“Shabbos in Stamford,” a unique initiative created to attract families to the Jewish community in Stamford, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Miriam Sperber, director of admissions at Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy (BCHA) in Stamford and chair of the event explained that the program is hosted and sponsored by the school. Prior to BCHA’s involvement, the shabbaton was spearheaded by Michael Feldstein, an active member of the Stamford Orthodox Jewish community and CAMOS—the Committee to Advance Modern Orthodoxy in Stamford.
Families are invited to spend Shabbos with various members of the community, who are eager to open their homes to visitors. This year, 10 families participated. Guests enjoyed Friday night meals at their hosts’ homes, followed by an Oneg Shabbat held at Young Israel of Stamford. Shabbat lunch was sponsored by BCHA at Agudath Sholom. Because of the proximity of both shuls, visiting families were able to experience both Orthodox shuls in the area. Guests were invited to remain in the area until Sunday morning to attend the BCHA Open House.
Sperber explained, “One can hear about a community, drive through and see its beauty, but nothing compares to actually visiting for a Shabbat, seeing and speaking to community members.”
The program is, of course, geared to families looking to relocate. Sperber commented, “Giving families looking to relocate an opportunity to see every aspect of our community is very important. Once you visit, you are just drawn in by the people and the warmth.” The shabbatonim have been extremely successful, with over one third of attendees choosing to move to Stamford.
Mouchka and Dov Heller, who had been living in Washington Heights, New York City, participated in “Shabbos in Stamford” in November 2017, and moved to Stamford in July 2019. The family was exploring Orthodox communities in the tri-state area that were within commutable distance to New York City. A friend told them about “Shabbos in Stamford,” their email requesting a spot was answered immediately and the family accepted an invitation from “an amazing host family.” Mouchka explained the reasons they decided to move to the area: “We were drawn by the exceptional warmth and openness of the community. This is a place where you can get to Grand Central in under an hour and get an out-of-town feeling on Shabbos… It’s also a place with a relatively wide spectrum of religious practices, where there is a deep respect for everyone’s level and brand of observance. It has several excellent options for education, and it is built around the needs of children and families. We liked the idea of our children growing up in a community that emphasized kindness, generosity education and tolerance.”
Kaili and Daniel Scherban decided to spend “Shabbos in Stamford” because Kaili’s sister was living in the area and loved the community. Coming from New Haven, Connecticut, where the Scherbans continue to work, they first rented and then purchased a home, moving in to their house on December 1, 2019, and are expecting the birth of their first child very soon. Kaili explained that they joined both shuls, as many couples in the area seem to do. Their commute to New Haven is an easy one and they especially like seeing the number of younger couples and younger families moving to the area. Kaili said Stamford is a “thriving Jewish community which is nice and welcoming. We especially like the suburban lifestyle we have found in Stamford.”
By Yvette Finkelstein