Building Bridges – An Intergenerational Initiative

Building Bridges – An Intergenerational Initiative

Meet Long-Standing Member Vivian Herman

By Daniella Baird

I had the privilege to interview one of Beth David’s long-standing members, Vivian Herman, on a Zoom call. I learned so much about her life and what Beth David was like before I was born up to today. Vivian watched the congregation grow and I am honored to share her story.

Vivian Herman was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. When she was three years old,  she and her family moved to Manchester, New Hampshire. Manchester is the largest city in New Hampshire, which makes Vivian a proud “big city girl.” Luckily, Manchester had a Jewish community which Vivian and her family loved being a part of. She tells me that there were 400 Jewish families, two shuls, and even a JCC. They belonged to the Conservative shul. There was also AZA for the boys and a Beth Alpha for girls, and Vivian was president of that group. Her Jewish identity was almost never an issue and something she was proud of. Ralf, Vivian’s husband, came from Seattle, Washington. He worked for Philco Ford and the company moved him to Manchester to work for a tracking station nearby. Vivian and Ralf got married in Manchester in 1967.

In 1968, Vivian and her husband, Ralf moved to Silicon Valley in California when Philco called Ralf to say that the company wanted him to move to Palo Alto to work in the home office. As they were looking for a house in Sunnyvale, they came across a Jewish family who were selling their home.  The family introduced Vivian to Congregation Beth David. At that time Beth David was located in a
three-bedroom house and had  58 member families. Their daughter, Joyce, was named in the Beth David garage sanctuary. 

Both Vivian and Ralf became very involved with the congregation. Vivian became involved in the Sisterhood board. During one of her terms on the Sisterhood board they sent out greeting cards. During another term she was involved in their  “Bake Shop”.  Vivian called members to make sure there would be enough desserts for the Oneg after Friday night services. Her husband, Ralph, was on the synagogue board. Vivian told me that she quickly found a loving community at Beth David and the members were almost like her second family. Everyone there was welcoming. Vivian loved the environment, especially Friday night services. It was a time when everyone from the congregation came together and expressed their Jewish identity with food, prayer, and love. The friends she made there would last a lifetime.

I asked if Vivian noticed any changes from back then to now, and as you can already imagine there are quite a bit. The most obvious change is the building. As I mentioned before, Beth David used to be in a three- bedroom house. After finally getting land to build a building and many, many years of remodeling, we now have the beautiful building we all know and love today. 

Another huge change she has loved seeing through the years is the amount of active participation from the women of the congregation. In their early years at Beth David, women could not go up to the Torah and have an Aliyah. Now she said, we not only have more women doing that amongst other things, but women are rabbis in Conservative Judaism, which is special. Also, it goes to show how not only our congregation has developed, but the whole Jewish world has too. Throughout all the changes, Vivian expressed that the one thing that stayed the same is the generosity of the people and the great friendships she’s made!

Beth David has many traditions that Vivian loves to participate in. Although she told me she doesn’t particularly have a favorite amongst them, she still loves to be a part of them. Vivian expressed how strongly she feels about her Jewish identity and how she never even had to think twice about it. “It’s in my blood” she told me, which is very inspiring to hear. The way she has stayed motivated to keep her Jewish identity is simply by knowing her roots and staying true to her identity. 

During this difficult time, Vivian has been social distancing at home. She expresses her gratitude to Congregation Beth David for doing such a great job with their Zoom programs. They keep her busy and help her to stay connected to her people. She also advises everyone to do the same to get through these unprecedented times. Through this interview she mentioned multiple times her gratitude to Beth David and the founding families.

I chose to participate in the Building Bridges program because Beth David will always have a special place in my heart. I grew up and made friends there. I am very grateful for the people who made it into what it is today. I am grateful that I was able to speak with someone who has been there since the beginning and plays such a big role in our congregation. Hearing about Vivian’s life story was an absolute privilege and I was inspired to embrace my Jewish identity more than ever. I learned that even with the hate a lot of us get and have gotten for so many decades, taking the time to reflect on what makes us who we are and never forgetting our identities can bring us peace within. I would like to thank Vivian Herman for letting me interview her and sharing her story with me and now all of you.

Building Bridges is an exciting new initiative at Congregation Beth David formed to connect teens and college students with longstanding Beth David members. For more information, please contact Helaine Green and Bonnie Slavitt, Building Bridges coordinators at

Archived Articles

Meet Long-Standing Members Sylvia and Leonard Metz by Lily Guggenheim

Meet Past President Doris Katz by Joshua Rosenheim

Meet Past President Chuck Taubman by  Joshua Tseitlin

Meet Past President Dr. Ed Kiss by Gabe Robinson

Meet Long Time Member Lena Rajna by Jessy Hirsch

Meet Past President Allen Rosenzweig by Mia Robinson

Meet Founding Member Lou Dombro by Abby Moll

Meet Founding Member Frederica Postman by Gloria Kompel

Meet Founding Member Jerry Daniel by Merav Tsori

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