Jewish life in a not-so-Jewish place
Born 1979, Detroit, Mich. Arrived in Washington, 2002
In a large urban area like Seattle, people know they’ll often run into someone they know. Such is not the case in smaller cities like Spokane.
“This is the least Jewish place I’ve lived, but I’m more involved in the Jewish community here,” says Neal Schindler. “It’s great!”
Neal is director of the smallest Jewish Family Service in the country. Including himself, he leads a staff of two—and he’s part-time! Most of the people he works with are elderly, so he arranges home visits and ensures proper care and connection to the Jewish community.
“It’s definitely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” he says.
Neal arrived in Spokane in 2011 to attend Eastern Washington University for his master’s degree in counseling. He had spent nearly a decade working as a journalist in Seattle, and coming to such a tiny Jewish community certainly changed his outlook on Jewish life. He’s involved through his work of course, which includes organizing monthly Jewish senior lunches and organizing the Spokane Jewish Film Festival, and also represents the Jewish community in public forums.
“I’m the only secular, non-synagogue affiliated, non-religious Jewish agency in Spokane,” he says. “So I basically end up on diversity panels.”
He also keeps up his writing with his “Ask a Jew” column on the Spokane Faith and Values website, which he shares with Rabbi Tamar Malino of Temple Beth Shalom. Neal calls the site and the community that surrounds it “a unique thing and I’m just really glad we have it here in Spokane.”