Because of the lack of places for Moorpark's Jewish community to meet on a regular basis, a Los Angeles rabbi and his wife have decided to start a Chabad in the city.
Rabbi Shimon and Devorah Heidingsfeld held the first gathering of the Chabad last week, and about 50 residents gathered for a Purim celebration at the Arroyo Vista Community Center in Moorpark. The event featured an interactive reading of the Megillah, the biblical book of Esther, as well as a costume party and food.
A Chabad is an educational and social service organization, with more than 200 centers in California and 3,500 synagogues, schools and centers worldwide. Its mission is to create vibrancy in small Jewish communities and assist them in celebrating Jewish heritage and traditions.
The Heidingsfelds said they plan to move to Moorpark, where they hope more Chabad events will take place in the next few months. They are already planning a Passover Seder in April in Moorpark, but a location is being finalized.
Rabbi Shimon, who also goes by the name Rabbi Shimy, is originally from Australia and served as an assistant rabbi at Chabad of Westlake Village.
Although he and his wife are Orthodox, he said, the Chabad of Moorpark will be open to all Jews, regardless of background and affiliation. He said growing up in the warm and giving environment of Chabad outreach in Australia profoundly affected his life goals and his vision for the future. He wants to bring that same atmosphere to Moorpark.
"Many of the Jewish people here currently attend temples and services in surrounding cities, but nothing here. And many Jewish people here don't know about other Jewish people in the community, so we want to bring them together to promote Jewish pride, study and celebration," he said.
Heidingsfeld received his rabbinic ordination from the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva in New York in 2004.
Devorah Heidingsfeld, who studied and received her diploma of Jewish Studies from Beth Chana Seminary, worked in the Ventura County area leading and organizing youth programs, Hebrew School and Jewish awareness.
Shimon Heidingsfeld said many people have already thanked him for his efforts.
"I've been already asked Where were you 20 years ago? My kids are all grown now,'" he said with a laugh.
Moorpark resident Ben Fishman, who went to last week's event with his 10-year-old son, Ethan, said he is pleased something is being done for Moorpark's Jewish community.
Moorpark resident Ken Starr, who came to the celebration with his wife, Linda, and their daughters Danielle, 15, and Alyssa, 12, said his family will be going to future events hosted by the Moorpark Chabad.
"It's nice to meet the other Jewish people in the community. They were very welcoming," said Danielle Starr.
For more information about Moorpark Chabad, visit http://www.JewishMoorpark.com.