Living the Jewish Life in Sharon, MA
Tree-lined and rustic, the Town of Sharon is a beautiful suburban community located 22 miles midway between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. A true picture postcard New England hometown, Sharon has one post office, one library, and one true Main Street. Just a short drive to Boston, the economic and cultural center of New England, the Town of Sharon is also home to a thriving Orthodox Jewish community, with three active Orthodox synagogues and two Jewish day schools, offering an affordable solution to those moving to the Boston area.
In 2013, Money magazine ranked Sharon, Ma as the best place to live in the United States.
Most New England towns are steeped in American history, and Sharon is no exception. First settled by the British in 1637 and then incorporated in 1765, the town was officially named Sharon in 1783. During the American Revolution, the townsfolk of Sharon made cannonballs for the Continental Army. In front of the Sharon Public Library stands a statue of Deborah Sampson, Sharon’s local heroine and patriot, who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the Revolutionary War.
Today, Sharon has a population of approximately 18,000, where 32% are children under 19, 56% are adults between 25-64 years, and 10% are seniors over 65.
A welcome sign in Post Office Square says “A nice place to live because it’s naturally beautiful”, and Sharon certainly lives up to it, offering its residents many family fun recreational activities. Parks, ponds, and woods are found throughout; and, Sharon’s treasure, the 400-acre Lake Massapoag, offers fun, beauty, and peacefulness. Lake Massapoag offers Sharon’s residents concerts, fireworks, fishing, boating, sailing, camps, and swimming.
The Town of Sharon is also home to the Massachusetts Audobon Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the oldest sanctuaries with 2,500 acres of diverse habitats including forest, grasslands, and bogs. Explore nature through walking trails, as well as amphibian, butterfly, and bird-watching observatories. Sharon also has 60% of Borderland State Park, with 1,570 acres of woodlands, fields, ponds, and unique geological formations. Borderland offers walking trails, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, ice skating, sledding, and picnicking.
Excellent Central Location
Given that Sharon is located midway between Boston and Providence, job opportunities are plentiful in both cities. Commuter trains to Boston and Providence are available from Sharon. Boston is the economic and cultural hub of New England with many institutions of higher education, some of the world’s finest teaching hospitals, and numerous cultural and professional organizations. Boston-based jobs are primarily in the finance, health care, educational, and service sectors.
Providence has become one of the fastest growing cities in New England. Employment growth sectors for 2007 are leisure and hospitality, health care, and social services. Additional professions include professional and business services, educational services, information technology, high tech, and electrical industries.
The history of Boston’s Orthodox Jewry goes back generations. Although most people are familiar with such towns as Newton and Brookline, the Sharon community has steadily become equally well-known and especially attractive to newcomers, due to its affordability and beautiful, rural location. Of course, members of the Sharon community do not lack in other necessities related to Orthodox life. There is a mikvah and an eruv, as well as a number of choices for kosher food and Torah education.
Kosher in Sharon
Kosher products, including fresh meat, chicken, and bakery items, can be found at local supermarkets and at the Butcherie II, a kosher market in the adjoining town of Canton. Wards Berry Farm, famous for its fall hayrides and pumpkin patch, sells native corn, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, in their seasons, and other vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs. There are three local kosher caterers and a kosher Bed & Breakfast; and, in the center of town, residents will find a Starbucks and a Kosher chocolatier.
There is a kosher bagel place in the adjoining town of Canton, and a Cholov Yisrael pizza shop in nearby Stoughton. The Striar Jewish Community Center offers a dairy café. All three are under the KVH (Va’ad Harabanim Massachusetts). In addition, there are many kosher restaurants, bakeries, and butchers to be found in Brookline and Newton, a 30-40 minute drive from Sharon.
Torah Education in Sharon
There are numerous choices for Sharon’s families when it comes to Torah education. The Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon (SHAH) offers a Preschool (toddler & kindergarten) and an Elementary school (up through Grade 6). The Chabad of Sharon offers Preschool through Grade 6. Shaloh House, in nearby Stoughton, offers Preschool (15 months through kindergarten). The Maimonides School in Brookline offers kindergarten through 12th grade. There are busses that take students to Jewish day schools and high schools in the Boston and Providence areas.
