What is Berkeley Moshav?
We are a forming “Jewish cohousing” community in Berkeley, CA.
What does cohousing look like?
Cohousing is a form of intentional neighborhood, with private homes and extensive common facilities, in which residents know their neighbors well and engage deeply in community life. Common facilities include a group dining hall and kitchen and possibly also indoor or outdoor recreation space, a lounge, a community garden, a children’s playroom, guest rooms, an art or exercise studio, a workshop, office space, and vehicles. Buildings are purposefully designed to support and promote community among residents. Individual homes are usually privately owned and have the full suite of amenities typical to private homes, including full kitchens. Residents share two to four meals together each week and a commitment to community, a respect for privacy, and the reward of daily connection, planned and impromptu gatherings, and being a part of each other’s lives. Cohousing was developed about 50 years ago in Denmark, and more than 1% of the Danish population currently lives in cohousing. There are 165 cohousing communities across the U.S.
What would Jewish cohousing look like?
Jewish cohousing is a modern village where neighbors engage one another through Jewish ritual, study, and culture, creating a milieu in which daily life is infused with Jewish life and where Jewish literacy, tradition, and values can therefore flourish. Residents will do many Jewish things together: celebrate Shabbat and holidays, study Jewish text and topics, learn Hebrew, take on tikkun olam (social action) projects, say kaddish, etc. A Jewish cohousing community can be thought of as a year-round, all ages Jewish summer camp integrated with daily life and responsibilities. Jewish life will be part of our cohousing "community glue", and living together in cohousing will nurture our Jewish life.
Who will live in Berkeley Moshav?
Anyone who wants to live a close-knit, intentional Jewish community. Our vision is to be an inclusive community of 20-25 households that are diverse in age, income, family composition, and Jewish observance. We are open to people of every religious, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation.
Do I have to be Jewish to live in Berkeley Moshav?
Nope. While we have a distinct focus on Jewish tradition and values, we are open to everyone irrespective of religious affiliation. Much like cohousing attracts people who want to engage their immediate neighbors in regular, meaningful community, we imagine Berkeley Moshav will attract people who want much of this neighborly engagement to occur via Jewish tradition, values, and culture. But residents need not be Jewish or participate in Jewish-related activities, and while many of our communal activities will involve Jewish life, we will engage communally in other ways too. We also intend to participate fully in the life of the surrounding civic community, being good neighbors, hosting neighborhood events, sponsoring service projects, and offering support and community to people of all faiths and backgrounds.
Where will Berkeley Moshav be located?
We are currently working to secure a site. Our main criterion is to be within walking distance of two Berkeley synagogues, Netivot Shalom and Beth Israel.
When will this happen?
It will take at least three years to acquire a site, design the building(s), obtain planning approvals, and construct or renovate the buildings. In the meantime, we will be building our group, becoming a community even before we move in!
How much will it cost?
It’s hard to produce accurate cost estimates until we have a site and approved plans, but we expect prices to be similar to newly constructed Berkeley condominium units of similar size. Our very rough “guesstimates” at this point are $500K for 650 sq ft (1 bed/1 bath), $650K for 850 sq ft (2/1), $800K for 1,100 sq ft (2+/2), and $950K for 1,350 sq ft (3/3). Again, these are rough estimates that could certainly change (in either direction), but for now they represent our best guess at what things will cost.
Yikes, that’s expensive. How can I afford it?
Our price estimates are sobering, but that’s what it costs to create housing in Berkeley, and home ownership will be financed like other home purchases, with down payments and mortgages. Some thoughts on affordability: (i) Because of the ample communal space, cohousers often live in smaller, hence less expensive, homes than they otherwise would; (ii) City law requires 20% of our units to meet criteria for affordable housing, so some units will be less expensive; (iii) We hope to have some rental units, which would be more affordable because they wouldn’t require a down payment; (iv) We might include some “suites,” which would be more affordable because residents, while having private space, would share a kitchen and possibly a bathroom; (v) While investors will need a return on their investment, we are not seeking to make a profit from developing Berkeley Moshav, but only to cover costs, and the more we fund the project ourselves, the less costly it is likely to be; and (vi) Most importantly, while we might not be able to make Berkeley Moshav less expensive than comparable dwellings, we expect to have much more communal space and the kind of close, nurturing, meaningful community that is hard to find anyplace else!
What will the buildings look like?
We’ll likely be in one or two buildings, probably newly constructed but possibly renovated from existing structures. From the outside they will resemble condominium buildings, but on the inside they will be designed to foster community. There will be a dining hall where we can all eat together, a kitchen where we can cook for these meals, and other spaces to play and relax together, including (hopefully) outdoor space. The “flow” will direct people through communal and social space before entering private space, to create more moments for connection. In this space, we’ll eat and play together, engage in Jewish life together, support one another, and help each other with day-to-day life (grocery shopping, errands, meals, child and pet care, etc).
How will you accommodate differences in Jewish observance?
We’ve put a great deal of thought into this, since we intend to create a community of households that are diverse in Jewish observance. Within each household, Jewish practice is entirely at the discretion of that household. In communal spaces, we strive to accommodate everyone and realize this will require compromise. Practically speaking, our communal kitchen will be kept traditionally kosher. Our dining hall, however, can be used for meals that are not traditionally kosher, as long as they are vegetarian and use separate dishes. On Shabbat (and Jewish holidays), central communal spaces will generally be set aside for engaging with tradition, learning, family, and friends; for eating, singing, joy, ritual, and connection. We will be flexible about the use of more ancillary communal spaces, such as a laundry room, studio, library, or garden. Because music is important in some modes of Shabbat practice and not permitted in others, we will seek a balance between Shabbats when we will have (non-amplified) music and those when we will not. Our guiding principle is to create a “Shabbat vibe” that is respectful and inclusive of members’ needs and supports the communal experience of Shabbat.
How can I get involved?
Join our email list so you can learn about upcoming informational and social events. Take our survey. Follow us on Facebook. And don't hesitate to email us with questions, to set up a time to meet, or to let us know that you’re interested in taking the next step along the road to membership!