I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Rabbi Marcia Tilchin, to learn a little bit about the Jewish Collaborative of Orange County (JCoOC). Rabbi Tilchin and husband Scott Spitzer moved to Tustin in 2002 when Marcia was hired as the cantor of Congregation B’nai Israel, a community she enjoyed serving for thirteen years.
Over the past decade, Rabbi Tilchin has become increasingly aware of distinct shifts in the way people express (or choose not to express) their Judaism, and began to study how some of her creative colleagues in the United States and Israel have made efforts to address the changing tide. With synagogue affiliation on the decline overall, Orange County appears to have a disproportionately large percentage of people who identify as Jews, yet belong to no Jewish house of worship or community center. Rabbi Tilchin hopes that Collaborative programs will attract Jews on the communal fringe, and serve as a gateway to greater connection.
Over the past year, Rabbi Tilchin was privileged to spend time in most Orange County synagogues, across all denominations. “I could not get over the amount of learning and activities happening everywhere. No single institution can meet everyone’s learning and social needs, and I’d like to see people taking advantage of all there is to offer.” To this end, JCoOC hopes to be a central address for people looking for Jewish classes, support groups, community service and artistic programs, enabling web-surfers to access the information they are seeking with one click.
True to their mission statement, JCoOC is collaborating with JFFS, area synagogues and national organizations to foster coordinated networks for underserved populations like the Jewish LGBTQ community, Jews in recovery from substance and behavior addictions, and special programs for people coping with loss, illness and other personal struggles. The Jewish spiritual tradition—overflowing with wisdom, both ancient and modern—is there for all to turn to in times of need. Some just need guidance to access it.
This pioneer organization, not even a year old, is already making an impact on Jewish and interfaith Orange County. Rabbi Tilchin’s eighteen years of experience in the pulpit have poised her to launch some unique worship opportunities for those living in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. You can join her and radio personality Jason Feddy every third Friday night of the month at Mozambique Restaurant in Laguna for Shabbat evening services and, if you’d like, stay for Shabbat dinner South African style. JCoOC also offers Shabbat morning services on the fourth Saturday of the month at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach that includes childcare and lively youth services for toddlers and grade-schoolers.
“We envision an Orange County in which every Jewish resident can embrace their Judaism in a personally meaningful way and has the opportunity to “feel the joy of Jewish” in all aspects of their life. If people are able to anchor their personal passions in a Jewish framework, hopefully the treasure chest of what Judaism has to offer as a path to a more meaningful, enriched life will begin to feel within reach.”
For more information and to join JCoOC’s mailing list, please visit jewishcollaborativeoc.org.
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.