Kibbutz-Like Plans Take Shape in Rural America

Can Jews Go Back to the Land En Masse?

Let’s Get Together: Tova Kinderlehrer and her husband, Micah, are hoping to draw 10 Jewish families to their farm in rural Pennsylvania.
Let’s Get Together: Tova Kinderlehrer and her husband, Micah, are hoping to draw 10 Jewish families to their farm in rural Pennsylvania.

By Talia Lavin

Published November 19, 2013.
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(JTA) — For most of the seven years Tova Kinderlehrer lived with her young family in Pittsburgh, she wished she were somewhere else.

Her son wasn’t doing well in school, her husband’s construction career had stalled and Kinderlehrer, though part of a “massive” urban community, felt isolated. She dreamed of escape.

In 2011, Kinderlehrer and her husband, Micah, bought a 38-acre property in Conneautville, Pa., they named Farm Schmarm. Along with their three children, they care for 16 hens, five turkeys and four roosters. Eventually they hope to use the land to raise kosher meat.

But the price of life in the country has been the loss of an observant Jewish community. So the Kinderlehrers are hoping to create their own, building the infrastructure they hope will eventually support an intentional community of at least 10 Jewish families.

“Right now it’s impossible to be a frum Jew outside the city,” Kinderlehrer told JTA. “We never wanted to settle there, but felt like we had no other option.”

Intentional communities are residential collectives designed to incorporate a high level of social interconnectedness, often organized around a particular cause or spiritual orientation. Examples include Israeli kibbutzim, communes, eco-villages and co-housing arrangements, in which residents typically agree to live together and share certain tasks like child care or food preparation.

A number of Jewish versions have sprung up across the country in recent years — including AVODAH, an anti-poverty nonprofit whose participants live in communal apartments in four cities, and the Adamah fellowship in Connecticut, where fellows learn sustainable agriculture and share housing at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.

But those communities generally are temporary and aimed at younger people. For families and individuals looking to live in such a community long term, the options are few and far between.


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