When Rabbi Nesanel Cadle knew he was moving to Israel and starting a new synagogue, he emailed some Bucks County contacts to try and raise money.
Rabbi Aaron Gaber of the Conservative Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown was on that list. Gaber and Cadle, the leader of the Orthodox community Knesset Hasefer in Yardley, are fellow religious leaders and friendly with one another.
But when Gaber read the email, he decided to give a gift more valuable than money: He gave Cadle and his new community the Torah for their synagogue.
The Newtown rabbi presented the gift to his Yardley colleague during a ceremony at CBOI on June 16. Cadle will make aliyah in August with families from across the United States, including New York, Milwaukee and Los Angeles, among other places. About 150 families are “working toward coming” between this summer and next, according to Cadle.
“To have a Sefer Torah is one of the essential things that a community needs,” Cadle said, referring to the term for a handwritten Torah. “To have that as a gift is just very valuable and appreciated.”
Cadle comes across as an Orthodox man. He leads a traditional community and is now making aliyah at 41 after living his whole life in the United States.
But his Orthodox roots were planted relatively recently. Cadle’s grandparents were secular Jews, but his parents wanted something deeper and, in their process of seeking it, they met each other.
So by the time the future rabbi was born, his parents were traditional Jews. They even sent him to an Orthodox school starting at age 2. Cadle never rebelled against his upbringing, but he did feel a strong desire to explore religion on his own.
In school, he came to realize that the argument for Orthodox Judaism made sense, he said. Cadle did not believe in a big bang because, as he put it, if there was a big bang, what happened before that? He grew to think that there had to have been a creator.
“It was important to me that, intellectually, I’m able to embrace Orthodoxy, not just because my parents embraced it,” Cadle said.
Once he did, though, he fully embraced it. Cadle studied at three different yeshivas, in Chicago, Cleveland and Israel, respectively, to become an Orthodox rabbi. Then he built his adult life around the faith and his work in it.
After serving at a synagogue in Buffalo for several years, he needed to move out of the area because it did not offer an Orthodox high school for his daughters. In 2016, Cadle landed the job at Knesset Hasefer, a congregation of about 60 families.
If the rabbi’s family lived in Yardley, his daughters could travel almost an hour to Lakewood, New Jersey, which has a big Orthodox community, for high school each day. The family settled into a nice life, but a couple of years into it, the rabbi started to grow restless.
In the fall of 2018, the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue complex in Pittsburgh, which killed 11 people, opened Cadle’s eyes to a scary reality. With incidents of antisemitism on the rise, he no longer felt comfortable in the U.S.
Maybe at long last, he thought and kept thinking as the years went by after Tree of Life, it was time to make good on one of his fundamental beliefs: that he needed to go to Israel and await the arrival of the mashiach, or the messiah. According to the rabbi, an extraordinary period in history will bring about the coming of the mashiach. This period, he explained, began with the Holocaust, continued with the founding of the state of Israel, continued still with the fall of the Soviet Union, continued further with the recent pandemic and also includes physical attacks against Jews.
This was a Jewish concept before Christians applied it to Jesus, according to Cadle.
“All Jews are to live in Israel. We believe there is to be the building of the third temple,” he said. “Mashiach will be in Israel. We believe it’s our holy land.”
In the late 2010s and early 2020s, Rabbi Cadle was not the only Orthodox person who felt that way. The rabbi’s colleagues, friends and acquaintances began to discuss it with him, too. His congregants in Yardley, though they did not share the feeling, understood that their rabbi was going through it, according to Cadle.
Finally, he asked himself the question: “Why am I not living in Israel?” So, he started an initiative to join up with other like-minded Jews to buy property in Afula, a city in the homeland’s northern region. Cadle and his new community chose the north because it’s less crowded and more affordable, he said.
By the end of the summer, the group will own enough land for 300 housing units, including duplexes, apartments and single-family homes. Most families making aliyah will own their homes, according to the rabbi. The community also will rent space for its synagogue, at least for now.
The rabbi is going with his wife Mimi Cadle and their five children: daughters Esther, 19, Huvi, 17, and Tzipi, 7, as well as their two sons Covi, 14, and Bini, 10. For the other congregants, Cadle said there was a vetting process that included an interview with his “intake secretary,” calls to references and a Zoom interview with him. Their goal was to make sure that the families were “mentally, emotionally and financially stable,” he said. They did not exclude families who have children with disabilities.
“A brand new community cannot afford to absorb everyone…if you’re not making it in the United States, it’s going to be very hard to make it in Israel,” Cadle said. “The person who’s struggling here, it’s not like by moving there they won’t struggle.”
By the time the summer of 2022 approached, the rabbi only needed two more things: a little more money and a Torah. That was where Gaber came in.
CBOI’s lay leaders will be quick to tell you that, once Gaber came to them with the idea, they unanimously approved it. The Newtown temple had extra Torahs, according to its co-president Roz Zucker. And it was hard to think of a better use for one than as the seed of a new community.
“We wanted to donate to somebody who needed the scrolls,” Zucker said. “They were in the right place at the right time.”
Brothers of Israel did not sell the Torah to Cadle. But CBOI’s board of trustees did require certain conditions.
Cadle and his community will need to keep the Torah Kosher with a maintenance program and never sell it. They also need to inform CBOI on an annual basis that they are in compliance with the loan program. They would have to return the Torah if they were to close for any reason.
“It’s sort of like a loan, a loan forever, as long as they want it,” Zucker said. JE