Aspen Jewish Congregation reaches downvalley |

Aspen Jewish Congregation reaches downvalley

Shabbat services at the Orchard in Carbondale.
Staff Photo | Provided

The Aspen Jewish Congregation is expanding its reach with several midvalley Shabbat services this winter.

Formed in 1973, the congregation conducts traditional Friday night services in Aspen and runs a Hebrew school in Aspen and Basalt.

Last year, the organization conducted two Shabbat services outside of Aspen. This year, it’s up to four. A successful event at the Orchard in Carbondale drew around 80 attendees last month. The service comes to Basalt at 6 p.m. today (Nov. 13) at St Peter’s of the Valley. It will return to Carbondale on Jan. 22 before wrapping up the season in Basalt on March 11. A menorah lighting is also planned in Basalt on Dec 6.

“We’re here to serve the entire valley,” congregation director Jason Schnissel said. “There’s just a great energy and momentum down here. It’s great to be part of this community.”

The move is part of a general expansion in recent years. After making the switch from lay-led to clergy, the organization now boasts 150 paying member households, with anywhere from a couple dozen people attending on an offseason Friday to several hundred on holidays.

While it can be hard to get the critical mass necessary for services, Schnissel thinks the number of newcomers in the Roaring Fork Valley only increases the need for such an organization.

“I feel like you move here because you’re looking for the greater outdoors, but after a while you can miss your family and your sense of community,” he said.

A congregation provides an intergenerational family of sorts.

“Judaism isn’t a religion practiced in isolation,” Schnissel said.

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