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For Jews of the Grand Canyon and rural Arizona, religious life requires dedication

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Jewish News of Greater Phoenix via JTA — Stan Coffield and his wife were pretty open-minded when deciding where they would retire.

“I wanted someplace that was lower cost of living [than New York] — warm, dry, near a body of water that I could water-ski on, and had some manner of Jewish presence,” Coffield said.

In 2010, they moved into their house in Lake Havasu City, about 200 miles northwest of Phoenix. Even though the synagogue is small, Coffield hasn’t looked back since.

“When my wife and I first moved out here, you would turn a street corner and really be tempted to just pull over to the side of the road and stare; it looks like a picture postcard,” he said. “And you go three blocks, and it’s another picture postcard.”

Coffield and his wife are two of Lake Havasu’s nearly 60,000 residents, according to the US Census Bureau, and part of the roughly 30 members of the area’s only synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom.

“Given that we’re the only congregation and synagogue within all of Mohave County, we have the full gamut [of members],” he said. “We’ve got people in Havasu, God bless them, who manage to be Orthodox and keep kosher, all the way out to the fringes of Reform.”

Jewish life takes a different shape in rural areas than it does in the city — and often requires great dedication. In some places, that means the congregants have to learn how to lead services since they can only afford to bring a rabbi in periodically. For some, that means driving hours from a remote area to attend a tiny synagogue in another small town. And in nearly every community, a rural Jewish life is one in which your synagogue is like a family for better or for worse, and like any family, you only get one.

Coffield has been president of the congregation for about six years and does........

© The Times of Israel

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