When Shmuel Shalom Cohen moved to eugene in 2010, he easily located synagogues to pray in, but found it wasn’t quite as simple for him to track down adult classes on Judaism, social gatherings for all nature of Jewish people or even kosher bread for Shabbat. after months of searching, he discovered where to buy kosher food, havdallah candles and even a class or two. “i also realized,” says Shmuel, “that if i was having difficulties, then other Jews who move here, or are considering to move here, will have the same problem.”
this realization, along with the discovery that there were few places to meet other Jews outside of synagogue, led Shmuel to inaugurate (and later to become executive director of) Jewish Events Willamette-Valley (JEW). JEW’s mission is to build Jewish community, pride and learning, which it does by putting on events and operating a website (JewisheventsWillamette-valley.org) that lists everything Jewish in the valley – from shuls to Jewish organizations on campus, from where to buy Judaica and kosher food to where the next Jewish gathering will be. Other links show where you can research your family’s genealogy and how to volunteer for groups that visit the sick.
To fill the Jewish social gap, JEW also puts on events: the recently begun Eugene Jewish Film Festival, wine tastings and events around the Jewish holidays. this Sukkot, JEW has organized its third Sukkah Crawl. From Shmuel’s viewpoint, “If you say high holy days, everybody thinks about long boring days standing and sitting in shul, with fasting and tshuvah. It’s a lot of work. What they miss is the celebration after doing the work. This is Sukkot.”
The Sukkah Crawl, similar to one in Portland, is modeled on other local Eugene events like the Whitaker Garden Tour. Each day/ evening a different home or Jewish organization holds an open house doing whatever they feel is appropriate to the spirit of the holiday.
“We’ve had movies, bonfires, BBQs, ‘Soup in the Sukkah’ and an evening with an Israeli consulate,” Shmuel says proudly. “Along with individuals, the shuls and the UO Hillel have joined the crawl. It’s a great way for Jews to check them out in a strictly social, stress-free situation.”
The Sukkah Crawl begins on Sept. 18 at sunset, meeting at 2531 Chula Vista Ave., Eugene 97403. Check website or call 541-514-2571 for more information.