Congregation B’Nai Harim: From member to Cantor |

Congregation B’Nai Harim: From member to Cantor

Sharon Joy Jahoda is the main lay Cantor at Congregation B’Nai Harim in Grass Valley.
Photo by Janet Ann Collins |

Ten years ago, Sharon Joy Jahoda joined Congregation B’Nai Harim in Grass Valley. (B’Nai Harim means Children of the Mountains in English.)

Although she had Jewish ancestry, until that time, Jahoda hadn’t been a practicing member of the faith.

When her beloved Orthodox Jewish grandfather died, she wanted to feel a continuing connection with him.

She heard that Alan Greenbaum, who was Rabbi there at that time, played the guitar during worship services and she loved music, so she decided to visit the synagogue.

“I ask God to keep one hand on my shoulder and one hand on my mouth. I’d be in a lot of trouble otherwise.”Sharon Joy Jahoda

She attended and felt welcomed.

Jahoda especially enjoyed the music and taught herself to sing in Hebrew so she could participate in the services.

Now, she is the main lay Cantor and feels that she’s connected with her ancestors as she sings meaningfully.

She also enjoys the friendly atmosphere of the congregation.

Jaboda believes in giving her will up to God and obeying the commandments.

She constantly asks herself, “What am I here for? What good can I do?”

“I’m constantly thanking God for the many gifts and blessings I have in this life,” she says.

And her faith helps her deal with the struggles of her busy, everyday life.

As a hospice nurse, she finds her faith essential in dealing with the stressful job.

It’s not easy to watch people dying, and patients who are suffering may lash out at staff members.

She often prays at work and constantly reminds herself that God encourages compassion.

“I ask God to keep one hand on my shoulder and one hand on my mouth. I’d be in a lot of trouble otherwise,” she says.

There is still a lot of prejudice against Jewish people in our society, she said. Jaboda usually keeps the Star of David she wears around her neck hidden when she’s out in public to avoid negative comments about her religion.

Eighty years ago, Jaboda’s grandmother was kicked and called “dirty Jew” by boys in her grammar school. (Some years later, she turned those same boys down when they asked her for dates.)

While people are not likely to be treated that way here today, Jaboda sometimes still gets prejudiced comments from other people.

She struggles not to judge them and hopes our society will continue to become less prejudiced.

She’s happy that in our community, most religions work together to help people, as through the Interfaith Food Bank.

“Congregation B’Nai Harim is welcoming to people of any faith, or no faith,” she says. “(Current) Rabbi Seth Castleman is married to a Christian minister.”

Congregation B’Nai Harim Shabbat (Sabbath) services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays at Nevada County Jewish Community Center, 506 Walsh St. in Grass Valley.

Janet Ann Collins is a freelance writer in Nevada County. She can be reached at or

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User