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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Top Rabbis: An Overview

In a first-ever comprehensive study of its kind, the movement that has taken the world by storm through its rock solid management, ceaseless innovation and ever-expanding scope of operations, now has a global ranking it can call its own.



Three of them in fact:

1. Top 15 Global Rabbis
2. Top 10 Global Rising Stars
3. Top 5 Global Educators & Intellectuals



Ranking Criteria:

This one-year independent report assessed the impact of more than 3,500 Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis in close to a 1,000 cities worldwide. The selection was based on the following five equally weighted criteria:

1. Grassroots Achievements
2. Depth of Knowledge
3. Mainstream Political Influence
4. Leadership & Peer Support
5. Financial Backing

The timing of the study's release was deemed highly relevant and newsworthy as it coincides with the commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Mendel Schneerson, the 7th and final spiritual leader or "Rebbe" of Chabad.

Top 15 Global Rabbis


#1 Avrohom Shemtov, Washington D.C. / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Shemtov is chairman of the New York-based Agudas Chasidei Chabad (Association of Chabad Chassidim, also known as “Aguch”), the umbrella organization of Lubavitch. Appointed by the Rebbe as his personal emissary to the nation’s capital, he is the movement’s indisputable dominant policy setter and driving political force. Shemtov has maintained relationships with congressional figures and presidents alike, from Nixon to Reagan, Clinton to Bush. Although he still stands as head representative to both Washington and Pennsylvania (he resides in Philadelphia), Shemtov has since passed the day-to-day mantle in D.C. to his son, Levi. His chairmanship of the organization’s largest school, Beth Rivkah, and primary boys’ camp, Gan Israel, enables him to impact future generations of Chabad leaders. Our list’s #1 has further entrenched his power through long-standing relationships with prominent entrepreneurs and philanthropists including Revlon boss, Ronald O. Perleman.


#2 Moshe J. Kotlarsky, Brooklyn, New York

If you ever wondered how the Chabad movement expanded by 200% since the Rebbe’s passing in 1994 to its present colossal size of more than 4,000 emissaries serving 200,000 members spanning 75 countries in more than 900 cities, look no further than Kotlarsky. Vice chairman of the educational arm of the organization, Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch (Merkos), he has spearheaded one of the great success stories in grassroots Jewish outreach. He instructs all newly minted emissaries as to their ultimate destination, whether that be to a small campus in North Dakota or to a major city in India. A passionate and emotional communicator, he is closely backed by philanthropist George Rohr, Chabad’s largest independent donor.


#3 Chaim Yehuda Krinsky, Brooklyn, New York

Born in 1933 and educated at the elite Boston Latin School, he entered the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in Brooklyn at the age of 13. Krinsky served as chief spokesman and chauffer for the Rebbe and was the sole executor of his will. He is chairman of Merkos, the educational arm of Chabad, and a substantial host of the movement’s other branches including the social services division, Machne Israel. Krinsky was recently thrust before the global media following the November 2008 terrorist attack and murder of Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gabriel and Rivka Holtzberg in Mumbai, India.


#4 Boruch Shlomo Cunin, Los Angeles, California

With nearly 10% of the 3,500 emissaries worldwide reporting to Cunin, his operations in California, Nevada and Oregon are arguably the most self-sufficient and independent. Cunin’s annual telethon broadcast is a showcase of the personal power he wields with celebrities and business personalities of renown. At the outset of his 45 years as head emissary on the West Coast he personally coined the term “Chabad House” upon opening the country’s first in the 1960s on the campus of UCLA. Noted for his vast success in building non-sectarian drug-rehabilitation programs (his most prominent is based in Los Angeles), educational facilities, and homeless programs, he brings with him a zero tolerance management style. And for good reasons as the stakes are high: In the past 10 years his fund-raising has generated an estimated $100 – $150 million for Chabad of the West Coast. It is worth noting that Cunin's accumulation of private wealth, derived principally from real estate holdings, lends commanding credibility to his deal-making overtures in the not-for-profit arena.

#5 Sholom Duchman, Brooklyn, New York / Jerusalem, Israel

Duchman is the director of Colel Chabad the oldest institution in the organization’s history, established in Russia over 200 years ago by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi the first Chabad Rebbe. He manages a $10 million budget –privately fund-raised– which is allocated to maintaining soup kitchens and other provisions. Duchman and his minions have become the largest charitable food donors in Israel providing over 7,500 tons each year, a figure representing an unprecedented 30% of the nation’s total annual provision. His ties also run deep in the business community serving as personal rabbi to Yossel (Joe) Gutnik, the Australian natural resource magnate and brother of this list’s #15, Mordechai Gutnick. He divides his time between New York and Jerusalem.


#6 Shmuel Kaminetsky, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

When the Iron Curtain began to disintegrate in the early 1990s the energy was focused on finally getting Jews out of the former Soviet Empire. For Chabad the emphasis was on making inroads to accommodate those who would choose to remain within. Kaminetsky had no hesitation and soon became the head shliach to the Ukraine. He is a dynamic power broker among the more than 400 communities that compromise the umbrella group of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS. Playing a vital role in the establishment and management of The Bogolubov Fund– dedicated by businessman and philanthropist Gennady Bogolubov– he is flush with cash controlling the purse strings to a hefty $10-$20 million annual budget which is allocated to support fellow Chabad emissaries with their own personal family needs. An added level of support: his uncle happens to be Shalom Ber Drizin who weighs in among the wealthiest Lubavitch businessman in the world.


