they were selected in the green card lottery in the United States. In 2011, they moved to the Bay Area and began working in the software industry.

They describe their early experiences with Judaism as believers without any formal education who were searching for meaning. Sergey had more exposure to and knowledge about holidays and traditions because he was raised in Israel. While in Russia, they started following Jewish traditions and celebrating Jewish holidays. Judaism was the best fit for them because it was both very modern and very ancient at the same time. They also describe Jewish practice as providing a more ethical lifestyle.

Because they were practicing on their own, they felt a lack of community. This became especially acute in the United States after their son was born. Given their backgrounds, they were looking for a connection to American society for their family. For immigrants, particularly from Russia, Western American society can be overwhelming and alien. They have both found attachment to the Jewish community and Beth Am to be a nice bridge to American society.

Beth Am has played a critical role in their feelings of connection. Catherine described an immediate feeling of welcome, warmth and comfort when they attended a Simchat Torah celebration at Beth Am. As she and Sergey explored Beth Am and met our clergy, they found our community to be a good fit. The Introduction to Judaism class was transformative for Catherine. The group discussions were insightful, meaningful and helpful to her in connecting Judaism and Torah to modern life. Catherine is currently learning Hebrew and studying toward conversion with Rabbi Jeremy Morrison, whose recommended readings have elevated Shabbat dinner discussions with Sergey. Catherine describes the experience of working with Rabbi Morrison as one of personal growth without feeling pressured.

Although Catherine is from the coldest place (Murmansk, Russia) and Sergey grew up in the warmest place (Eilat, Israel), together they have found the perfect temperature in the Bay Area with Judaism and Beth Am.

Wed, August 10 2022 13 Av 5782