Since the 1840’s Jews have lived and played an active role in the founding, establishment, growth, and success of “California’s Gold Rush” towns. One only needs to travel along Highway 49 to visit California’s Northern Sierra Gold Mining communities to learn of the Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries that exist within. Often this was the first land purchased by Jewish settlers offering evidence of their intent to stay and become active in the growth of these new neighborhoods. The familiar names on the graves give testament to the invaluable commitment of the talents, skills, and commitment that the earliest Jewish pioneers and residents played in ensuring the long-term success of these early boom towns.

The local and nationally recorded history of Nevada County indicates that Jewish residents played no less a vital role during these formative and continuing years with vivid accounts of their active involvement and leadership roles in civic affairs, publishing, real estate, law, medicine, agriculture, entertainment banking, retail sales, politics, social justice, and more.

As the methods for the mining of gold began encountering greater public scrutiny with the safety of miners, land use, and a myriad of operational, financial, and political problems … it wasn’t long before Gold Mining began a period of rapid decline. With the railroad and other forms of improvements in travel many thousands of people from these gold mining communities, now bereft of work began moving to bigger towns cities throughout California and back across the country. As a result, the many support structures and businesses that had grown exponentially to serve a diversity of needs for the vast population created by the growth of the massive mining industry also quickly faltered. It wouldn’t be until the late 1960’s and 70’s that towns like ours would begin to experience a revitalization as people began moving from cities to smaller towns throughout California and across the country.

The “back to the land” movement was taking hold. Not surprisingly young Jewish families would become an integral part of this renaissance. Nevada County would see Jews returning to the very towns they had been instrumental in founding and establishing over a century ago. establishing themselves once again in the many areas of living and working as described above.

In 1978, with no formally organized Jewish presence in the Nevada County .. a few young Jewish families reached out to others through an AD in the Union (the local newspaper which Jews had been instrumental in founding and serving as a Publisher over a century before) seeking others who might like to share the Jewish holidays of Passover, Chanukah, etc. There was a positive response, and a small group of Jewish families and friends began gathering in each other’s homes to observe and celebrate different Jewish events during the year. As the years moved on the number of participants at “Jewish” gatherings with a desire to further observe and celebrate the cultural, spiritual, religious, and social traditions of a shared heritage.

By 1983, the few founding families had grown to many more interested in Jewish identity with a desire to learn and do more. Thus the transition from the casual to the formally becoming incorporated in 1984 as the Nevada County Jewish Community Center. a nonprofit community organization. The Center (without a home) continued to grow in numbers of all age Jewish individuals and families desiring greater ways to experience “Jewish Being”

As knowledgeable and skilled Volunteers found their way to us … they brought greater enthusiasm and formal experience in teaching Judaic subjects … and leading spiritual/ worship services … and so we continued to grow. Now sharing space and contracting with other organizations, churches, etc. to accommodate larger activities and special events.

By the early 1990’s the now “Center” was offering educational programs for children youth and adults; Lay leaders / lay cantors led Friday Night Shabbat, High HolyDay Services, Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s , sponsoring other Annual events and more. And although the Non Profit umbrella had been established there remained a need for a more clearly defined organizational structure more help and the need for a “Place of Our Own to Call Home” was becoming more urgent. A new Board of Directors took on the responsibility, the challenge to create new by laws, a formal membership structure and made a serious commitment to seeking a permanent place to call Home. New Volunteers came forward and together with Commitment from the many who had remained together from the earliest date of 1978 came together to work and move forward.

By 1993, with a committed 120 “Members” ( individuals and families) and Four Families who served as our Guarantors we entered into an agreement to purchase a “Home of our Own” at 506 Walsh Street, Grass Valley… the former home of the Abundant Life Fellowship A few Jewish families in 1978 had started and maintained the light of a Jewish community … 15 years later in 1993 120 families and a dream was realized with our “Shul on the Hill “ a place for learning, study, social engagement, spiritual practice, and worship.

We held our first High Holyday Services in our Own Home in September 1993 and we was dedicated in May 1994 with the participation of all Nevada County, City of Nevada City and City of Grass Valley Civic Officials, Media and Business Leaders , Members of the Clergy and Nevada County Ministerial Committee, the Sacramento Jewish Federation, and many more.

We were blessed to begin our journey with Michal Kohane… an experienced teacher of Judaic studies for adults and children as well as a Torah scholar with Hebrew her first language. She became our first “Lay” Rabbi and Leader of Educational and Hebrew Programs. Her ability to bring the best of what it was…how … it is to be uniquely Jewish continues, treasured within our Purpose for being today. Together with many other knowledgeable and skilled volunteers we continue to grow our abilities and offerings. In 2003 the community voted to join the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). In 2004 the Center introduced and dedicated Congregation B’nai Harim, children of the mountains” under the Umbrella of the Nevada County Jewish Community Center.

Since those early years, we have been blessed by the experiences, mentorships, and leadership of many Rabbis, Volunteers and Others who have embraced the traditional, unique and diverse ways that our community honors our Jewish heritage and brings about the best of what being Jewish is or what being around Jewish means for others.

With Rabbi David Azen …who has been with us these past six years and Emeritus Rabbi Alan Greenbaum and our many members, volunteers and friends We remain a broadly defined Community who each uniquely defines what it means to be Jewish…We remain committed to honoring and sharing the histories of our peoples …

Welcoming … honoring, respecting, and learning about the diversity of our many cultural backgrounds, religious and spiritual beliefs, and practices… Growing by remaining focused , dedicated , following, and actively practicing the ways of Tikkun Olam … helping one another to heal and repair the World long into the future.

Please Join us as we Offer deepest Gratitude : All who have made Us possible…. Yesterday ….Today and Tomorrow…