Growing up in a conservative Jewish family in New York, Jodi Kushins never thought about what it meant to be Jewish.
She just was.
"There was no questioning," Kushins said last week.
Now a resident of Clintonville and the artist who painted the mural celebrating the neighborhood's architecture on the side of Smith's Restaurant and Deli in 2010, Kushins is part of a faith community that asks all kinds of questions.
The Little Minyan, as the community is called, began in summer 2006, so the members are entering their ninth High Holidays season, which starts Sept. 24-26 with Rosh Hashanah, said Jessica K. Shimberg, a rabbinic student who serves as the community's spiritual life coordinator.
"We as a community want to grow, but my feeling as kind of a spiritual practitioner is, I want people to have access to ways that are meaningful for them to either return to Judaism or see new things in Judaism they didn't know were part of our tradition," Shimberg said.
Many of the members of Little Minyan (a Hebrew word that translates literally as count and refers to the smallest congregation permitted to hold a public worship service) are from the Clintonville area, Kushins said.
However, they meet at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Upper Arlington and the Columbus Mennonite Church in Clintonville, as well as in private homes.
The membership has a "Northwest kind of flavor," Shimberg said.
"A lot of the people who identify as Jewish in this quadrant of the city are not affiliated with a synagogue, and in my experience, those are people who may be yearning for something spiritual but are not really looking for a formal synagogue experience," she said. "I want people to know this is an option."
"I think we want to invite people who don't feel they have a Jewish home in Columbus," Kushins said.
The Little Minyan kehilla, or community, affiliated with the Reconstructionist Jewish Movement in 2009, according to the group's website.
The group's viewpoint is sometimes called "eco-Judaism," but Shimberg said it's simply an adherence to ancient traditions. Jewish holidays are based on agrarian rituals, the spiritual leader said.
"We were a people of the land long before we were a people of the book," she said.
"I think it's a way of merging Judaism with a lot of things people ... in the secular world have come to embrace and think are important in terms of the environmental movement and eating organically," Kushins said.
As a community, the members of the Little Minyan practice "living gently on the earth," in Shimberg's words.
For more information about the community, including a calendar of events and upcoming gatherings, visit littleminyan.org.