Seattle and Belarus: the plight of two Jewish communities
The paternal ancestors of mobilerabbi were wandering Jews in Belarus. The Harkavy family originated in the Belarussian city of Novogrudok.
Virtually the entire Jewish civilian population of Belarus (800,000 Jews) was murdered during the Holocaust.
100 years ago, there were over 700 synagogues in Belarus.
After the Holocaust, there were only 3 functioning synagogues in Belarus.
100 years ago, there were thousands of Jews in Novogrudok. In Novogrudok there were several synagogues (including a Harkavy synagogue) and Jewish schools, a famous yeshiva, a Jewish medical clinic, a Jewish sports team, a weekly Jewish newspaper, a Jewish orphanage, a matzah factory, a Jewish theater, a large Jewish library and a Jewish home for the aged.
Today there are 17 Jews in Novogrudok. There is no organized Jewish life.
Mobilerabbi lives in Seattle. There are over 70,00 Jews in Seattle. During the past decade the Jewish community in Seattle has grown over 70%. 90% of the Jews in Seattle are college graduates and more than 50% have an advanced degree.
And yet, there are only 7 vibrant non-orthodox synagogues in the entire Seattle area. Approximately 90% of the Jews in Seattle are not affiliated with any synagogue. In the Seattle suburb of Redmond, the headquarters of Microsoft, where presumably hundreds of Jews work, it is difficult to find food for Passover or a challah for Shabbat or candles for Chanukah. There is no synagogue in Redmond.
There are strong pockets of Jewish renaissance in both Seattle and Belarus and yet, the future of both Jewish communities is uncertain.
Belarus and Seattle represent two distinct types of challenges for the Jewish community.
The Jewish community of Belarus is trying to survive, but it has limited resources.
The Jewish community of Seattle has plenty of resources and tremendous potential, but there is limited interest in creating a vibrant organized Jewish life in Seattle.
Mobilerabbi is committed to perpetuating Jewish life in both Seattle and Belarus.
What advice would you give mobilerabbi?