Being Jewish means different things to different people. To some, it’s a pastrami sandwich shared at a New York deli. To others, it’s sitting in synagogue listening to the cantor’s sweeping lyrics. Jews can carve out spaces for living Jewishly in ways that fit for them. While this form of DIY Judaism can be freeing, it can also create a disconnect for many Jews who don’t feel they have the resources or know how to find their Jewish community.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle connects Jews searching for community with programming that fits their lifestyles. One such program is PAVE Seattle, which connects Jews in their 30s and 40s. “It used to be understood that people in this age demographic gravitated to synagogues,” says PAVE associate Clara Cantor. “Now, there’s a significant need for Jewish life in more secular spaces that wasn’t being filled. PAVE provides a space for people to be Jewish in whatever way they’d like to be.”
The need was documented by the Federation’s 2014 Greater Seattle Jewish Community Study. The study showed that 42 percent of the local Jewish population identifies as secular or “just Jewish,” choosing to identify as culturally — as opposed to religiously — Jewish. PAVE offers an array of programming that includes events like wine and beer tastings, theater days, and Mariners games, as well as meet-up groups including a book club, knitting circle, and single parents group. PAVE also partners with other Jewish organizations and programs, such as the Stroum Jewish Community Center’s “Cupcakes and Cocoa Havdalah.”
“We were looking for a community that catered to us,” says attorney Anna Astrakhan, 34, who recently moved here with her husband. “Because we are no longer students, but don’t have kids yet, neither student-oriented nor family-oriented activities fit us well. Finding ourselves in a bit of a social ‘no-man’s land,’ we felt that PAVE filled that gap for us. Through PAVE, we’ve been able to meet many new people that we are now connected to.” Since its launch in June 2015, PAVE’s mailing list has grown to nearly 600. PAVE now schedules eight to nine events every month, half of which are with partner organizations. An average of 40 people attends PAVE’s larger events, and around 16 people go to the smaller gatherings. “It says quite a bit about the vacancy that was there that so many people have been attracted to us so quickly,” Cantor says. When forming events, Cantor creates a mixture — from large and small to cultural, educational, and holiday-based events — to provide something for everyone.
“PAVE is a good way to connect with people in Seattle, creating a community,” Astrakhan said. “In the months we’ve been here, I feel like most people I’ve met as friends have been through PAVE or through events I learned about from fellow PAVE members. There is nothing else like it out there. It’s filling a real need.”
1. Rosh Chodesh Women’s Circle
February 10, 6–7:30 p.m., Douglass-Truth Library
2. Game Night
February 20, 6:30 p.m., private Bellevue home
3. Jewish Advocacy Lobby Day at the Capitol
February 24, 7 a.m.–5 p.m., Olympia
4. Taste of Israel: Hummus
February 25, 6:30 p.m., 6532 Phinney Ave.
5. PAVE Film Screening Strangers No More
March 15, details to come