‘Children of the Mountains’ — A closer look at the services and upcoming events offered by the Nevada County Jewish Community Center in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

‘Children of the Mountains’ — A closer look at the services and upcoming events offered by the Nevada County Jewish Community Center in Grass Valley

Mya Russell
Submitted to The Union
Members of the Sisterhood operate the Judaica shop, which sells unique and festive Judaica gifts. The Sisterhood also leads in supporting local nonprofits.
Courtesy of Nevada County Jewish Community Center |


WHAT: Purim Spiel with music from The Beatles

WHEN: 6 p.m. Potluck dinner followed by a 7:30 p.m. show Friday, March 2. If the weather is bad the potluck and Purim Spiel will be moved to the following Friday, March 9

WHERE: Nevada County Jewish Community Center, 506 Walsh St., Grass Valley

TICKETS: Free. Guests are also encouraged to dress up and join in with The Beatles theme

WHAT: Passover Seder

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, March 31

WHERE: Love Building in Condon Park in Grass Valley

TICKETS: Members: $35 for adults and $20 for children. Non-members: $40 for adults and $25 for children

INFO: Reservations are required for this event and must be made before March 21. To make a reservation, please contact Mya Russell at myarussell@hotmail.com or at 530-272-1554.

Congregation B’nai Harim at the Nevada County Jewish Community Center has been serving the foothills communities for the past 40 years and has been a member of the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce since its inception.

As a synagogue and a Jewish community center, we are a home for all aspects of Judaism: cultural, religious, spiritual and historical. We embrace all individuals and families, Jewish and interfaith, single and partnered.

We also welcome non-Jews who are interested in learning about and experiencing Judaism. We have a thriving Religious School program with Sunday classes from preschool through high school, Hebrew school for school aged children and an adult Hebrew program as well.

While we are a Reform congregation, our religious services reflect both traditional and contemporary modes of worship. We have long been the only Jewish place of worship in the region (until very recently when the Orthodox Chabad organization came to the foothills) and as such, we offer a variety of services and activities to meet the spiritual, cultural and communal needs of all who seek a home with us.

Jewish History in Nevada County

Jews have inhabited the Gold Country since the 1840s and there are historic Jewish cemeteries in both Grass Valley and Nevada City. Congregation B’nai Harim was originally established in 1975 as a Chavurah (a small group of like-minded Jews who assemble for the purposes of facilitating Shabbat and holiday prayer services, sharing communal experiences such as lifecycle events, or Jewish learning).

In 1993, the group purchased the current building on Walsh Street in Grass Valley and dedicated it as the Nevada County Jewish Community Center. In 2001, the congregation joined the Union of Reform Judaism and in 2004 the building was rededicated as Congregation B’nai Harim which means “Children of the Mountains.”

Clubs & fundraising

The Sisterhood has a thriving group that meets regularly for book club, meetings, luncheons, dinners, and more. Members of the Sisterhood are the official hostesses for congregation functions and operate our Judaica shop which sells all sorts of unique and festive Judaica gifts. The Sisterhood also supports our religious school by providing healthy snacks.

Our Mens Club welcomes guest speakers and hosts a bagel and lox nosh during their meetings and helps take care of our facility. The Mens Club also enjoys social gatherings such as poker, golf, bowling, bike riding, hiking and even beer tasting. Many of the activities are designed with families in mind to make the most of family time.

Our adult education program offers movies, book reviews, discussions of current events, guest speakers on a variety of subjects, Hebrew classes and Torah study. This program is open to all in the outside community.

Our religious school meets on Sunday mornings from 9:30 a.m. till noon for preschool through high school students. Being a small congregation, our students get to know our rabbi personally.

The students study Jewish holidays, history, ethics, Torah and life cycle traditions in a fun and interactive way with crafts, cooking, singing, plays and more. Our Hebrew school classes for school-aged children meets every Thursday afternoon during the school year.

Our youth group is a place for teens to socialize, participate in community outreach, go to fun events with Jewish teens from other areas and learn about and experience Judaism in an informal way.

As a longtime member of the local community, we join forces with other local non-profits to reach out to our local community and help those in need. Some of the local non-profits that we raise money for and volunteer for are New Events & Opportunities, Hospitality House, and Women of Worth. Our Sisterhood takes the lead in supporting these local non-profits.

Our fundraising activities include our Corner Deli booth at the Nevada County Fair each August and our annual Deli Nite each autumn features New York Jewish Deli style food that is specially flown in for the occasion.

Leaders of Congregation B’nai Harim

Our spiritual leader is Rabbi David Azen. He grew up in New Jersey and was inspired by issues of social justice, intellectual inquiry and free-thinking and headed off to Princeton thinking he would be a civil rights attorney. Eventually, he decided that as a rabbi, he could engage in a broader spectrum of issues with a wider palette of options of how to address them than he could as a lawyer.

He has served at a large congregation in Toronto, educated through the arts in Philadelphia, won a fellowship in film at Temple University, then returned to congregational work in New York, and most recently in Sacramento where he developed a non-profit organization that brings healthier food to lower income communities.

Social justice and fighting against religious thought that limits free thinking are still his passions.

Shabbat services are lead by our rabbi twice a month on Friday evenings and once a month we hold a community potluck Shabbat dinner and service. We also offer special programming on some Friday evenings such as Jewish-themed movie nights or Israeli dancing. Torah study with the rabbi is also twice a month.

Holiday celebrations

Our community joins together to celebrate all the Jewish holidays including special services for the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur every autumn, followed by a festive outdoor nosh under our sukkah during the holiday of Sukkot. On Simchat Torah, the community gathers together to help re-roll and re-dress the Torah for the new year.

For Purim we hold a celebration such as a fun carnival or entertaining play with the reading of the Megillah. This year, on Friday, March 9, following our monthly potluck Shabbat service, we will reenact the story of Purim and the heroism of Queen Esther to the well-known music of The Beatles. Costumes are encouraged and we welcome all to join us!

On the second night of Passover each year, we hold an annual gourmet catered community Passover Seder. This year our Seder will be catered by the distinguished and locally celebrated Christine Cain, and it will be held at the Love building in Condon Park in Grass Valley at 6 p.m. March 31. Advance reservations are required.

We send out a monthly newsletter and weekly announcements with the weeks’ events and other pertinent information via email. If you’d like to be added to our email list or would like to make reservations for our Community Seder, please email ncjcc@outlook.com.

For more information visit the website and view the monthly calendar at http://www.ncjcc.org or call 530-477-0922.

Mya Russell is the vice president on the board of directors for the Nevada County Jewish Community Center.

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