Brittany Berman Is Weaving Community With Warmth

By on January 24, 2024

On the day we spoke, Brittany was having an off day. As it happened, so was I. She was refreshingly, thoughtfully open about that, which opened the door for me to be so, too. In just a moment, we went from burdened by our individual struggles to feeling empowered by them, united even, and more than ready for what turned out to be a wonderful interview.

That kind of work—helping people feel like they belong—echoes what Brittany is doing as Chochmat HaLev’s new Community Weaver. Over Zoom, we discussed the brand-new role, game design, Taylor Swift, and the power of permission. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jason: Brittany! I saw that you’ve worked as a game designer. So cool. Have you always been into games? Did you have a favorite growing up?

Brittany: My favorite was Capture the Flag: running through the woods, crawling on your belly, some strategy, but not really [laughs]. I’ve always loved games because they force people to play and interact with each other in a way that you don’t have to sit and have a set conversation. Anytime I can be in an imaginative space with a group of people, count me in. I’m actually going to be in my first Dungeons & Dragons game soon. Collaborative storytelling? Yes, please. Why aren’t we doing that all day long?

How did you make the leap from gamer to professional game/experience designer?

I had been leading team-building exercises with companies; mostly one-offs about authentic connection, reflection, and how to bring your own version of leadership into a group dynamic. From there, I got my dream job designing and facilitating experiences with The Go Game. We were literally creating worlds for people!

We’d hire actors to play different roles within eight city blocks—they knew we’d hired actors, but they didn’t know who. So then, when you approach the world, it’s with this sense of wonder and curiosity, and anything is possible.

What connections do you see between games and community?

There’s this idea of permission—when you’re playing a game, you have more permission to express different parts of yourself. And I strongly believe that expressing yourself, playing, and going outside of yourself is what community building takes, plus welcome and warmth. And a good game has all of that.

What inspired you to leave one dream job at The Go Game for another as the Community Weaver at Chochmat [a synagogue in South Berkeley]?

I had been looking for a way to bring more of my soul and deeper struggle into a leadership position. With this job, not only can I bring my own struggle, my own self, and my own growth, but they want it! They see the fact that I have struggled with belonging and have become interested in what it takes to belong. I’m so eager to be that permission fairy of creating community and welcoming others.

Permission fairy! I love that.

There’s one other thing that brought me closer to Chochmat. I used to facilitate a movement practice called Journey Dance which included dancing in circles; it was really hard for me to be depressed when I was holding strangers’ hands and dancing. I discovered that at every service, Chochmat had a lot of that joining hands and dancing in circles. Every time I went, it tapped into something fundamental in my bones.

I’m curious to hear about your evolving relationship with Judaism.

I grew up with hardly any Jews around and not practicing. About seven years ago, I joined a Rosh Chodesh circle of women, which is a gathering on the new moon celebrating the themes of each Jewish month. That really was my intro to Judaism, and it was key. I think I needed a Judaism-lite or it would have felt like I didn’t know enough for this job. Or that I wasn’t Jewish enough to be a part of this community. That’s also part of why I think I’m a good fit, because I know that concern about “not enough” is a common feeling. I was very honest with Chochmat, and they really saw that quality as an asset, which I think is brave in some ways.

Were there any memorable moments as you waded deeper into Judaism?

There was one where I went to Urban Adamah and saw Rabbi Zelig [Golden, of Wilderness Torah] give a drash [sermon or interpretation], and it was about people in pain needing to be seen and heard. At the time, I was in a lot of pain, and it really struck me to the core. I was like, “If this is what Judaism is about, I am Judaism!”

Wow. Awesome. Tell me about what it means to be a Community Weaver!

There’s a huge relationship-based engagement piece to the role. Similar to Caroline, Lena, and Rabbi Gray, I’m going to be doing a lot of one-on-one coffees, a lot of listening and reflecting back.

And so many other things! I’m helping ritualize membership—previously, there was nothing that happened when someone became a member. Now, Zvika [Krieger, Chochmat’s Spiritual Leader] will be running a ceremony for new members and they’ll set intentions and be witnessed in that. We’re also planning to pair folks with current members to help people form more relationships, which I think is the bedrock of community growth.

Now, onto our in-house Proust Questionnaire. Tell me any poem, book, movie, song, or piece of art or media that you love.

A novel called The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk, who is a local Jewish activist. That book is full of imagination for what’s possible in community. Also, much to my surprise, I’ve recently become a total Swifty. Her lyrics speak to our humanity! Just yesterday, I listened to the song “Bejeweled” like eight times.

What’s the Bay’s best-kept secret?

The Ivy Room. It’s a live music venue in El Cerrito. Every time I go, it is just wildly fun. There’s so much good dancing and good vibes. I went to see a Fleetwood Mac cover band there and it was called Fleetwood Macramé—it was insane!

When was a recent time you felt any kind of spiritual connection?

Truly, I feel like this new job helped me believe in God again a little bit. There are so many aspects of it I couldn’t have even imagined as a job—longings in the deep recesses of my heart that I had never spoken out loud.


GatherBay Profiles is our interview series spotlighting the vast array of community members doing rad things! Released twice per month, the series aspires to celebrate GatherBay’s greatest treasure—the people around us. Want to be profiled? Email