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Member Spotlight

We believe that getting to know each other and building relationships with fellow CBS members is important for our community’s sustainability. Each month, we will “spotlight” a person or family by sharing their responses to a series of casual and fun questions.  We hope you will use these spotlights as opportunities to strike up a conversation with someone new.


 

Lilibet Shojaee & Andrew Fischer

How long have you lived in this area and what brought you here?
Lilibet: We moved from Florida this past May. Miami was following the shelter-in-place order due to COVID-19, so we decided to drive across the country with our dog and made it to Napa in 5 days. 

 

What is your favorite Jewish holiday or food and why?
Andrew:  My favorite holiday is Purim.  I love seeing the kids having fun while still engaging in a beautiful tradition.
Lilibet: We do love honoring Shabbat every week. I also enjoy the time from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. For me, it is a time of awareness.  Rosh Hashanah starts the year off with self-reflection offering an opportunity to do and be better.

 

Share a favorite trip, experience, or memory
Andrew: Last year we traveled to Denver, and it was a blast! It was Lilibet’s first time paragliding, and we saw a concert at the Red Rock amphitheater. Impressive tall red rocks wrap around the stage, and you look up and see the stars. That was an unforgettable experience.

 

Tell a bit about your family, your career or something unique about you
Andrew: I am Hungarian/Spanish. I work for Abode, a nonprofit that finds permanent housing for the homeless community in the Bay area. 
Lilibet: I am Persian/Cuban, and I am pursuing a career in none other than the wine industry.

 

What is one of your favorite things about Napa Valley?
Lilibet: Napa is beautiful, and having access to outdoor activities like hiking is wonderful. We also can't forget the access to wine tastings in Napa and throughout Northern California. Exploring different wineries and restaurants has been lovely.

 

What brought you to CBS?
Andrew and Lilibet: The Rabbi.

 

What do you look forward to as a member?
Andrew: Engaging in Judaism, making friends, and I have heard so much about the awesome wine bar, which I'm looking forward to trying.
Lilibet: I’m delighted to continue studying Judaism at Beth Shalom as well as attend and participate in events with the other members.  Andrew and I look forward to when we can attend services at the synagogue and interact in person with everyone. 
 
What are your outside interests or hobbies?
Andrew: On my downtime, I like to play golf, whitewater rafting and ride my motorcycle.     
Lilibet: I join Andrew from time to time on his outdoor excursions like rafting, but I also enjoy painting. 

 

Sally Besser

How long have you lived in this area and what brought you here?

This part of California has always been my home – since I was 2 years old.

 
What is your favorite Jewish holiday or food and why?
I have a sweet tooth, so of course sufganiyot filled with cherry filling is my favorite “Jewish” food.
 
Share a favorite trip, experience, or memory
I absolutely could not believe that I had won “Best in Show” for my watercolor painting at the Yolo County Fair!  It was a spiritual moment because God gifted me the talent that created that piece.
 
Tell a bit about your family, your career or something unique about you
I have three adult children – the closest one living in Sebastopol with her husband and two boys.
My family, on a daily basis, are my two whippets – Sabrina, who is 12, and Sadie, who is 9.
 
What brought you to CBS?
I have been thinking about joining CBS for a while and a friend of mine speaks very highly of this congregation.
 
What do you look forward to as a member?
I look forward to surrounding myself and bonding with healthy Jewish people.
 
What are your outside interests or hobbies?
My two whippets – Sabrina and Sadie.

 

Myrna and Peter Belanic 

How long have you lived in this area and what brought you here?

We have been in Napa since 2016. We had been living in San Francisco and had often visited and decided we would like to move here.  When we “retire” this is where we want to call home.

What is your favorite Jewish holiday or food and why?

Our favorite holiday is Passover. We love the tradition and preparing our favorite dishes. There is nothing like a great bowl of matzo ball soup, our “Belanic” brisket, and of course our friends and family’s favorite is our Matzo Lasagna!

Share a favorite trip, experience, or memory

Our favorite trip is one that we did at least once a year to Mendocino, Ca.  We would stay at our favorite place, the Stanford Inn, with our lab, George, of 17 amazing years, walking through their wonderful gardens, watching the Llamas and ducks and the three of us sitting on our deck looking out to the ocean. It didn’t get better than that!

Tell a bit about your family, your career or something unique about you

Peter works for a federal government contractor supporting the US Department of Justice and has had an opportunity to be a part of some of the most interesting cases over the last 20 years.  Myrna is a Registered Nurse and Community and Corporate Health Educator, she loves her work, but now she has had to pause due to the Covid pandemic.  They have both been fortunate to experience living in different parts of the country, including Chicago, New London, CT and Washington DC.

Peter was raised in Los Angeles, CA, and Myrna is originally from St. Louis, MO.

What is one of your favorite things about Napa Valley?

We enjoy wine tastings at some of the best wineries in the world and dinners out at great restaurants. Our favorites are Bouchon and Bistro Don Giovanni.  Since Covid, we are now doing take out only! We look forward to finally celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary having to cancel now 3 times!

We also love classical and jazz music and “Music in the Vineyards”, sadly now only virtually.

What brought you to CBS?

We attended Sukkot services at Hagafen Cellars and were able to meet Rabbi Goldstein and Judy Nystrom. It was important to us that the temple was welcoming to potential new members, especially with Peter not being Jewish, and a synagogue that would make us feel comfortable.  We attended a number of CBS services and programs and earlier this year met again with Rabbi Goldstein. There was no question that both of us were meant to be a part of the CBS congregation.

