August 23, 2017 – Bar Adam moved to Nevada City, Calif., two years ago from Israel with her husband and two children. When they arrived, they started looking for a Jewish outlet for their family, 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,” she says. “Because when you live out here and there’s nothing Jewish, 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 people. Nevada City—like the larger Grass Valley just five miles away, with a population of about 13,000—dates back to the Gold Rush period in the mid-1800s, and sits near forests and mountains, and not far from wine country.
First, they held a Chanukah party in December—in none other than the Adam home. After trips back and forth for holidays over the next six months, the couple moved permanently to the area at the end of July, starting Chabad of Grass Valley, about an hour northeast of Sacramento.
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 attended Chabad’s activities. People tend to live and work in the immediate area; it’s not a commuter city. 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, with love. And for even one person, it’s all worth it, it’s not about the numbers.”
As for Adam, she says “we’re glad to have them. Suddenly, people who never did anything are starting to do Jewish things. A community is being built.”
Now there’s a place locally for children to learn more about Judaism. “I want my kids to know their roots and know where they come from,” explains Adam, “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.”
‘A Life-Long Effect’
The public menorah-lighting held by the Yusevitzes back in December drew a crowd of 170. They followed up with a Purim celebration for 150 people and a Passover seder for 85, held at a local event center. Now, they are focused on High Holiday services and programs.
While in the midst of unpacking, they headed to the county fair to meet people and invite them to services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They’re also holding an open-house kosher barbecue dinner on Sunday to get to know members of the community.
“People are very friendly and seem to know each other,” says the rabbi. Chabad, he adds, will provide a way for them to connect with Judaism and each other in a hamishe space.
For now, they’re renting a house in a residential area close to downtown, with plans to start a Hebrew school right away. As Cheyena Yusevitz says: “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 and other classes, as well as women’s programming.
Cheyena Yusevitz says she is glad to be getting their home ready for guests, creating a warm and inviting space for Shabbat meals, get-togethers, and hopefully soon, a minyan.
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“I’m very excited to see the response of local residents; people keep telling us we’re going to love this place,” says the rabbi. “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, or to RSVP for the Housewarming BBQ or High Holiday Services, 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 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 September 20 through September 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 September 29 until after nightfall on September 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, G-d 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.
For more information about the High Holidays visit www.JewishGV.com/HighHolidays.