Shared Values - A Vision of Jewish Cohousing
From: Gabriel36 (
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2001 12:55:01 -0700 (MST)
In a message dated 11/28/01 11:01:35 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] 

<< Actually, I would love to see the definition of Jewish that a group would
use. I grew up in the Midwest in small towns where I was not aware of Jewish
culture and just figuring out who considers themselves to be Jewish and who
doesn't is still a complex task for me. And this is after 30 years of living
on the East Coast, marrying a Jewish man, spending Christmas with Jewish
friends, and belonging to a Unitarian Church. >>

I am one of the dozen or so people involved in this conversation/vision of 
Jewish cohousing. What follows is in no way official, rather some of my 
personal, nascient ideas.

Jewish people in Eastern Europe before WWII lived in cohousing. Well, not 
exactly, but the schtetles (Jewish villages) satisfied much of what we are 
aiming for in co-housing. I would love to live in a community where every 
Friday afternoon I could smell the challah baking in the commonhouse, have no 
lawn mowers buzzing on the Sabbath (Saturday) while we hang out and support 
each other to get a real day of rest and then join for Havdalah (beautiful 
short ritual at the end of the Sabbath) on Saturday night. 

I imagine at (kosher vegetarian/dairy/fish - no meat) common meals we would 
begin and end the meals with blessings of gratitude, might discuss the Torah 
portion of the week and after the meal maybe stay for singing z'mirot 
(songs). On the holiday of Sukkot, I can imagine that together we would build 
a Sukkah (harvest moon celebration hut) in the center of the community where 
we would eat together throughtout the 8 days of that holiday. On Hanukah, we 
would come together to light candles. On Tu B'Shavat (birthday of the trees) 
we would plant together and for Passover, we might decorate the common house 
with a desert motif :-D

My personal orientation is Jewish Renewal, which professes an honoring of the 
wisdom of all traditions. In that spirit, I would support/attend morning 
prayers a couple times a week that incorporate (as is my practice) the 
traditional liturgy with Yoga and chanting. Also in that spirit, I do not 
judge my neighbors' personal practice and expect the same.

My personal practice has never much included going to synagogue (although I 
am married to a rabbi!). It has always been more about connecting with the 
cycles of the moon (the Hebrew calendar is lunar) and centered on home 
rituals. In this way, Jewish cohousing really makes sense.

Essentially, anyone who was drawn to live in a cohousing community with these 
practices, rituals and rules would be welcome, whether or not they identified 
themselves as Jewish. My son attends preschool at the Jewish Community Center 
where plenty of his schoolmates are not Jewish and still particiapte fully in 
a learning and celebration of the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays. It is not a 
problem. The only way I could imagine this might be a problem is if a 
*majority* of people are not practicing Judaism, and it is hard to believe 
that this is how such a community would develop.

At one point I had an idea to create a village of cohousing communities, each 
strengthing its own traditional heritage and sharing resources on a grander 
scale with each other. We invite your neighborhood to eat in our Sukkah and 
you invite us to your Cinco de Mayo celebration....

This time of year, especially, Jewish people who do not celebrate Christmas, 
can feel invisible and disconnected from the mainstream. My goal for living 
in Jewish Cohousing would not be to exclude and separate, rather to 
strengthen and preserve and continue to renew some of our beautiful (dying? 
hard to maintain?) cultural/historical/religious traditions. 

As the days grow shorter, I wish you all Blessings of light
Cindy Gabriel
Jewish Cohousing Wanna-be
Boulder, Colorado
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