DEERPARK — Rabbi Shaul Elkeslasi and his wife are not ashamed to proclaim their faith.
In fact, Elkeslasi says, it is a requirement of Chabad, a proselytizing branch of their Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish sect.
On Monday, the couple placed a sign outside their new home on Shin Hollow Road, declaring their residence a Chabad house — a place where the rabbi will reach out to Jews and non-Jews.
A bearded man with fiery eyes and a purple crown is pictured on the sign. This is Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was the seventh and last spiritual leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Schneerson died in 1994. Many in the Chabad movement believe he is the Messiah. In a visit to Brooklyn, Elkeslasi met Schneerson in the neighborhood of Crown Heights. That changed the direction of his life.
As part of the requirements of the faith, Elkeslasi has established a synagogue and Talmud school for his six boys (he has three daughters who will learn separately) in his home. In addition, he is building a ritual bath, or mikvah, next to the house.
This is not normal for this neighborhood of single-family homes.
Nevertheless, Elkeslasi and his wife, who, for modesty reasons does not want her first name to appear in the newspaper, are not different from their neighbors in their motivations for moving to the country from Brooklyn.
"This is how people were meant to live," Elkeslasi says of his new surroundings. His wife agrees and says it's lovely to be surrounded by nature.
The Lubavitchers are a Hasidic sect with strict observance, like the Satmars who inhabit the Village of Kiryas Joel, but unlike the Satmars they want to engage with the world, Elkeslasi says. The Chabad, says Mrs. Elkeslasi, are like Jewish missionaries.
The property is not under tax-exempt status at this time. Elkeslasi plans to ask for tax exemption, however.
Elkeslasi still works as a rabbi in New York City. The couple has been married for 17 years and met when Elkeslasi was a captain in the Israeli army.
The mikvah he is building at the side of his house is the only Lubavitcher mikvah between Deerpark and Brooklyn and is only for married women.
There are ritual baths for men, too, Elkeslasi says. Unlike the bath for women, they are not heated. He and his boys use a pond on their property, he said. Elkeslasi illustrates the water temperature with a shiver. "It's cold," he adds.