Jewish Baby Network connects, supports Bay Area families

Playgroups for newborns. Picnics for the whole family. An online forum for new parents to share concerns and resources. All this and more is available for young families on the Peninsula, with the Jewish Baby Network ready and willing to fill the needs of Jewish families.

 

Alyssa Zagorie and Shira

That’s important to Alyssa Zagorie, 35, who lives with her husband, Avi, and their daughter, Shira, in San Francisco.

 

“I want my daughter to grow up connected to her Jewish background,” she said. “I want her to meet other kids celebrating the same holidays she does so she will get firsthand where she comes from and what her culture and traditions are.”

Aliza Golshani enjoys the playdates and special events that JBN offers.

“They have a really nice variety of programs and activities, and we like meeting other Jewish families and making friends,” said Golshani, who has been active in the group for about 18 months. She lives with her husband, Eyal, and their two young sons in Foster City.

 

Nicole Miller Robins and Ella

Golshani, who said she is in her mid-30s, added she appreciates that events are held at several different congregations: “We are looking to join one, and the JBN events provide a good opportunity to explore options.”

 

The JBN has grown considerably since it was founded in 2013. Carol Booth, the director, said, “In 2014, we had 90 member families, and now we have more than 300.” Most of the members live on the Peninsula, but Zagorie has begun contacting parents in San Francisco and hopes to develop JBN programs for new parents there.

Rabbi Janet Marder at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills and Rabbi David Booth at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto originally founded JBN as a way of reaching out to expectant parents to help them prepare for childbirth. Carol Booth — Rabbi Booth’s wife and a longtime specialist in Jewish education — became director in 2014.

 

Carol Booth is JBN’s director.

“My first thought was to ask what else we could do to provide content and connection beyond childbirth preparation classes,” said Booth, 48. “We started with a family picnic just before Rosh Hashanah, where we said blessings and shared challah. We had a fabulous turnout — 17 families — and now we hold picnics just before each holiday. These events have really taken off.” 

 

Congregations Beth Am and Kol Emeth sponsor JBN, which is also supported by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, a consortium of local Jewish organizations, the San Francisco-based Saal Family Foundation, Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City and private donors. The organization is open to unaffiliated, interfaith, single parent and LGBTQ families.

Sometimes, families call JBN when they are in need of more than a social connection with other new parents. Nicole Miller Robins reached out to the group late in 2015 after returning to the Bay Area and moving to Palo Alto from New York with her husband, Theo, and their 7-week-old daughter, Ella.

“Suddenly all three of us had health issues, and I was feeling desperate,” Robins said.

“Then a neighbor introduced me to Carol Booth … and right away, people were dropping off meals, offering extra hands, volunteering to help — it was a godsend,” said Robins, 39.

Early this year, Booth connected Robins with a group of new moms in the JBN that met once a week. “It was just for an hour or two, playtime for the babies and time for the moms to be supportive of each other,” Robins said. ”The opportunity to crowd-source advice about taking care of a baby is invaluable, because so often you feel that you are making it up as you go along.” The women are still in touch, she said.

Robins was executive director of the Diller Teen Initiative (now the Diller Teen Fellows) in San Francisco from 2005 to 2012.

“Because I have worked in the Jewish community, I have always been engaged with it, but I had never needed help or been on the receiving end,” Robins said. “Then when I was in a situation where we needed the community but didn’t have the network, the Jewish community was so welcoming.

“That makes me happy about raising a family here.”

Patricia Corrigan

Patricia Corrigan is a longtime newspaper reporter, book author and freelance writer based in San Francisco.