Bagels and Barack: East Bay Jews watch, celebrate inauguration

Bagels, coffee, frolicking kids, a big-screen TV: It had all the makings of a typical Sunday morning scene in America.

But it was, in fact, an atypical Tuesday morning at Berkeley’s Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. About 75 people crowded into the JCC auditorium the morning of Jan. 20 to watch President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

“I’m getting my country back,” said Vivian Trotz of Berkeley, adding of the new president, “I’m in awe of this man and his abilities.”

Trotz, like many gathered at the JCC, wanted to share the moment with fellow Jews, among them Michelle Levine, the JCC’s director of youth and family programs.

Jane Elin reacts to President Obama’s swearing in. photo: dan pine

“I feel the JCC is the heartbeat of the community,” Levine said. “I’m very excited, very hopeful.”

Once Obama stood to take the oath of office, the auditorium grew silent, even solemn. At the concluding words, “So help me God,” the crowd erupted into applause.

“We’re at the dawn of a new era,” said Jane Elin, 54, of Albany. “It’s so real, so palpable, handing over the country to this younger generation. It’s wonderful to see the boundaries dissolve.”

It was a bittersweet moment for Elin. She had been notified in advance that, the same day of Obama’s inauguration, she would receive a layoff notice: Her position as a senior administrative analyst at U.C. Berkeley was being eliminated due to the state’s budget crisis.

But Elin, too, needed to share this inauguration moment with fellow Jews. “I wanted to be in community,” she said.

The only ones oblivious to the historic proceedings were the many toddlers running around the auditorium. Rest assured, when Obama placed his hand on the Lincoln Bible, there wasn’t a dry diaper in the house.

Not everyone in attendance was Jewish or Caucasian. Marvin Kugh, a black employee of the JCC, also took in the scene, with a sense of wonder and pride.

“I’m just ecstatic,” said Kugh. “It looks like a change in the country.”

Anna Mantell (left), Marilyn Margulius, Vivian Trotz and Robert Goldstein watch the pre-inaugural ceremonies. photo: dan pine




Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.