Posts Tagged 'Community'

RFI: community, shul, schools and the different communities

Tamara asked for information on the Facebook group, and I decided to go all out and put together a longer answer than normal to update the blog.

Tamara: Hi we would love to visit Ariel as part of our Aliya pilot trip and out looking for more information on the various dati communities in Ariel. Grateful for any information re: community, shul, schools and how far/ separate the different communities are from each other. Thanks in advance

Ariel is a relatively new town of over 35 years, and while religious people have lived here for virtually the whole time, a major growth and increase in size, activity, and identity started happening only over ten years ago and is still underway. More younger families are moving to Ariel to take advantage of the lower cost of living and the ability to contribute to the community. If you come to live in Ariel, be aware that you will be part of creating something, there is still much to do, no matter which community you decide to move to. Most of the shuls/communities are not as established as older ones in the other Israeli cities. ‘Ariel Aliyah’ means integration and yet also a little bit of nurturing our Anglo-ness. Is there an Anglo shul? Shvut Ariel in the central Rova B neighbourhood has a larger number of Anglos but calling it the ‘anglo shul’ is somewhat misleading label. It just means that they get the most Torah Tidbits each Shabbat 🙂 IMO, there is no anglo shul. The Anglos (and religious people) are spread out around the city. There is no anglo ghetto, for better and worse, depending on each individual’s needs. Coming to Ariel means you will probably become Israeli faster and learn Hebrew faster if you get involved even partially in the community. Some shuls are more active than others. There are two neighbourhouds which will have a higher (it is relative) concentration of religious families and that is the central ‘HaArava’ and the eastern Moriah areas (perhaps a subject for a future real estate update).

(Are we assuming right that you are Ashkenazi?) There are actually six Ashkenazi shuls/communities in the city (and nine other Sepharadi shuls + the university). Ohel Efraim (west), Shvut Ariel (central) already mentioned. There is also Chabad (central), the new Almog (central-east), and on the further eastern side, Netzarim north and Netzarim south. Currently, most of the dati nurseries/kindergartens are in the central area but that is temporary and they will be spread out around the city in the coming years. The two religious schools mentioned are actually on the east and west sides so if you are thinking long term, you might want to live near the schools, IMO.

The Netzarim community on the eastern side that has not really been mentioned yet in comments is the largest and most active shul/community in the city. They have an office, they have community committees, they have community activities as well as activities open to the general public and are also very active in the university coordinating two separate streams to integrate religious and academic studies as well as social initiatives. They have a hesder yeshiva and a small kollel and are in general have the most community-oriented culture similar to a shul overseas (IMHO). They have a north and south branches and still coming to grips with many in the community moving into the new main neighbourhood. And even though they are probably the most established oranization, there is still a lot of work to do and place for someone to find their way to contribute to community building. In other communities, there is even more areas to contribute to existing initiatives and the create new ones too.

Schooling – daycare, nurseries/kindergartens, elementary day school, middle school, high school, university, hesder yeshiva, we are only missing a yeshiva gedola to top it off. How many other cities can claim all of that? Only seven others in Israel.

Daycare for 0-3 is definitely cheaper than the other central Israeli cities where it might be over 2000NIS a month, maybe not including Friday which some private and public places in Ariel might offer. There are a few mishpachtonim – which are literally family-oriented day care options and there are two ma’ons which are government-regulated and (perhaps subsidized if the family is approved).
Religous Nurseries/Kindergartens – In 2000, there were 3, than 4, 5, 6, 7 and this is still expanding. Some religious families even sent/send their children by bus to the Chabad nursery in Emmanuel because of its superior offering, and IY”H Chabad Ariel will be opening its first nursery in Ariel this fall, already overbooked by 50%.
G1-6 Elementary schools – already mentioned briefly and still a subject that brings out some emotions. You can PM Rechelle Hochhauser about the Mamad or me about the talmud torah boys and girls schools. Just to add that next year, the Neve Ariel Talmud Torah will be growing into G7 and there are plans for a middle school and more.
As for the other middle school and high school options, there are only a few anglo kids at those ages, and I am not familiar enough with them to comment with options of those grades.

And last but not least – without any hard stats to base this on – the majority of Anglos who have made aliyah to Ariel in the past ten years stay around, they buy homes shortly after, they find jobs, and they participate in the community BUT we also appreciate and tolerate that some people have a peculiar humour (or none), some are grumpy, and we all enjoy the Israeli civil right to criticize everything. I think another aspect of Ariel Aliyah is that we will also tell you the downsides and this is from the belief that more awareness makes for a stronger and more informed decision process.


Different Worlds: One Community

Ariel posterWe’ve been talking alot about the diverse and well-integrated communities in Ariel. All of that talk might seem like some superficial sort of motto, or a lack of appreciation of the challenge involved in creating such a community. All the same, time and time again I’m amazed to see just how true it is.

