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V.  Every Place Else

     Although it is possible to lead an observant life anywhere, most Jews choose to reside in a Jewish community, in the midst of other Torah observant  families, where their practical needs are best served.

What comprises a Jewish community, besides the presence of Jews?  First and foremost, the presence of a synagogue within walking distance is an absolute necessity.  After that, all of the following contribute to the community’s general livability, but are not absolutely essential: a kosher butcher, a kosher bakery, a kosher restaurant, a mikva (ritual bath) and Jewish schools.

There are dozens of such communities in big cities all over America, but nowhere are they as large and impressive as those located in New York, where the options for glimpsing Jewish life are as varied and wide as can be imagined.  Indeed, so central is New York to the American Jewish experience, all other locales are referred to as “out of town”.  In Brooklyn alone we find the heavily Chassidic communities of Crown Heights and Williamsburg (dominated by Lubavitch and Satmar, respectively), the enormous, more polyglot neighborhood of Boro Park and many sizeable Jewish sectors in Flatbush.  It is well worth a visit to these places to get a taste of Jewish life, where minyanim (prayer groups of ten or more) can be found at almost all times of the day or night, kosher stores and businesses closed on shabbos are pervasive, and synagogues and yeshivas abound. 

If one prefers a more suburban setting, growing towns such as Lakewood (home of the world’s largest yeshiva) and Monsey are noteworthy in their own right.

“Out of town” Jewish communities, while located in and around big cities, tend to have a small town feel.  All the religious Jews seem to know each other and pull together for both joyous occasions and trying times.  Because of its small population, community members cannot be anonymous; others are aware of you and your actions.  For some, this may feel intrusive. but for others it is a gratifying experience, well worth the sacrifice of other conveniences.

Finding the right community certainly involves assessing one’s personal preferences and lifestyle needs.

Most important is finding a place where you feel comfortable and are able to continue to grow in observance and spirituality.

 

Last updated on: 12/14/2017
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