When Olim move to Israel, many move to communities outside of Jerusalem. First thoughts that come to mind when thinking of Jerusalem are: Tourist attraction, vacation home, a wonderful place to visit. But in actuality many Olim do move to Jerusalem- to communities such as Katamon, Talpiot, German Colony, Talbia, Baka, Makor Chaim, Har Choma, Gilo, Rechavia, Pat, Arnona, Armon Hanetziv. For many though, Jerusalem has more of a city, anonymity, feeling. But many do desire and wish for a sense of community while living in the city.
For many, it may be difficult to find that niche of friends or the right shul that offers the sense of community they’re desiring. Nechama Levy felt like she was missing a sense of community after knowing how wonderful it was to have it in New York. When her and her husband, Yona, moved to Israel in 2013, they missed their friends in NY. By 2015, Nechama decided to change the anonymous feeling you get from Jerusalem and make it more neighborly. She began hosting weekly community -wide events along with Nicky Newfield and Jodi Samuels, since many of her friends started considering moving out of Jerusalem.
Levy Family Kramer Family Newfield Family
This summer, Nechama, along with Tova Kramer and Nicky Newfield decided to launch a satellite Shir Chadash Shul along with Rabbi Ian Pear, long-time Rabbi of Shir Chadash. Nicky and Tova had been previous members of the original Shir Chadash, but after moving too far, they couldn’t continue to daven there. The satellite shul would be opened on Emek Refaim in the Achim Chassid buildings. This perfect location would attract people from all the neighboring communities. The buildings, owned by the Chassid family, were the perfect fit. The members are sincerely appreciative to Sharon and Inbal Chassid for being an integral part in making this a success!
From the beginning, Jodi and Gavin Samuels, founders of JICNY, got involved in this initiative, to support it in any way they can, and see it come to fruition. Hadas and Gideon Melamed took on central roles as well, focusing on the youth groups. Many other families stepped up to help and offer their services.
The initiative was thought of to build a community in the area, not purely another shul of which there are many amazing places of Tefillah already in the area. The goal was also to build a strong Torah foundation and place of spiritual growth. Jonny Newfield and David Sassoon have stepped up to organize high quality speakers and Rabbis to learn with the community and inspire along side inspirational Tefillah and community building Kiddushim.
Another main focus is family. The Tefillat yeladim is divided into different age groups from ages 2- 12 led by energetic madrichim and madrichot, so that each child feels at home and knows they have a place in their community. Teenage programs are being organized also. The children should feel welcome and important, and of course they should have fun, feel positive towards Tefillah, make friends and want to come back the next week!
Since Nechama, Tova, and Nicky had the vision that this shul would be focused on family there would a weekly sponsored kiddush after davening that would give the social feeling that so many desire. A once-a-month luncheon would bring the social community feel to a whole new level. All these ideas were brought together at Nicky and Johnny Newfield’s home one Motzei Shabbat. It was incredible to witness all the people that were enthused by this idea. Many people love Yerushalayim so much, but felt like they were missing that sense of belonging to a close-knit community.
The opening of the shul was expected to attract no more than 100 people. When I arrived to shul at 10am, 45 minutes after the start, my jaw dropped in awe. There was standing room only, the shul grounds were crowded to capacity. The children were all in their respective youth groups, davening, playing parsha games, and eating snacks. There were over 350 people at shul on opening day!
The davening and Torah layning were moving and beautiful, led by Baalei Tefilah and Kriah. Meron Samuels and Raphael Schoenberg layned the Parsha exceptionally well. Rabbi Pear’s inspirational, very apropo shiur, was centered around, “Growing from New Beginnings”. The first Kiddush was sponsored by The Lavin-Pell family celebrating their wedding anniversary, Carrie and Cliff Krug sponsored in honor of her late father, and many other families welcoming all the new Olim to town. One such family, Sima and Dani Rubin were introduced to many welcoming families, by yours truly. After Sima left, she said, “Not only was it wonderful to join what already felt like a close community, but to be welcomed following the first Shacharit by an engaging kiddush, specifically aimed at welcoming Olim Chadashim, was truly embracing, and exhibited to me, that the Shir Chadash congregation is one that will continue to be friendly, accepting, and exceptionally outgoing.”
A huge Mazal Tov to Tova and David Kramer on the birth of a baby girl to add to their beautiful family of 4 sons! Tova was, and continues to be, a vital force behind establishing this shul. She was missed for the opening, but for good reasons as she gave birth on Shabbat! This coming Shabbat, a Simchat Bat, baby naming, and Kiddush will take place at Shul, all in honor of the sweet baby girl.
The new members are all looking forward to the upcoming holidays to spend at Shir Chadash on Emek. The Baal Tefillah, Chazan Yossie Danin is ready to lead an uplifting davening for Rosh Hashana. We are thrilled to have a new Makom of Tefillah and Torah in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Everyone is invited to experience Shabbat and be welcomed by all the smiling faces to make you feel like you are part of a community in Jerusalem.
To sign up for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur seats follow this link: https://shirhadash.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/membership-2/
Kol Hakavod to Nechama, Nicky and Tova for setting your minds on an idea and following it through. The residents of Jerusalem say THANK YOU!
2 thoughts on “Building Community in Jerusalem”
This is an unbelievable piece of writing!!
Truly displays the community like no other in a place like no other.
What an incredible thing to say!! Thanks!