Happening in the Hills
Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention
Rabbi James Greene

Gathering for High Holidays

As we get closer to the end of September, many of us are looking forward to the High Holidays as we celebrate Jewish life in northwestern Connecticut with the GWCJL.

The Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life (GWCJL) will be hosting High Holiday Services for 2019, led by their dynamic spiritual leader, Rabbi James Greene. Rosh Hashana will be the evening of September 29 and the morning of September 30, after which a light luncheon will be served. Kol Nidre will be the evening of October 8, and Yom Kippur the morning and evening of October 9.

The GWCJL is a unique and diverse group of full time and weekend residents of the Litchfield County area who gather at members’ homes and local venues for stimulating spiritual, creative, intellectual, and social events. It is welcoming to all interested persons including interfaith families, Jews-By-Choice, and people of all sexual preferences.

The Coalition was started in 1995 by two residents of Washington. They wanted to create a Jewish group in Western Connecticut to celebrate holidays together. A simple ad in local newspapers invited those interested to attend High Holidays together at their homes. At first, a small group responded and met for the holiday observances. A grant from the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies provided initial seed money. Soon, word spread and the number of members grew over the next several years to more than 100 families.

A service for The Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life

Rabbi Greene’s career has been focused on community activism as opposed to the more traditional route of a pulpit sermonizing kind of rabbi. He was trained in the Reconstructionist branch of modern Judaism and has worked in Community Centers as well as synagogues in Wyoming, California, Oregon and now in Springfield, MA. He is an extremely engaging and friendly man. His strength is in creating inclusive programs that bring in people for Jewish events and learning, which makes him perfect for the Washington group. For example, earlier in August he presented a program in Southbury on modern anti-semitism and appropriate responses.

A program led by Rabbi James Greene in Southbury

Rabbi Greene is married, has two children, and is an avid hiker. His family lives on a small farm in eastern Connecticut. Rabbi Greene is also very musical, having studied music in college and has a wonderful singing voice, which also drew him to the Jewish Coalition, as the group loves to have music as an integral part of the services.

The Jewish Coalition does not have a temple — they are not a typical congregation. While they are not the only Jewish community in the area, the group is definitely unique. This special nature of the Coalition is what draws people in. Their unique structure includes meeting in homes for Shabbat (Friday evening services with dinner), lots of social and recreational programs, and their highly involved lay leadership. People who may be looking for an alternative expression of Jewish life or who have felt like they are outside the Jewish community are welcomed by the group. Many of the members are weekenders who spend time in the area and yearn for Jewish connections away from their city life while they are here. Others are full-timers who wish for a Jewish experience outside of a traditional synagogue. Some are simply looking for social opportunities, others may seek more spiritual satisfaction. The group meets people at their point of availability within the Coalition and invites them to participate.

In addition to monthly Friday evening services and dinner the Coalition has regular educational sessions with the rabbi, an ongoing speaker series, holiday celebrations and social and entertainment engagements. The group celebrates services with its own prayer book and on the high holidays uses its own Torah housed in an arc designed and made by members.

With Rabbi Greene’s dynamic personality as a leader, the upcoming services promise to create new connections and experiences. If you are interested in joining this diverse and vibrant group for the High Holidays or for future services and programs, contact them at the contact info below.

For more information and reservations, please call the Coalition office at: 860.868.2434 or admin@jewishlifect.org

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