He calls his new endeavor Chabad on the Plaza, which is where he and his family live. But Rabbi Yitzchak Itkin has found office space in the Crossroads district.
The rabbi has rented a desk in Shaul Jolles’ OfficePort KC building, 203 W. 19th St. He and his wife, Chanah, and their son, Meir, arrived in Kansas City several months ago to establish the fourth outpost of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in the greater Kansas City area. The others are the original Chabad House, the Torah Learning Center in Overland Park and Chabad at the University of Kansas.
Rabbi Mendy Wineberg, program director of Chabad KC, said he had been hoping to establish a downtown presence for the past five years. Rabbi Itkin said OfficePort KC is the perfect location.
“We knew we wanted to be in an area that was between the Plaza and downtown, accessible for everybody,” he said. “… OfficePort (is) a great collaboration of all different people coming together to find a place to work together … and there’s enough space to hold classes.”
OfficePort KC is the latest redevelopment project in the Crossroads district of real estate broker Shaul Jolles, who is a native of Israel. Jolles rents small office spaces to people on a month-to-month basis.
“It makes it more interesting and spirited, it’s a much more public atmosphere because you’re not confined to a regular desk and regular office,” Rabbi Itkin said. “It’s a come-as-you-go and work-as-you-go kind of thing.”
Self-sustaining Rabbi and Mrs. Itkin get no subsidy from the central Chabad-Lubavitch movement, so they must sustain themselves by raising donations. But Rabbi Itkin isn’t worried. He believes it is only a matter of time before Chabad on the Plaza becomes a highly successful enterprise.
“I don’t think it will be as long as we anticipated until people will actually realize what we’re doing,” he said. “One of the areas where we’re looking to focus now is young people just coming out of college and now working in the mid- to downtown area. We’re looking to open up opportunities for them.”
Rabbi Itkin said he has discovered there is already an identifiable Jewish population in the Crossroads area, so he and Chanah are exploring the idea of holding classes or other events aimed specifically at them.
Then there is the Jewish Learning Institute, of which Rabbi Itkin hopes to be a part. JLI offers professionally designed classes, which are taught by Chabad rabbis all over the country. Each class is taught simultaneously at Chabad centers nationwide, so you can catch the same class in many different cities.
Rabbi Itkin said he might bring Chabad of KC’s Men’s Summer Yeshiva, which takes place Aug. 3-25 (See related story), downtown, as well. It consists of four visiting rabbinical students, supervised by Rabbi Shmuely Wineberg of Chabad House KC, who offer to meet with students to study at whatever venue is most convenient — a student’s home, office, a kosher restaurant or Chabad House Center.
It’s a bit early to discuss his still-developing plans to hold High Holy Day programs and services in the Plaza area, Rabbi Itkin said. Some people have heard about Chabad on the Plaza through its new Web site, plazachabad.com. But Rabbi Itkin said word of mouth is still the best means of communication. “That’s been our success since the first day we came here,” Rabbi Itkin said. “Someone sees something good, they tell their friends about it, and that’s how it’s been working. So we appreciate the good feedback … and that’s the way I think we’re going to survive.”
Men’s Summer Yeshiva returns to KC
The Chabad Men’s Summer Yeshiva is an annual program designed to stimulate the study of classic texts by Jewish men and boys.
The local Chabad House has participated in the program for many years. It consists of a group of visiting rabbinic students who offer classes to anyone who wants one (or more) on the Jewish topic of the participant’s choice.
Possible subjects include Kabballah and mysticism, Talmud, prophets, Jewish law and customs, Temple history, Torah commentary with Rashi, Maimonides and more. Students can study the texts in depth or use them as a jumping-off point for a discussion.
Chabad’s Summer 2009 Yeshiva runs Aug. 3-25. Participants choose the topic, time and place they wish to study. Sessions can be set up at one’s office, home or at Chabad. It’s free of charge, although donations are welcomed.