Saturday, September 15, 2007

THE FAITH LEADER: Rabbi Shmuli Novack

Title, church, city: Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Southside and the Universities.

Education: West Coast Talmudical Seminary, Los Angeles; Rabbinical College of America, Morristown, N.J.

Tell us about your family.

I am one of nine and my wife is one of 11, thank G-d. [Editor's note: Orthodox and many other Jews refrain from writing out or speaking the name of God because doing so outside of prayer and worship is considered sacrilegious.]

My wife was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Israel (a great combo). She is gorgeous. I have two adorable boys, thank G-d, Zammy and Menny, 3 and 2. People think they are twins, but they are 13 months apart. With the help of G-d we will have many more healthy, beautiful children. My wife is an amazing cook, which is nice because I love to eat (only kosher food of course).

What is Chabad?

A Jewish organization with more than 150 centers in Florida alone and four in the greater Jacksonville area. Chabad rabbis or emissaries are dedicated to enhancing Jewish education and increasing Jewish pride to ensure a brighter, more vibrant, Jewish tomorrow. An era of true redemption.

What is unique about your congregation?

I don't have a congregation, I have friends who join us for Shabbat, for holidays, to sing, to eat, to pray or just to talk. I am always making new friends.

What is most rewarding about your ministry?

Sitting down for a hearty Shabbat dinner with dozens of friends and community members.

What is most frustrating about your ministry?

Never being able to take off for the holidays or weekends.

What book are you reading or recommending lately?

I am reading Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan and The Vanishing American Jew by Alan Dershowitz. I always highly recommend Rabbi Shneur Zalman's Lessons In Tanya. Every time I read it, I am both challenged and elevated.

Have you ever doubted your faith?

I have evolved in my devotion. Being born into an observant family, I woke up in my late teens asking myself if this is me or is it peer pressure or just trying to make my parents happy.

How were those doubts resolved?

Inside out. Thank G-d my soul is in a good place.

What is your favorite saying, motto or verse of Scripture?

"Nothing is more complete than a broken heart." Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn.

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