So you’ve moved closer to the grandkids. Now, where’s the Jewish community?

What constitutes a Jewish community? Is it the presence of a synagogue? A certain number of Jewish families? A really good kosher deli?

For some Jews who have relocated to Northern California, the answer is simple: Home is where the heart is. In other words, close to children and grandchildren.

Take Martha and “Hesh” Heller of Brentwood.

“When we came here, we didn’t know a soul,” said Martha Heller, who raised two children in New Jersey for almost 25 years. But after four years of semi-retirement in New York City, the desire to be near their kids and four grandkids prompted the move west.

“I was born and raised on the subway, if you know what I mean,” said the New York native. “So, my husband and I always thought about moving to Florida, which is really New York South.

“In New York and Florida, it’s so easy to be Jewish because you’re surrounded by Jewish life everywhere. Here, it’s much more difficult. You really have to cling hard to your Jewish identity.”

The Hellers, who live on a golf course in Contra Costa County, experienced a little bit of culture shock when they moved here five years ago.

“Our house is one of the few houses in the neighborhood that doesn’t have Christmas lights,” she said. “And when I joined the local chorus, I had to beg them to put in a Chanukah song during the holiday season.

“We missed that feeling of ‘Jewishkeit’ that we had on the East Coast. It’s an empty feeling when you’re not amongst your own kind. When you meet other Jewish people, there’s a certain feeling you get … It’s a chemistry thing.”

Although their initial foray into creating a West Coast Jewish identity was rocky, they have since formed an ad hoc community.

The Hellers met the friends they consider their “bershertalas” in unusual ways: Alan and Lynda Chasnoff shared a bag of popcorn with them at a local movie theater four years ago, and Jacqueline Rubenstein (who then introduced the Hellers to her husband, Richard) was a local interior decorator who helped them furnish their house after their big relocation.

And their circle has widened.

“We don’t suffer from relocation blues any longer, since we have been extremely fortunate to have made wonderful Jewish friendships in so many unique and different ways,” said Heller, who phoned the Contra Costa JCC in her search for a Jewish Realtor when they were looking for a home (that contact added another couple to their social register).

Tiburon resident Paul Tandler has seen Jewish communities both thriving and decimated.

Tandler fled Austria with his parents in 1939 when he was 14. The synagogue where he was bar mitzvahed was torched two months later by the Germans during Kristallnacht.

“My parents were not terribly involved with the Jewish community in Vienna,” said Tandler. “But that changed dramatically when we came to the United States.”

The family landed in New Jersey, where economic prospects were grim. After receiving some assistance from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, they were told about two destinations with much more viable income opportunities — St. Louis and San Francisco.

“My father asked the representative which was closer to New Jersey,” recalled Tandler with a laugh. “And that’s how we wound up in St. Louis.”

His father got a job in the shoe industry, his mother in the garment industry. Tandler later became immersed in the Jewish community.

“At that time, St. Louis had a thriving Jewish community,” he recalled. “It was a community largely built by Jewish merchants, and it must have had over 50,000 Jewish people.” As a youth, Tandler was involved with both the American Zionist Association and the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.

Later, he and his wife, Iris, were “very active” in local Jewish community organizations.

But in 1993, after four decades of living in a well-established Jewish community, the Tandlers, who have three sons and seven grandchildren, packed up their bags and moved to the bustling Jewish metropolis of … Tiburon.

“Well, Tiburon is not exactly a huge center of Jewish life,” conceded Tandler. “I calll it ‘Judaism Lite.’ But the most important thing is that I’m near my sons, daughters-in-law, and our grandchildren.”

For Rena and Les Leibovitch, the transition from Southern California to the Bay Area was fairly seamless.

“We’ve been in Livermore for almost a year, after living in Southern California for almost four decades,” said Les Leibovitch. “Although the Jewish life is more dispersed geographically here than in LA, it’s a little more haimish here. There seems to be less emphasis on the almighty dollar.

“Because we’re kind of distant from the ‘hub’ of Jewish life in Livermore, you tend to cling more strongly to a Jewish identity,” he added.

“The focal point of our Jewish identity is our two children and four grandchildren here. That’s the Jewish connection that’s first for us.”

Beverly Polonksy, who moved to Rossmoor 25 years ago with her husband, Harry, said the Bay Area Jewish community has been a bedrock of support for her.

The couple, who raised their two children in Ohio, moved to be closer to their daughter and two grandchildren in the Bay Area (a son lives in Alaska).

“We moved here the day our granddaughter was born, and she’s 26 now. Both my husband and I were very active in [Lafayette’s] Temple Isaiah, and for many years, Harry was on the board of the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center.

“In fact, they asked us to create a gift shop for them, because Harry came from a retail background. I met so many young Jewish people there that I’ve seen them become adults and have children of their own.”

The “best thing about living here is the support,” she said.

“When Harry passed a year ago, I turned to the community for support. What I found was that Harry was much loved. Because I kind of took a back seat to my husband — which I didn’t mind — I was shocked by the amount of affection.

“I found out that I was really loved and appreciated too, and that’s meant the world to me.”