Ready-made community

The impetus for Nofei Shemesh comes from Shelly Levine, a realtor who has built a reputation among Anglos for her successes in building communities in Ma'aleh Adumim, Beit Shemesh and elsewhere. "We're very excited about the project," says Levine. "The idea is to bring the services before the people move in. We will have a shul, we will bring in the rabbi, build a park, and, if possible, a basketball court - so that everything will be ready when people come." The builder, Kardan, has set aside one of the houses that have already been built as a temporary synagogue, and has committed to building a permanent synagogue as the project expands. Levine and her husband took charge of the process that handpicked Rabbi Shalom Rosner to make the move from his Woodmere, New York, synagogue to Beit Shemesh. She describes the quiet-mannered Rosner as "a powerhouse," and hopes his success in building his Woodmere community from 15 to 120 families in just six years bodes well for the future. Rosner wants Nofei Shemesh to be populated by people who "don't see a contradiction between being committed to Halacha and society. A lawyer or accountant who's committed to going to shiurim - that should go hand-in-hand." "This is going to be a community of 'learners and earners,'" says Levine. "We have people coming with Rabbi Rosner from Woodmere, Teaneck, Toronto, Staten Island. And not just Americans are interested. We have people from England, even Israelis who are moving in." Rosner, a father of six children aged four months to 12 years, named youth activities as one of his top priorities as rabbi, explaining that a community of olim must help their children become acclimated to Israeli society while remaining true to Torah values. Nofei Shemesh is planned to include some 400 housing units, though currently it only includes one row of houses overlooking a parched valley owned by a monastery. Levine says the neighborhood is being built to accommodate a diversity of buyers, with duplexes, villas and apartments of a variety of sizes. Prices on the project range from $220,000 all the way to $650,000.