What do you look forward to as a member?

We most look forward to having in-person services again and meeting all of the great people we see and hear virtually. We were so disappointed that Covid has delayed our meeting together.  We also are looking forward to again attending the guest speaker meetings, which we found interesting and thought provoking.

What are your outside interests or hobbies?

Reading, traveling, enjoying Napa activities, cooking together and getting back to the gym (when we can). And, having time together with our friends over a glass of wine and great meal!


 

Anne Perceley

How long have you lived in this area and what brought you here?

I have lived in Napa since 1963,and as you can well imagine have witnessed many changes in the valley as well as at CBS. I was raised in Reading, PA, at one time named the pretzel capital of the world. My ex-husband was in an air force sponsored program while he was attending medical school in Philadelphia and upon graduation was assigned to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas.  We left Texas in 1960 and were thrilled to be reassigned to Travis AFB although it had not been our first choice.  We arrived in California in February 1960, and exactly one month later our son Jack was born. The night before  his arrival we learned we had finally been assigned on base housing.  HIs briss was held in our new home where moving boxes were still stacked against the walls.  Steve arrived 19 months later and was also born at Travis.  We were civilians in June 1963 and Eliot began a residency in psychiatry at Napa State Hospital under a program developed by NIMH.  One year later Debbie was born. I am proud that all three children are native Californians.

What is your favorite Jewish holiday or food and why?

My favorite Jewish holiday is Channukah. I enjoy decorating the house with my collection of channukiot, dreidles, and other miscellaneous and symbolic tchatskis. The highlight of the holiday for the past decade (am not really sure when the tradition started) is the annual party Debbie and I host for my adult B'not Mitzvah students. As our numbers have grown we have made adaptions to our GALA. Everyone brings something delicious to share, sweet or savory and $10 which we donate to Anne Levinsohn"s wine coffer. We sing the blessings over the candles and remember our fellow students who are no longer with us.  The real highlight of the evening begins when about twenty of us participate in a white elephant gift exchange where the giggling and bonding are so apparent. The evening takes on the atmosphere of a real Channukah miracle. I feel as though we have truly become a sisterhood.

Share a favorite trip, experience or memory. 

I feel fortunate that I have seen so much of this world.  I think my trips to Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt were the most memorable.  The history, culture, and language were eye opening.

Tell a bit about your family, your career or something unique about you.

I taught for three years in Pennsylvania and Texas before having my children and moving to California. When my children were young I was involved in teaching Sunday School when we had a student body of about 15 children. After my divorce in the 1980's I went to Sonoma State to earn my California teacher credential. I was in my mid fifties and not particularly thrilled about this journey.


At the time I was also teaching Hebrew and Sunday School and substituting in the NVUSD. I resumed my teaching career after an absence of 31 years at Shearer Elementary School ( i have spent lots of years on Elm Street, but none were nightmares). I taught there for 14 years and when I retired I felt motivated to teach adults Hebrew which has brought me so much joy and satisfaction.  I have volunteered to teach and mentor 25 Jewish women from our community who have become B'not Mitzvah as well as other adult students who can now follow  our services in a meaningful way.  All seven of these joyous ceremonies have been held at CBS and are some of my fondest memories.


I continue to enjoy tutoring children who are preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I am proud to say I have taught more than 50 children and two whose parents were students of mine. My cup runneth over.


 

Sheila, David, Alia, Ruth, Sara, & Rebecca Amar

How long have you lived in this area and what brought you here?

We have lived in Vacaville for 10 years and we moved here from Walnut Creek for David’s medical needs.

 

What is your favorite Jewish holiday or food and why?

Our favorite Jewish holiday is Pesach because it is always a time when we are enjoying family, friends, old and new, and everyone is involved in discussion regarding the importance of remembering what Pesach stands for and enjoying traditional family recipes and new ones from new friends.

 

Share a favorite trip, experience or memory. 

One of our favorite trips was a few years ago when our family went away for the entire summer and traveled across the country and back in an RV.   We started on the east coast, enjoying beautiful beaches, then went on to see at least ten National Parks, going through Junior Ranger courses and earning the patches. We even enjoyed a log cabin synagogue in Wyoming with a horseback riding Rabbi.  We recommend it highly to all families!

 

Tell a bit about your family, your career or something unique about you
We have four daughters, who keep us incredibly busy, but loving every moment of it!
 

 

Michelle, Roderick & Amelie Murre

How long have you lived in this area and what brought you here?

We moved to St. Helena in January (2019) after many years in San Francisco. As our daughter Amelie was getting older, we really wanted to move our family somewhere beautiful, with excellent schools and a welcoming community.

 
 
What is your favorite Jewish holiday or food and why?
Hannukah... it's all about the latkes. We're a family divided as to applesauce vs sour cream. *Side note: I made latkes for Roderick when we were living in Paris. I nearly burned down the flat, but found out they were even better with creme fraiche.
 
 
Share a favorite trip, experience or memory. 
We brought Amelie to Paris last year when she was nearly 2. We loved watching her run through Place des Vosges, right around the corner from our old flat. It was so special bringing her to our favorite boulangerie, and our other memorable spots like the Jardins de Luxembourg and Bar 228 at Le Meurice.
 
 
Tell a bit about your family, your career or something unique about you
Roderick and I started our own travel firm 9 years ago and have had the opportunity to travel together while planning special experiences across the globe for our clients.
 
Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781