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Monday, February 09, 2009

Chabad makes Judaism accessible

By Pam Pollan CORRESPONDENT

WESTBORO — Chabad of Westboro is part of an international Jewish outreach organization.

“We try to make Judaism accessible to everyone. We have a whole different idea about Judaism than your average temple. Sometimes temples are trying to gather funds, and money has to be given. We just want Jews to feel welcome and comfortable wherever they’re at, in a nonjudgmental atmosphere,” said Dvora Green, who, with her husband, Rabbi Michoel Green, started the Westboro Chabad six years ago. The group invites people to come and share a Jewish experience and get involved, she said.

“A lot of the Jews in the last generation have had a negative experience with Judaism or not much of an experience at all, or minimal Hebrew school experience, and what we find is people are kind of looking for something spiritually, and what’s kind of funny is many Jews don’t realize it’s in their own backyard,” she said. “We believe strongly in being proud of who we are and standing up for who we are,” she said.

The word Chabad is the acronym for three Hebrew words chachmah (wisdom), binah (understanding) and da’at (knowledge), which is key to the Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy, Mrs. Green said.

Unlike other Jewish congregations, Chabad does not charge for membership, she said.

“We pride ourselves in that we have friends in the area who come from different temples. With us, we just welcome everyone. We like to enhance the Jewish experience. We are all about unifying Jews, as opposed to segregating them (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, et cetera.) We tell people we are beyond affiliation,” she said.

The Chabad of Westboro offers Hebrew school for children and an abbreviated 45-minute lesson for parents, as well as adult education classes with a focus on pointing out the meaning behind some of the many things observed in the Torah, which the group accepts as their guidebook, a gift from and written by God, Mrs. Green said.

The organization’s Jewish Women’s Circle meets bi-monthly and gives women a chance to learn and try something new. Last month, during the Jewish month of Kislev, the theme of the month was illumination, with a latke (potato pancake) bar, discussion about the significance of Hanukkah and what light means, and even a home decorator who talked about illuminating the home, Mrs. Green said. On Jan. 26, the women met again, with “flower power” as the theme. The women celebrated the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat, which celebrates the trees and fruits from Israel.

Also, through the group, Jewish teens and children with special needs meet weekly. They learn how to give, help other special needs children make friends, and give the parents of special needs children a break, Mrs. Green said. Together, the kids share a craft, play a game or just hang out, she said.

“It’s Jewish kids helping each other,” Mrs. Green said.

“We believe strongly in being proud of who we are and standing up for who we are,” she said.

Each winter, the group sponsors community holiday celebrations, including lighting menorahs at the Westboro Rotary and on Shrewsbury Common. They also host a big Hanukkah celebration at the Solomon Pond Mall.

“That makes (Jewish) kids proud of who they are,” Mrs. Green said.

Saturday worship services are held at 54 South St. Once a month, the group holds a Friday night service, called Turn Friday Night Into Shabbat.

To learn more about Westboro Chabad, visit www.chabadwestboro.org and its Hebrew school at www.chabadhebrewschool.us, or e-mail Dvora Green at dvora@chabadwestboro.org, or call her at (508) 366-0499.

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