LAKEWOOD RANCH — Since August, every Friday night, seven or so Jewish couples and a few singles from East County gather at a home for Shabbat, enjoying vegetable- and dairy-based dinners and prayer.
These everybody-chips-in get-togethers have connected a disparate conservative Jewish population here.
Now, the couples hope to turn their friendship into a formal community, called Kehillah of Lakewood Ranch.
The Kehillah — a term used in Conservative Judaism to describe a group of people who come together with a shared purpose — is hosting a meeting 10 a.m. April 27 at Windsor of Lakewood Ranch, 8220 Natures Way, Lakewood Ranch, to gauge public interest in starting a formal community.
The Kehillah, initially, would be more of a group for socializing and prayer than a traditional congregation.
“There is no real conservative Jewish presence in Lakewood Ranch,” said Anne Schimberg, who is helping start the group. “We want to see what other like-minded people will take the challenge with us.”
Although its ambitions may grow in the future, Schimberg envisions Kehillah of Lakewood Ranch as an alternative to synagogues, which can require more commitment and expense to join.
Kehillah meetings would happen one Friday and two Saturdays a month, at a yet to be determined location.
Eventually, the group would hire a rabbi and cantor trained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
“That would be a very big dream,” said Ellen Honig, another woman involved with the Kehillah of Lakewood Ranch. “But it’s achievable.”
Schimberg, the president of the Florida region of the Women’s League of Conservative Judaism and a baker of kosher sweets, hopes the Kehillah of Lakewood Ranch will be a mitzvah — the Hebrew term for an act of human kindness — to the community.
“I like to help,” Schimberg said. “And, there’s a need for this. Let’s see what can happen.”
For more information on Kehillah, email [email protected].
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].