Beliefnet
Homeshuling

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I love our town. No longer spending more than half of my waking hours at work, I’ve had time to rediscover one of the reasons I fell in love with her to begin with – almost anything we need or care to do is an easy walk or bike ride from our house. 

Here’s where our family’s feet have taken us since the beginning of summer vacation:
the supermarket and the co-op, as well as the fabulous Tuesday Market, to buy our essentials (groceries) and inessentials (shaved ice treats flavored with maple syrup and fresh organic strawberries). 
the library lawn, for a free outdoor concert put on by the Sweetback Sisters.
our synagogue and Jewish day school campus.
the YMCA, for swim lessons for the kids, and workouts for mom and dad.
the spray park, a pot luck dinner and paddleboat rides at the wonderful town park.
An outdoor cafe, for late night desserts to celebrate summer solstice.
Perhaps both the best and most mediocre ice cream parlors anywhere in the world.
An under-ten-minute ride in the car has taken us here to go hiking
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and here to go swimming.
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And here to buy two bags full of local produce for ten dollars.
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I’m not aware of any ancient Jewish texts that address the merits of going local, but there are laws and structures in traditional Judaism that make it an implicit value. The prohibition of travel on the Sabbath by any means other than foot means that families who want to celebrate together need to live in walking distance of the synagogue and one another. The dietary restrictions of kashrut, and the reliance on a kosher butcher, make living in close proximity to one purveyor a convenience, if not a necessity. The construction of an eruv, a string that literally ties together an entire neighborhood or section of town to allow carrying on the Sabbath, ratchets up the incentive for observant Jewish families to stay local. An argument can be made (and thanks to my first commenter for reminding me of this) that localism as a means towards sustainability is a Jewish value dating all the way back to Creation.
In a perfect world, our family’s community would have all the wonderful things I listed above, and an eruv, a kosher market, and loads of sabbath-observant families to sing, dine and celebrate with. By choosing the former, rather than the latter, we’ve made some aspects of Jewish practice more challenging, and some, nearly impossible. But I wouldn’t trade our town for anywhere in the world.
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