A scene from the annual Northwest Jewish Festival.


A Diverse Jewish Community

The greatest concentration of Jewish households in the Northwest is in Mt. Airy, home to one of the most lively and diverse Jewish communities in the world. Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Jewish Renewal and Secular Jews live in Mt. Airy, which is widely known as a center of progressive Jewish life.

The Germantown Jewish Centre, with three thriving minyanim, serves as an anchor of neighborhood Jewish activities. The P’nai Or Religious Fellowship, known for its leadership in the Jewish Renewal movement, is headquartered in Mt. Airy. Mishkan Shalom, a Reconstructionist congregation, is located in Roxborough. Many students and faculty of the nearby Reconstructionist Rabbinical College live in Mt. Airy and enrich its Jewish life, as does the Secular-Humanist Sholom Aleichem Club, which for more than 50 years has worked to preserve Jewish and Yiddish culture, and presents monthly programs of Jewish cultural, literary, and musical import and special programs for Passover and Rosh Hashonah.

Mt. Airy is the home of ALEPH, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, which offers classes, workshops and publications. The National Havurah Committee encourages local havurot and sponsors national and regional retreats and educational programs. The Shefa Fund, also based in the Northwest, raises money to provide grants and fund programs consistent with its mission of social responsibility.

Several agencies of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia offer services in the area. The Jewish Community Centers (JCC) sponsors a senior center program at the Germantown Jewish Centre. The Jewish Family and Children’s Service has nearby offices offering counseling, support groups and educational workshops, as well as supportive services for the elderly. The Jewish Information and Referral Service (JIRS) directs callers to needed services and answers almost any question related to Jewish life--past or present--in Greater Philadelphia. The Jewish Employment and Vocational Service is available for employment assistance.

Jewish cultural life in the Northwest is flourishing. Jewish books and Judaica are available in the Germantown Jewish Centre’s Little Shop and in area bookstores. “People of the Book,” a Jewish book club sponsored by the Germantown Jewish Centre, meets regularly at Borders Books in Chestnut Hill. Adult Jewish education is offered by numerous institutions.

A purim shpiel at an event for singles and couples at The Sedgwick Cultural Center.
Participants sing during an event at The Sedgwick Culutral Center.

Since the opening of The Sedgwick Cultural Center -- dedicated to “building community through the arts” -- it has played host to a number of Jewish programs, including the annual Christmas Eve Klezmas concert of Klezmer music, and events for singles and couples in their 20s and 30s.

For the younger set, there is a USY group (above).

Sharing a special moment at a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration are, from left, composer and performer Zahmu Sankofa, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder-director of The Shalom Center, Dr. Lucille Ijoy, marriage and family therapist and radio talk show host, and Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Germantown Jewish Centre.

A major annual event celebrating our diversity and our unity is the Martin Luther King Day commemoration, when the community comes together to remember and celebrate the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This event, a model of community cohesion, is held at the Germantown Jewish Centre and sponsored by Northwest Interfaith Movement (NIM). Over 40 local institutions provide financial support.

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Contact any of the organizations named for schedules of their events.

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