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What Nevada’s growing Jewish community loves about living Jewishly in the desert

14 3 8
09.05.2021

HENDERSON, Nevada (JTA) — Gershon and Leslie Wolf relocated from Brooklyn to Las Vegas in August 2006, then returned to the East Coast in 2010 to join their son and daughter and their families. But four years later, when the kids decided they’d had enough of the high prices, snowstorms and weeklong power outages, the whole clan moved back to Nevada.

Only this time the Wolfs opted for neighboring Henderson, mainly because they wanted to be near the Yeshiva Day School of Las Vegas, “so the kids wouldn’t have to commute to school,” Leslie Wolf said. “We’ve never looked back. We all love the life here.”

If Las Vegas is known as a place to have fun, its next-door neighbor Henderson — Nevada’s second-largest city — has become a prime destination for Jewish families. Some 40 percent of the approximately 70,000 Jews who live in the Las Vegas Valley reside in Henderson, according to the most recent demographic survey by Jewish Nevada, the representative organization for the Jewish federation. A steady trickle of newly arriving families every summer has propelled what was a sleepy suburb to an emerging hub of Orthodox Jewish life in the desert.

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In the shadow of Sin City sits a haven for Jews who, with few exceptions, all made the move from somewhere else.

Henderson has peeled off Jews from New York and California, who are drawn to the low housing costs, abundance of parks and trails, and lack of snow. But it’s the well-developed infrastructure of observant Jewish life that’s the real draw: the thriving synagogues, supermarkets with kosher sections, summer camps, kosher restaurants, religious schools, a kosher butcher, ritual baths and a Jewish cemetery. A religious boundary known as an eruv is bursting at its seams, and an expansion effort is underway.

“We love it,” gushes Simon Lader, a corporate headhunter who relocated from England seven years ago. “Coming from Manchester we love the weather, the landscape, the dry heat and blue skies. We also love how warm and close the community is. It has grown exponentially since we first arrived. However, it has retained the ‘village’ culture where everyone still looks out for each other.”

The city does not yet have everything that some community members want — but even when people move on, the village culture persists. The community was rocked this year when Bashi Rand, a 37-year-old former resident who had just moved with her family to New Jersey, in part to seek a larger Orthodox high school for her daughter, died of COVID-19 complications.........

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