Posted on March 1, 2014
When you ask people the question, “What’s your earliest Jewish experience?” the answers will of course be varied. For Laurie Schneider, it was as a young toddler sitting in a balcony next to her mom, grandmother, and aunt with all the men, including her brother, sitting down below at the Orthodox synagogue where her Hungarian grandparents belonged. When it came time for Laurie to begin preparing for her Bat Mitzvah, her parents switched to a Conservative synagogue. By 1976 as a young adult, Laurie became member of our Reform synagogue. Raised in Fairfield, Connecticut, in a community nearly 40 percent Jewish, she was always involved in synagogue life just like her parents and grandparents had been. Every Jewish holiday was cause for family gatherings. The Jewish Community Center (JCC) was central to her social life… she was even a cheerleader for their basketball team!
Laurie earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education. For grad school she attended University of Southern California (USC) and has lived here ever since. Her Masters Degree in special education led to a successful 34 year teaching career. After grad school, Laurie began dating a Catholic man named Charlie. Yet the question, “How are we going to raise our children…Jewish or Catholic?” perplexed them both so they stopped dating. Looking for a deep connection with other Jews, Laurie called Temple Beth David to see if there was a singles’ group. Fay Newman, of blessed memory, who led the choir said, “No, but we have a choir.” Laurie replied, “But I can’t sing.” Fay invited her to come to services and so she did. Upon meeting Laurie, Fay warmly said, “I saw you singing!” Laurie felt so warmly welcomed, she joined the choir (and Temple) and has been singing the prayers and enjoying the congregants ever since.
One day Charlie said some words that changed Laurie’s life forever: “You can raise the kids Jewish and I will be supportive of this.” They soon wed, found harmony in each observing their own faiths, and had two wonderful children who were named, Bar/Bat Mitzvahed, and Confirmed at Temple Beth David. Charlie, a telecommunications engineer, went to church every Sunday yet also attended the temple regularly (monthly family class, family Shabbat services, High Holy Days). Laurie and Charlie lived a beautiful life together until he passed without warning in 2009. Her family and her temple family helped her endure the devastating shock, for which she is forever grateful. Her daughter Tracy is also a Temple Beth David member and works as community relations and player program coordinator for the LA Clippers basketball team. Andrew is married and pursuing an MBA while working as a pricing analyst for government contracts in Virginia.
A born leader, Laurie served actively on the temple’s building expansion committee that saw to it the sanctuary, lobby, and gift shop would be built. To help raise funds for the visionary project, she and her husband volunteered for the temple’s community bingo night. She’s served as Sisterhood’s religious practices chair, donor chair, and in charge of invitations. Deservingly, Sisterhood bestowed upon her the Woman of Merit in 2005. On the Temple Board she’s been VP/Membership,
VP/Education, and Choir President. Now she’s busy co-chairing the April 26th “Dinner with Strangers, Dessert with Friends” member event.
Laurie appreciates how unpretentious Temple Beth David is. In addition to loving the diversity of ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, she says, “It doesn’t matter how much you have or how you dress…we just care about people as people.”
In her free time, Laurie loves to line-dance, play tennis, knit, travel, read novels, and spend time with her family. From her grandma who lived to 103, Laurie learned how to (and loves to) garden and bake. She volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) helping foster children, serves as a reading partner in classrooms, knits with Mitzvah Mavens, and last year joined the Board of Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation and Family Services of Orange County. She also enjoys her temple Chavurah the MT Nesters.
Looking back, she advises not to put off things you want to do and to not let little things upset you. These are such important words of wisdom from a person who gives so much of herself to Temple Beth David.