As supermarkets and coffee shops struggle to keep up, the march of eastward development is moving at full speed. New neighborhoods and even new highway exits have popped up in Issaquah in just the past couple years. The town of Snoqualmie is growing by leaps and bounds and plenty of Jewish families are filling those homes. So where?s the outreach?
One answer is Chabad. As can be easily judged from the large list of individuals and families that Chabad of the Central Cascades has built and programmed for over the past two years, there is certainly a demand for something Jewish, whether it be religious or cultural. But Chabad is one voice. There should be a chorus of many that are available to Jewish residents who live as far east as North Bend ? without having to drive eight, 10 or even 20 miles for Shabbat services or religious education (though some currently do). As many of the Seward Park neighborhood?s Jewish residents can attest, they live there because it is walking distance to the three synagogues that serve the area.
Granted, Seward Park serves a largely Orthodox community, but why shouldn?t observant families who are new to town or want to live in new homes with easy access to Microsoft and other Eastside workplaces be precluded from getting it, just because they can?t walk to shul on Shabbat? If churches in these outer rings of the exurbs can pop up to serve the population, can?t synagogues or small havurot explore expanding to those areas as well?
There are currently no publicly announced plans for any kind of Jewish cultural center beyond Bellevue. Federation has not been attempting to connect with Seattle?s farthest reaches. As the Stroum Jewish Community Center gears up for a capital campaign, perhaps it could consider taking the lead: rather than update its 40-year-old Mercer Island facility, the campaign could be structured so the JCC invests more in Seattle?s Northend, where it has long been looking for space to expand services, and also develop another center in the Issaquah Highlands, where space is cheaper and a new hub for culture, prayer and education can be established.
Spiritually, while we certainly wouldn?t advocate for families to leave one congregation for another, if some people are willing to drive 20 miles for Shabbat services, how many are not? Bellevue has four synagogues, and Mercer Island two, but they don?t bring in everyone. Woodinville saw a need and filled it. West Seattle has done the same. So who will stand up for Fall City?
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