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Is Denver Jewry on the skids?

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Green Gables Country Club, Colorado chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Hebrew High School, have all closed. What does this mean?

It is in the nature of community life that, taking the long view, organizations will come and go. After all, who remembers these once stalwarts of our Jewish community: Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society, Na’amat, the Colorado chapter of ALYN, friends of Histadrut and Congregation Zera Israel?

Even so, recent closures of longtime, major institutional foci in the Denver Jewish community — Green Gables Country Club, Colorado chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Hebrew High School, CAJE’s library — give us pause. Also closed in the last couple of years were two Judaica shops. Is our community on the skids, reflecting long-time predictions of American Jewish diminishment due to assimilation?

Especially the closure of the American Jewish Committee office worries us, since it played a significant role in many vital areas: interfaith relations, immigration reform and, perhaps most important, intra-Jewish relations within Denver Jewry. We find ourselves at a loss as to the logic of AJC’s national office, which wishes to focus more on international efforts. Whence the strength to do so without strong local chapters? The national AJC severely let down many local activists at AJC.

Still, we may observe that organizations go, but they also come. We may note the opening of JCC South, the expansion of Jewish congregational life in Greenwood Village, Highlands Ranch and Westminster, with the growth of Aish Denver and Chabad, and  the growth of outreach organizations such as The Jewish Experience and the Denver Community Kollel. We may note innovations at HEA and Emanuel, new construction at Temple Sinai, expanded Judaic course offerings at DU, two new Orthodox minyanim on the East Side — and all this is only within metro Denver.

If we look further to Boulder, Longmont, Colorado Springs and mountain communities, such as Vail, Aspen and Steamboat Springs, we see an veritable expansion of Jewish organizations and activities.

Clearly, the gains more than make up for the losses. Perhaps the changes in our community may be more accurately described less in terms of gains and losses than in terms of diversification and geographical expansion. A generation ago, Jews in Denver tended to cluster in two or three neighborhoods. There were virtually no Jews living in either downtown Denver or outlying suburbs. Now, while the major Jewish neighborhoods have expanded in both size (think Lowry and the East Side) and number (think Greenwood Village), Jews live both in the core — downtown — and in every suburb surrounding Denver. We at the IJN know this through the great geographical diversification of the zip codes to which we mail the newspaper.

Our community is not dwindling. The loss of certain entities may be painful — leaving gaps that need to be filled — but overall we see growth, vitality and renewal. The fact is, the larger Denver- Boulder area is one of the few, distinct growth areas in the Jewish community of the US. For this we can be grateful and excited. We welcome the challenges of growth.

Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 September 2013 08:11 )  

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