California gold rush town becomes bedrock for Chabad | TheUnion.com

California gold rush town becomes bedrock for Chabad

Submitted to The Union

The Yusevitzes at the Nevada County fair, attracting attention with their “Shofar so good” custom T-shirts, reminding people that Rosh Hashanah is coming up.

Bar Adam moved to Nevada City from Israel two years ago with her husband and two children.

When they arrived, they started looking for a Jewish outlet to meet their family's needs, eventually deciding to shuttle the kids to Chabad in Roseville, about an hour each way, for Hebrew school on Sundays.

"It was important to me for the kids to get a little bit of something Jewish," Adam said. "Because when you live out here, it's kind of hard for them to keep their identity."

Not long afterwards, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Nochum and Cheyena Yusevitz, both 27 and from Brooklyn, N.Y., started organizing programs in this Northern California city of 3,000 or so people.

First, they held a Chanukah party in December — in none other than the Adam home, followed by a car Menorah parade on Highway 49.

A few days later, they arranged a public Menorah Lighting in Robinson Plaza which drew a crowd of 170, and shortly after, a Purim celebration for 150 people and a Passover Seder for 85.

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After trips back and forth for the holidays over the past half year, the couple moved permanently to the area at the beginning of August, starting Chabad of Grass Valley, about an hour northeast of Sacramento.

While still unpacking, they headed to the county fair to meet people and invite them to services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They also held an open-house kosher barbecue dinner on Sunday to get to know members of the community.

They showed a video about the history and drive of Chabad of Grass Valley, including the answers to 10 most commonly asked questions about Chabad. People enjoyed the delicious spread of healthy food, meeting new and familiar Jewish neighbors, and of course schmoozing with the Rabbi and his wife.

Now they are focused on High Holiday services and programs, beginning with a community dinner to welcome in the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, on Wednesday evening, Sept. 20.

Why settle in such a small locale, with perhaps a few hundred Jewish families?

"We've met tens of Jewish people who own or work in local businesses, and the Jewish population is growing," explains the Rabbi, referring to the 25 young American and Israeli children who have already participated in Chabad activities.

"People tend to live and work in the immediate area; it's not a commuter city," said Nochum. "For them, driving an hour or more away to experience traditional Judaism is a big deal. Some just won't do it. So this way, we reach them where they are. Our mission is to bring every Jew closer to their roots."

As for Adam, she said, "We're glad to have them. Suddenly, people who never did anything are starting to do Jewish things. A new community is being built."

"People are very friendly here," said Nochum. "Chabad will provide a way for them to connect with Judaism and each other in a heimishe (warm and homey) space."

While there are other Jewish institutions in the area, Adam leans towards more traditional practices, especially when it comes to educating their children.

"I want my kids to know their roots and know where they come from," she said, "and I'm hoping they'll stay in the Jewish tribe and marry Jews. But in order for that to happen, they have to know their background."

At the Yusevitzs' housewarming barbecue, Adam's young daughter gave a handwritten note to the Rabbi, "I am so excited to be enrolled in your Hebrew School."

Rabbi Nochum and Cheyena Yusevitz have years of teaching experience behind them and have plans to start a Hebrew School right away, out of their home in downtown Nevada City.

As Cheyena Yusevitz said, "Early education has a lifelong effect on kids. They are so impressionable at this age, and anything — everything — they learn has an effect on them. They are our future."

After the holidays, the couple will hold regular Torah classes and other classes on Jewish History, Jewish mysticism and Hebrew reading, as well as women's programming.

Cheyena Yusevitz says she is glad to be making their home ready for guests, creating a warm and inviting space for Shabbat meals, get-togethers and hopefully soon a minyan.

"I'm very excited to see the response of local residents. People keep telling us we're going to love this place," said Nochum. "And we keep telling people that they can come to learn, celebrate, practice their Judaism — and be proud of it."

About Chabad of Grass Valley

Chabad of Grass Valley offers Jewish education, outreach and social-service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations.

For more information, contact Rabbi Nochum at 530-404-0020 or rabbi@JewishGV.com. Photos of past events and updates about future events are posted on their website http://www.JewishGV.com and Facebook page Facebook.com/JewishGV.

About the High Holidays

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is observed this year on the eve of Sept. 20 through 22. Literally meaning "head of the year," the two-day holiday commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holiday.

Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement — is considered the holiest day of on the Jewish calendar. Beginning this year on the evening of Sept. 29 until after nightfall on Sept. 30, it marks the culmination of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

According to tradition, God decides each person's fate on this day, so Jews mark the day by making amends and asking forgiveness for sins committed during the past year. The holiday is observed by fasting and prayers.

The Rosh Hashana Community Dinner (Sept. 20) and all Holiday Services (Sept. 21, 22, 29, 30) will take place at the Nevada City Elk's Lodge and is open to all, free of charge. For more information about the High Holidays or to RSVP visit http://www.JewishGV.com/HighHolidays or email rabbi@JewishGV.com.