Members of Berkeley Moshav include, from left, Hilary, Noah, Casey, Claire and children. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

With loneliness plaguing society and affecting people’s health, some people have been looking to communal living. Berkeley Moshav is a project that began in 2020 with the goal of bringing Jewish communal living to Berkeley. So far, 15 families have signed on to live at the 36 planned condos at the Moshav. The members range in age from under 1 to 82. Each family has a long list of reasons for why the Moshav is so appealing to them. 

For Casey and Susan, the idyllic Poet’s Corner — bounded by University Avenue, Sacramento Street, Dwight Way and San Pablo Avenue— is what initially sparked their interest. Young families in this highly walkable community enjoy access to quaint shops, artsy coffee shops, and diverse eateries.

“We just really love this section of Berkeley,” said Susan. “It’s walkable. It’s got good public parks and a pool and a library. It’s close to public transportation. Strawberry Creek Park is right there. It has a little cafe and a creek and a play structure. It’s our son’s favorite. Having all these available resources will be a good fit for the kind of lifestyle and upbringing we want for our son.”

Casey, Susan and their son, at center, join other Berkeley Moshav families for a picnic at Strawberry Creek Park. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

But, it isn’t just the location alone that enticed them to learn more about the Moshav. Casey and Susan have struggled with the loneliness of raising their son without nearby family. They are excited to be part of a multigenerational community.

“We know there’s going to be a lot of grandparents there who want to spend time with children. For our son to be able to have these deeper relationships with other families, whether they’re families with children or older people who don’t have children at home, feels  really supportive to us. Like an extended support and care network. Young families and retirees are a good combo. The retirees want to interact with kids,  they’re so eager to be involved. So that’s all really, really exciting.”

Noah and Hilary share this enthusiasm for communal living. The couple saw the benefits of cohousing firsthand during their time in the Peace Corps and have been searching for the ideal community to raise their family in. They weren’t certain if the Moshav would be a good fit until they met the community. 

“When we started as explorers with Berkeley Moshav, the community that had already formed was extremely welcoming and supportive of us,” said Noah. “They had been building community and meeting and having potlucks in addition to the planning meetings for some time now and they brought us into that so we could get to know the other members. We didn’t necessarily come in ready to join, but we felt it out and the community won us over.” 

Hilary (center), Noah and their son visit with Keren at her current home. Credit: Roger Studley

Keren was one of the original members of the Berkeley Moshav community. She dreams of moving into her new home and sharing art and Jewish celebrations with her community members. 

“There are a lot of artistic people who will be part of the Moshav. We are planning things like Shabbat songs and folk songs,” said Keren. “I’m just really looking forward to having art on the table because when you see somebody else doing art, it kind of inspires you to do the same.  I’m particularly looking forward to those kinds of things that just happen and people join in that are unplanned and unscheduled. Those unplanned things will just come naturally when we share a living environment.”

Claire, a retired astronomer, cites the opportunities for casual connection as a key reason she and her husband are excited to be part of the Moshav.

“The architecture of the place is designed so that you’ll bump into people,” said Claire.  “You don’t necessarily have to interact with them. You could just say, ‘Good morning.’ If you meet somebody and want to catch up, there are a lot of little places to sit together or cafe tables, or you name it, benches, things like that. But you have so many opportunities just to sit down and chat for a while.”

Claire has been working with several of the other community members to ensure that the cohousing project reflects this emphasis on community in as many ways as possible. The 50-foot-tall, four-story building will have 36 condo units. There will be multiple children’s play areas, a lounge and multi-purpose rooms for community gatherings.

Roger Studley shares the building plans with a potential member of Berkeley Moshav. Credit: Chris Cassell

Roger Studley, the project’s founder, hopes that the Moshav will fill a gap in modern society — one he called the “intermediate cradle of community” — that exists between our immediate families and our wider society. He envisions the Moshav as a place that welcomes children, elders, neighbors, and families both to interact serendipitously and join in planned activities together. While Jewish tradition and culture will be a component of community life, the community welcomes members of any religious or cultural background, family composition, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Construction on the Moshav is expected to begin next year, with condos running between $800,000 to $1.5 million for one- to three-bedroom homes. Studley encourages interested individuals to attend an information session and see if the Moshav is a good fit for them.

An architect’s rendering shows the Berkeley Moshav cohousing, to be built on San Pablo Avenue at Channing Way. Courtesy of Berkeley Moshav

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