New Albany satisfies many of the factors that are necessary to live Jewishly, including an active, tight-knit population and a variety of choices for worship and study.
“There are so many items that factor into deciding where one lives,” Rabbi Benjy Bar-Lev, senior rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in New Albany, wrote in an email to the Columbus Jewish News. “Are there good schools, is this a safe neighborhood, does this community match my values? And as Jews, for many of us, equally important questions are: is there a sizable Jewish population here, will I find a sense of Jewish community, is this a diverse and accepting neighborhood? For many of us, living here in New Albany checks a lot of those boxes.”
The supportive nature of the Jewish community in New Albany is important, Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann, executive director of the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany, told the CJN.
“I just think it’s wonderful; everyone’s so warm and friendly,” he said. “Our community, the people in New Albany, have been very, very supportive and we’re very humbled by that.”
Jenny Glick, director of enrollment management at Columbus Jewish Day School, also in New Albany, added that “New Albany is a welcoming and diverse community. Plus, there is ... a true commitment to lifelong learning, the arts, health and wellness, and the environment.”
Having Jewish schools, such as CJDS and the JCC of Greater Columbus’ preschool, helps parents raise children Jewishly, Glick said, especially as those two schools share space.
“This shared space means that from birth to fifth grade, a child’s developmental, educational and Jewish journey can be nurtured under one roof,” she said.
Both Kaltmann and Bar-Lev’s congregations take active roles in continuing to build the community, including during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, Kaltmann and his wife, Esther, hosted numerous drive-thru events at the Chabad center, allowing children and their families to continue embracing Jewish culture from the safety of their cars.
“Kids couldn’t believe that even though it’s such a painful, difficult time in the last year, they could still be proud and enjoy being Jewish in the safest way possible,” Kaltmann said. “We refuse to allow the pandemic to inhibit our kids from enjoying their rich Jewish heritage.”
His organization’s other activities include having kosher food delivered to those in need, providing special Jewish education to children with disabilities, hosting a Hebrew school and providing a mikvah.
“This is a really good place for women to have spirituality and to feel like they’re taking care of their mind, body and soul,” Esther Kaltmann said. “All (Jewish) women need a mikvah. A lot of times, they’re found specifically in Orthodox communities; it’s really important to make it accessible to all women.”
Temple Beth Shalom offers its own unique Jewish experience to community members, Bar-Lev wrote.
TBS “is a young and active congregation with a giant religious school, many different types of Shabbat experiences and an affinity group program where almost anyone can find ‘their people,’” he wrote.
There are also many other options for the Jewish community in New Albany, Bar-Lev wrote.
“There are other terrific Jewish institutions within our area as well, including another wonderful shul, (the Chabad center), CJDS – which provides kids with a meaningful, integrated Jewish education – and the JCC New Albany Preschool, which gives our youngest community members a loving Jewish foundation to start their lives,” he explained. “We are so lucky to have these top-notch institutions within New Albany and the northeast side.”
Bar-Lev, Rabbi Kaltmann and Glick called on Jews looking for a new community to consider New Albany because it provides residents the opportunity to lead a fulfilling Jewish life.
“I think (New Albany) is a destination for great architecture and great school(s); it’s also the destination for a very Jewish life,” Kaltmann said. “New Albany is a very inclusive community and we’re humbled to be a part of it.”
Bar-Lev said, “We gather together like family around the holidays, support one another in joy and in mourning, we are there for each other when we need the support of loved ones. It’s a beautiful and unique aspect of living in this community.”
And Glick said having strong Jewish educational opportunities like those at CJDS and the JCC can help develop future leaders who are committed to making a positive difference in the world.
CJDS helps “children discover their authentic selves and their value in the world,” she said. “We do it by combining intellectual, spiritual and emotional understanding with social responsibility.”
Ben Blotner is a freelance writer from Columbus.