With Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, less than two weeks away, Deerfield’s newest congregation, Ahavat Olam, passed a milestone of its own earlier this month when it celebrated its first anniversary as a community.
Led by veteran cantor Nancy Landsman of Buffalo Grove as its spiritual leader, Ahavat Olam does not try to be all things to all people. It wants to offer a unique experience to those looking for what she calls “a different kind of Judaism.”
Meeting in Deerfield’s Christ United Methodist Church in Deerfield, Ahavat Olam averages between 12 and 20 people to a service on a Friday night. “We (average) a little over a minion,” Landsman said describing the minimum number of people necessary for a Jewish service (10).
“People who are joining our congregation are those who are looking for a small town kind of feel Jewish community,” Landsman said. “We want to remain a small, intimate community. We have people from all walks of life who are interested in a great congregation free from the bells and whistles.”
Meeting in another faith’s house of worship has helped Ahavat Olam become part of the greater North Shore religious community as well as find a spiritual presence in the room where its services are held.
“It’s a beautiful, warm, well lighted friendly space,” Landsman said describing the place where services are held. She is particularly fond of the sky lights bringing natural illumination into the service. People can sit on a couch rather than in traditional pews.
Community involvement came when the congregation joined the church’s fair trade gift boutique. In October, Ahavat Olam will join with other North Shore faith groups in Week of Hope. The effort drew 16 religious organizations from the area last year.
The size of the congregation also makes the educational experience for both adults and young people more unique. There is more individual attention to students.
Like much Jewish worship, services are performed with a mix of Hebrew and English. Ahavat Olam offers a third, signing. “We’re emphasizing reaching out to the deaf and hearing impaired community,” Landsman said. All services are signed.