This past Shabbat we had four Anglo families visiting Ariel. Each came from different backgrounds, and each for different reasons.  The families hailed from New York, Montreal, Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. From Teimanim to Ahskenazim, couples without children to families with kids in a variety of age-groups, from different religious orientations and very different professions. These “externals” don’t really begin to describe how different these families were from each other. The best way of putting things is that a “community referral organization” (wouldn’t it be great if something like that existed!) would send each of the families to different – perhaps even very different – places. That is- if the organization wouldn’t know about Ariel.

My wife and I only noticed this once everyone went home. We were mulling over our Shabbat experiences, and it seemed like everyone had a great time. That’s not new to us (obviously). But, I think that it hit us that the families were easily distinguished from one another- yet each of them really felt comfortable amongst the various members of the community. Almost like Ariel is “one-size-fits-all”.

I actually don’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” community or society. Differentiation is important – everyone has something to add to life in this country- and there are many ways of going about that. On the other hand, sometimes people want to add in a unique way – in a place where they can feel comfortable to be both an integral part of the community and an individual at the same time.  They want to know that their paricipation is meaningful and that the world is a better place because they’re around. Maybe that’s why Ariel helps people tap in to their positive energy and personal motivation so naturally.

As Jews we know that each and every person is a world in and of himself. And yet, if every person is a complete world then how can we expect everyone to inhabit the same planet?!?! IMHO – Ariel is the answer. I know it sounds like an avertisement, but I’ll say it anyway – the community here is where so many different worlds enjoy living together.

The Inspiration of Simplicity

aliyah shoppingI won’t mention names. I won’t mention when. Not only to avoid disclosing the identity of the Inspiring Olah, but also because it doesn’t really matter when she came to Ariel, who she spoke to or what her age may be. All that matters is what lies at the core of her desire to make aliyah.

Upon discussing the practical considerations and challenges involved in making aliyah, the Inspiring Olah made her plans perfectly clear. She spoke not of the size of her dream-home, nor of the size of her paycheck. She did not make reference to “standard of living”, “keeping up with the Cohen’s” or “comfortable lifestyle”. What she said was far more simple, far more inspiring: “We want to live in Israel, in a situation where we can buy groceries for the children”. She went a bit further, explaining the basis for such a proposition: “I believe that all Jews belong in Israel”. Simple, and straight to the point.

Many of us tend to theorize. Many of us tend to dream. Our prospects of life in general and life in Israel in particular are often romanticized by our healthy imaginations. And yet, if we take a step back for a moment, if we challenge ourselves a bit, we should be wondering if our imaginations should be leading us down the path to aliyah. Is that the sort of thinking that will make our aliyah a success? Is that the sort of approach that will make our lives more meaningful?

More and more I’ve been meeting people, Jews, who are not looking for a high standard of material circumstance here in Israel. All they want is to make aliyah successfully, to put food on the table, to have a supportive community, and to live life in the Land and with the People that they were meant to be a part of.

There is no greater service, no greater call, than the responsibility to create such opportunities for Jews who wish to Return Home. Affordable housing, healthy community life, employment options and a positive world view are each necessary components in developing an environment conducive to aliyah absorption. These are the qualities to be sought by new olim in their search for an appropriate community. In turn, olim who seek such qualities should be sought by the communities which offer them.    

Expand the building or construct a brand new one?

When I moved to Ariel in 1999, we barely had a minyan on Shabbat, virtually the only day of the week the synagogue was used. The garin had just started to use the main sanctuary for daily studies, but there was not really a demand for much else.

Now, over the last few years, our “Shvut Ariel” synagogue community has gone through a major increase in families. There were about fifteen families/singles paying membership dues that year, this year I think we’ll pass forty. While that number is not incredibly large, that tripling in size of paying members is significant in that we’ve also witnessed a tripling in size of ‘non-paying’ visitors made up of students staying for Shabbat, non-religious people from the neighbourhood that show up less frequently (as opposed to our regular non-religious members), and guests of families.

The current building is not sufficient anymore. Friday night is standing room only, and occasionally so is Saturnday morning services. While we (members of the community) have been toying with the idea of expansion, it hadn’t been a priority in the past, and we also were skeptical of raising the funds to do anything about it. But we can’t ignore the problem any longer because the community continues to expand.

Along with the relatively overcrowded feeling comes the dream of building a large ‘American’-style synagogue/community center. It’s a concept that is foreign to Israel and even to most Israelis. A synagogue here was built for praying, other social and cultural activites had other venues (we’re all Jewish here :-). Nonetheless, the demand for ‘Jewish’ oriented culture and studies is going through an upswing, and a ‘real’ synagogue would provide the solution. Many factors seem to make this dream unreachable including the price tag, rezoning land, and the concept itself which, like I said, is foreign to most ‘Sabras’.

So we’ve decided to expand the current building and started some prelimenary planning to see what lie ahead. We figure that we could double the size of floor space and the price tag might be about the price of a new house. Certainly, we could raise the funds, and it will probably mean taking out some sort of community mortgage. But if we’re already getting ready for this challenge, shouldn’t we go for more?