Being Jewish can be rather lonely—seeing as how they represent, according to most statistics, less than one-half of a percent of the world’s population.
But for Moorestown Jews, the world just got a little bit smaller.
Even though Moorestown is surrounded by towns with synagogues and Jewish community centers, the town itself lacks any sort of designated gathering place/group for Jewish people, and as a result, Moorestown’s Jewish population has never been able to establish a true sense of community.
“Very often, when Jewish people live in an area where there’s not a large Jewish population, they want to have some way of connecting, and we don’t have that in Moorestown,” said longtime resident Ann-Linn Glaser.
Spurred on by this yearning for community—and in part by a meeting held last year by the Anti-Defamation League in response to a series of incidents that generated controversy among the town’s Jewish population—a group of Moorestown Jews came together earlier this year to establish the Moorestown Jewish Association.
The group debuted, so to speak, on Sunday with a Hanukkah Party at the Community House. There’s no good estimate of the size of Moorestown’s Jewish population—Glaser, a member of the group’s steering committee, figured it’s something like 1 percent or lower; fellow committee member Dimitri Schneiberg pegged it at maybe 1,000—but between 150 to 200 people turned out for the party.
That’s an impressive number for a group that only recently began formally organizing, said Glaser. “Because of this yearning for connection, people have just taken ownership of this group.”
Schneiberg said the enthusiasm for the group’s formation at the party was palpable, with many of the town’s older Jewish residents commenting that they’d "never seen anything like it before (in Moorestown)."
Glaser said there was a “magical feeling” at the party and she was particularly impressed by the multi-generational representation at the gathering.
“That gives me great hope for the future of the Jewish community,” she said.
Yet while parties and social gatherings are nice, Schneiberg and Glaser said the other half of the group’s mission involves community outreach, or what Jews refer to as “tikkun olam,” a Hebrew phrase meaning “repairing the world.”
“We’re very interested in sharing our customs with the rest of the community,” said Glaser. “I think knowing more about each other’s customs and beliefs is always a positive thing … It breaks down walls.”
While no formal plans have been made, Schneiberg said there have been discussions about holding events around Jewish holidays—“not just events for the Jewish community in Moorestown, but Jewish events for the Moorestown community”—and bringing in guest speakers.
He said the group is building its contacts “organically,” but they expect the organization to grow with time.
For more information about the Moorestown Jewish Association, visit their website or email email@example.com.