Community building

Community building

First, there was the JCC. Now, there’s the CCJ.
That’s the abbreviation for the newly formed and unofficially named Cranberry Community Jews.
Co-founders Jack Cohen and Michael Berman were childhood friends, having met through B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. Both raised their families in Cranberry Township, Butler County, but they thought they were the only Jewish residents in the neighborhood.
Nevertheless, they decided to see if there were any more Jewish people in the area. Through local media, they advertised a meeting of Jewish Cranberry residents.
Inspired by the initial interest, they held a second meeting Feb. 10 at the Cranberry Township Community Center. Members of northern suburban congregations — Temple Ohav Shalom, B’nai Abraham (Butler) and Beth Samuel Jewish Center (Ambridge), as well as those who were unaffiliated, attended.
Cohen, who is the executive director of Butler County Tourism, said that the goal is simply to bring Jews in Cranberry together.
“It’s about building a community and a neighborhood presence,” he said.
One Cranberry resident said she has lived in the township for more than 20 years and never met another Jewish person there. Another Cranberry woman said, “I just want to make some Jewish friends close to home.”
Various committees were formed at the first meeting. At the second, attendees followed up with committee reports, which included a conversation about forming a book club and a singles group. There was also talk about some social events, including a pre-Purim brunch and a Passover seder.
They also discussed the idea of ensuring the presence of a menora in the community center next holiday season to be placed alongside the Christmas tree display.
Edward Frim director of the Agency for Jewish Learning, who attended the last meeting, said the AJL can provide educational programs to CCJ on whatever topics they’d like, such as interfaith families or Hebrew.
While some Cranberry Jews questioned whether their needs can be met by existing congregations, the majority appeared to believe that there is room for the CCJ.
“We are all here to pull from each other,” said Berman, owner of Berman Financial Services and a Cranberry Public Library trustee. “We don’t need a shul to build a spirited community. We want to build a Jewish spirit here in Cranberry and put a call out to like-minded individuals.”

Want to go?
The next meeting of the Cranberry Community Jews is March 22. Contact Jack Cohen at for more information.

(Hilary Daninhirsch can be reached at

read more: