A Common Faith
October 5, 2017
Early autumn is an especially busy time for those who follow the Jewish faith.
Having just observed Rosh Hashanah — which serves as the Jewish New Year — and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), local Jewish groups are now preparing for Sukkot which takes place Oct. 4-11.
Sukkot is named after the huts in which the Israelites stayed during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after escaping from slavery in Egypt. To the Jewish community, these aren't just holidays; they are deep traditions steeped in centuries of faith and perseverance.
Nevada County's Jewish population now has two places where they can congregate and observe the high holidays with those of a common faith: the Nevada County Jewish Community Center in Grass Valley, and the newly-established Chabad of Grass Valley.
Both organizations approached the recent high holidays with similar mindsets.
Mya Russell, vice president of the board of directors at Nevada County Jewish Community Center, said, "Yom Kippur is the highest of holy days in Judaism, and one thing that's different about the high holidays in Judaism is that high holidays are not a time of parties and great celebration. It's more a time of introspect. Yom Kippur particularly is about looking within."
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The sentiment is echoed by Chyena Yusewitz who, together with her husband Rabbi Nochum Yusewitz, recently founded Chabad of Grass Valley which they are currently operating out of their home.
"Yom Kippur is the holiest day, and it landed on Shabbat as well," said Chyena Yusewitz.
Their first Yom Kippur celebration in Nevada County was a memorable one.
"There were many people with us who don't drive on holy days. We ended up with about six people camping on our floor! We were happy to have them; we had a very nice turnout," said Yusewitz.
Nevada County Jewish Community Center and Chabad of Grass Valley say they're open to the idea of collaborating and working together in the future, believing that theirs are each warm and welcoming spaces.
"We've found that [collaborating] just makes Jewish life more vibrant," said Yusewitz. "We appreciated it so much when the Jewish Community Center handed out fliers to their people for a Menorah lighting we did. I do see us doing something with them."
Iola Gold, a longtime presence and current board member at Nevada County Jewish Community Center said of welcoming Chabad of GV to town: "We're all Jews. We're not a race, and we're not a singular religion, but we are a tribe. We are a community. We come from a long shared history. We want to do right by our community and we want a place for our kids to know who they are and where they came from."
The estimated Jewish population of Nevada County hovers around one to two percent.
"I know of at least 500 Jewish families here [in Western Nevada County], but we always hear little things about there being many, many Jewish families," said Yusewitz.
Each of the groups have upcoming events planned. On Oct. 10, Chabad of Grass Valley will hold "Soup in the Sukkah," where guests will enjoy dinner and then choose between taking a class on the Kaballah of the Sukka by Rabbi Mendy Blau (New York), or a Kaballah art class.
The event will take place at the Elks Lodge in Nevada City.
On Oct. 14, Nevada County Jewish Community Center will hold their main fundraiser of the year, also at the Elks Lodge: an all-you-can-eat event called Deli Nite which celebrates the best in classic Jewish deli nosh (like corned beef, pastrami, authentic Jewish rye bread and much more).
Events are open to the public at the Nevada County Jewish Community Center.
"We are welcoming of whoever wants to come [join us]," said Russell. "If you have in your family one parent who's Jewish and one who is not, it doesn't matter. Whatever you are, come as you are and we're happy to have you!"
Regardless of their locations, the motives of both Nevada County Jewish Community Center and Chabad of Grass Valley are very clear.
"We're here to meet a diversity of needs," said Russell. "We're here to study and question, and everything we do has a reason or a purpose."
"Whatever someone needs, we are here to help them out," said Yusewitz. "There is an old Chassidic saying: 'A soul comes to this world for 70-80 years just to do a favor for another,' be it a spiritual favor — putting on Tefillin, Shabbat dinner, mezuzah, blowing Shofar — or a physical favor such as helping someone find a job, get a ride, or counseling. We are here for others."
For more information on the Nevada County Jewish Community Center and their upcoming Deli Nite please visit http://www.ncjcc.org or call 530-477-0922. Additional details regarding Chabad of Grass Valley, their events and services can be found at http://www.jewishgv.com.
Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.