Name in English and in Hebrew (phonetic).
Josh Lewis, he/him (Yehoshua)
Kate Wrenshall, she/her
Abe Lewis (Avraham)
Willa Lewis (Roni)
Eddie Lewis (Hebrew name to be decided upon conversion — Let us know if you have any good suggestions!)

Kate: For some additional context on our names, I’m Catholic and Josh is Jewish, and we're raising our kids Jewish. So Abe and Willa have been converted in the mikvah, and we still have to get our youngest, Eddie, converted in the mikvah.

Where were you born and which places have you lived in?
Kate: The kids and I were all born in Pittsburgh. I grew up in the North Hills in a town called Ingomar. I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia for college and then DC for three years after college.
Josh: I’m from Albany, New York. I lived in Ithaca for college. Kate and I met at Pitt Law School.

How long have you been a member of Congregation Beth Shalom?
We’ve been members since 2016.

Why did you choose Beth Shalom?
Kate: We were looking for childcare for Abe, our oldest, and Josh's mom suggested we look at synagogues to see if they had any programs. So we went to Beth Shalom because Josh grew up Conservative. Also the reviews for Beth Shalom's Early Learning Center were unbelievable. We were able to get a spot, so we quickly became Beth Shalom members. It's been a great part of our lives since we joined.
Josh: I'm not from Pittsburgh originally, so before we joined, we didn't have much of a connection to the Jewish community here. We weren't living in Squirrel Hill yet, so it was a very nice way to get great daycare and it also led us to the broader Jewish community.
Kate: I often wonder if we didn't need child care or if we'd gotten into the JCC daycare, would we be as involved in the Jewish community as we are? Beth Shalom just feels like our home and it's where we've met most of our friends. If we had just joined the JCC, it probably would have been more like a daycare, whereas here we have Shababababa and all those things that really enriched the Jewish aspect of our lives. And when we go to the High Holidays it's like, "Hey, friends! Let's all sit in the same row!"
Josh: Beyond the ELC, we feel really happy and welcomed at Beth Shalom. Rabbi Adelson is fantastic and really sets an amazing tone for the entire congregation.

What food connects you to feeling Jewish?
Josh: Brisket's the classic one. Brisket, kugel, and challah are by far the holy troika. My mother makes the brisket, and there's always been a debate in our family about whether brisket is better with sherry or ketchup.

What side do you take on the brisket with sherry versus ketchup debate?
Josh: I'm on the ketchup end.
Kate: I think I like the sherry best.
Josh: When we have the extended family together like at Passover, my mom makes both the brisket with sherry and the brisket with ketchup. She caters to both family preferences.
Kate: It's like a brisket taste-off.

When do you feel most Jewish and why?
Josh: We feel most Jewish on Shabbat. We've really taken to heart Rabbi Adelson's message that Shabbat is just as monumentally important as the High Holy Days. And it's an opportunity to embrace all the best parts of Judaism. We try to have as many Friday night meals as we can with our whole family, and we usually also try to invite another couple or two. So that’s one of the things that's really landed with me from the Rabbi: Just light the candles, say the prayers, have a meal, and that's as good of an experience as you can possibly have both as a Jew and as a family. And I always think about that and appreciate that.
Kate: We don't even have to make it fancy. It's candles, prayer, challah — but we could just be having leftovers. It's a low barrier to entry. And I think one of the things we're trying to do because I'm not Jewish is to make sure the kids know they're Jewish, and that's where the Shabbat din-ners really come into play. To say, “Hey, this is who you are." And really celebrate Jewishness within our family.
Josh: And a thing that's really great is that being in such a Jewish community here in Squirrel Hill, you have those regular reminders of Judaism like Shabbat — but then you're also surrounded by this great community of Jews with all different methods of practicing Judaism. And it's a unique feeling and a reminder that Judaism's really special.

Kate, in terms of your not converting, would you feel comfortable sharing the impact, if any, that that’s had on your experience at Beth Shalom?
Kate: Sure. I feel like there's been no judgment in terms of my not converting. Honestly it's been great. I think we've been very supported. Since I didn't convert, that's why we’ve had the mikvah conversions, which have really been an amazing celebration. Rabbi Adelson's been at our daughter's and our son's conversion, and he’ll be at our youngest’s too - whenever we find time to schedule it!

If you could be a fly on the wall in Jewish history where would you want to land and why?
Kate: Josh, that question has your name written all over it.
Josh: I'd have to think about that one. I'd have to think long and hard. I mean, see the bush burn?
Kate: See the bush burn?! That would be awesome!

Last question — for your kids: What’s one of your favorite things about being Jewish?
Abe, age 7: My favorite thing about being Jewish is that it is the oldest religion. I would tell my friends, Jewish is great because it's old and there are a lot of good stories.
Willa, age 5: I like the challah.
Eddie, 1.5 years old, as per Kate: Eddie didn't necessarily say, but we think he likes being Jewish because of the songs — especially Bim Bam.