There is also Gateways Access to Jewish Education. Gateways is comprised of the Jewish Special Education Collaborative (JSEC) and Etgar L’Noar. JSEC’S mission is to enable Jewish children with special educational needs to attend and succeed in a Jewish day school environment. Etgar L’Noar provides a Jewish education for children with disabilities who cannot be served by the Jewish day schools.
Sharon residents live mostly in single-family houses ranging from relatively modest ranches to luxury properties. You’ll find that many homes in Sharon are situated on large lots averaging around 1 acre. You can also find home rentals within the Eruv. Sharon’s estimated median home price is $454,202 with an average Property Tax of $4,389 (2006 stats). BusinessWeek online listed Sharon, MA as one of the Top 20 Best Affordable Suburbs in the Northeast. In 2013, Money magazine ranked Sharon in the #1 spot for the best town to live in America.
Currently, there are three active Orthodox synagogues in the Town of Sharon: Young Israel of Sharon, Congregation Etz Chaim, and Chabad of Sharon.
Young Israel of Sharon:
Young Israel of Sharon opened its doors in 1972 with just barely a minyan. Today, they are experiencing 10% annual growth and have approximately 200 member families. Led by Rabbi Dr. Meir Sendor, a recognized scholar in the field of Jewish History, the Young Israel considers itself to be a true small-town shul, offering a warm, friendly, and relaxed atmosphere. Members come from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a broad array of religious styles and approaches, all unified by a commitment to authentic Torah life and spirit. Young Israel exemplifies the ideals of Modern Orthodoxy; serious Torah study and practice, with an embrace of diversity; and a participatory openness to the best of contemporary culture and community.
The Young Israel has a number of daily minyanim and several Shabbat minyanim: Hashkama, Main, Tefillat Nashim, Youth, and Teen, as well as a monthly women’s prayer group. The Sharon Mikvah is a few blocks from the shul, in the former Young Israel building, and is run by the women of Chevrat Nashim.
The Young Israel of Sharon offers a variety of adult, youth, and family educational and programming activities. The adult education programs cater to the diverse backgrounds of their congregation. The Young Israel also has a youth director to help facilitate the spiritual growth of their children.
The Young Israel of Sharon attributes its growth to a number of factors: their family-oriented community; safe neighborhoods to raise kids; affordable housing; modern diversity and openness; and their young and vibrant members. As Aaron & Sharon Weinberg, one of the original founders of the Young Israel and the Orthodox community of Sharon, succinctly put it, “The town of Sharon has so much beauty and spirituality to offer. Most important of all, we have wonderful people in Sharon. It is a wonderful place to raise a family!”
Congregation Etz Chaim:
Congregation Etz Chaim, led by Rabbi Nisson Dov Miller, is a member of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America with approximately 70 member families. Etz Chaim offers services three times a day. Davening is done at a moderate pace. The hallmark of the congregation is the close-knit community where members are often invited to each other’s homes for Shabbos meals. In cases of simchas and need, meals are prepared by shul members and delivered to the person’s home. Rabbi Miller and his family are actively involved in all phases of the shul and community. Members actively participate and lead davening and torah reading on a regular basis.
Congregation Etz Chaim is strongly connected to the Sharon Community Kollel. The Kollel offers classes at Etz Chaim on a daily basis and these classes are available to the entire community. Other educational programs at Etz Chaim include a Daf Yomi, a Rabbi’s class each Shabbos, a weekly shiur led by Rabbi Miller, classes conducted by members, and individual learning is available as well. Their Learn ‘N Earn is a Shabbos program sponsored by the Sharon Community Kollel for children in grades 1 to 8 where children are taught Torah concepts.
Chabad Center of Sharon:
Chabad of Sharon was established in 1986, and is currently led, by Rabbi Chaim and Sara Wolosow. From a humble beginning in the Rabbi’s basement, Chabad of Sharon has grown to have a day school with a brand new building, summer and winter camps, daily and shabbos minyanim, adult education classes, and a variety of other programs. At Chabad everyone is always welcome to join in one of their diverse offering of programs.
Sharon is bucolic and haimish, a small New England town with a thriving Orthodox community that offers warmth, serenity, spirituality, and Torah life. Lots of resources and close proximity to two major cities makes Sharon a top pick for those Orthodox families moving to the Boston (or Providence) area. Contact any of the shuls listed below for more information or to take advantage of their warm Shabbos hospitality.