#7 Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky, Rechovot, Israel

Chief Rabbi of Rechovot and director of the Chabad Rabbinial Court, Gluchowsky is a dynamic figure whose star continues to rise within the intricate world of religion and politics in the Jewish State. The court is the senior decision-making body for Chabad Hassidim in Israel. Recognized for his oratory excellence, balanced judicial mind, and unswerving commitment to extend the reaches of Chabad to every corridor of Israeli society, he lectures the internationally and has been one of the most influential voices among the more than 230 emissaries based in the Holy Land.


#8 Berel Lazar, Moscow, Russia

At the political level of the game it doesn’t get much more full contact than within Chabad of Russia and the countries of the former USSR. Lazar has demonstrated a strategic brilliance and cutting edge talent at navigating the dicey waters of Russia’s complex landscape. He is the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities and chief rabbi of Russia. There are no less than 150 emissaries who report to him directly. His close relationships with Prime Minister Vladimir Putinand President Dmitry Medvedev have brought him both respect and influence (and occasional controversy). His appointment by Putin in 2005 to the 126-member Public Chamber of Russiawas sited for his “distinguished merit for the state and society.” Many were surprised by the former KGB head’s willingness to impart such prestige upon a Chabad emissary. Lazar’s long-term personal relationships with London-based tycoons Lev Leviev (diamonds) and Roman Abramovich (oil) have contributed to the expansion of new synagogues and educational facilities. And for the record Lazar’s high personal net worth enables him to further leverage his scope of power throughout the region.


#9 Shea Hecht, Brooklyn, New York

A Commissioner of Human Rights of New York City for 7 years, Hecht serves as chairman of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), an umbrella organization with over 30 active divisions and decades of pedigree. It is Chabad’s oldest outreach institution in the United States and its coveted “Release Time Program” is a must attend service for virtually all aspiring emissaries. He assumed the mantle to the family dynasty in 1990 following the passing of his father Rabbi JJ Hecht, one of the Rebbe’s closest confidants. A life strategist, marriage counselor, radio show host, and published author (Confessions of a Jewish Cult Buster), Hecht is also among Chabad’s foremost experts in conflict management and was point man during the tumultuous Crown Heights riots in 1991. Street smart and politically savvy, he has carte blanche access to councilmen and governors alike.


#10 Shalom Dovber Lipsker, Bal Harbour, Florida

Founder and spiritual leader of The Shul in Bal Harbor, Florida, Lipsker is nothing less than a tour de force of innovation and charisma. With its 1,000+ service attendance of highly affluent congregants, The Shul is on par with Manhattan's Park East Synagogue as one of the must visit stops for politicians of all stripes. In 1981 Lipsker also founded the non-profit Aleph Institute that provides broad services for Jewish men and woman in the armed forces as well as prisoners throughout the United States. He concurrently founded the Educational Academy for the Elderly, which develops programs to assist members of the elderly population to raise their self-esteem. His brother Mendel, a respected influence within Chabad globally, is the head emissary in South Africa based in Johannesburg.

#11 Moshe Herson, Morrison, New Jersey

Herson is a true heavyweight in the Chabad movement. Having amassed an army of 50 emissaries dispersed throughout every corridor of the state, as regional director of New Jersey his power base is entrenched and loyal. He is the dean of the prestigious Rabbinical College of America, which ordains students from 24 states and 18 countries. It is supported by a who’s who of financial backers including Ronald Lauder of Estée Lauder and the World Jewish Congress fame (of which he is president), and the mega wealthy Hartford, Connecticut-based David Chase, whose self-made fortune in diversified investments has fared well for Chabad. Herson’s annual menorah lighting at the State House in Trenton (27 years and running) routinely features New Jersey’s elite politicos. He also serves on the distinguished board of Agudas Chasidei Chabad (Association of Chabad Chasidim), the umbrella organization for the Lubavitch movement.

#12 Shmuel Lew, London, England

An executive board member of Lubavitch United Kingdom, he scores highly on the credibility index for his extensive learning and role as humble mentor. Lew oversees 30 Chabad Houses and is perhaps among the more profound communicators regarding Chabad Chasidic thought. His webinars and keynote speeches are well-attended and a testament to his dedication. One of the Rebbe’s primary translators, he continues to faithfully transmit the philosophy, writings and discourses of Menachem Mendel Schneerson to this day. In fact the Rebbe served as the officiator (Mesader Kiddushin) at Lew’s wedding. He maintains meaningful relationships with Chabad’s executive leadership and members of the younger generation.

#13 Tzvi Grunblatt, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Recognized by his peers for his scholarship and uncompromising principled commitment to Chabad’s vision, Greenblatt is among the few emissaries hand-picked by the Rebbe. He serves as the institution’s head in Argentina based out of the country’s capital Buenos Aires. His strong ties to the government bode well for Argentina’s 180,000 Jews who represent over 50% of South America’s total Jewish population. Social services programs and general outreach have been his crowning accomplishments. He also played a vital role in providing extensive relief to victims of the bombing of the Jewish Community Center and Israeli Embassy in 1992 and 1994 respectively.

#14 Mordechai Avtzon, Hong Kong, China

As the first emissary to Greater China - that’s Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan - Avtzon has fostered the explosive growth of Chabad throughout the Asian region over his 20 years. His headquarters in Hong Kong is located in the commercial capital of East Asia. It has been an oasis for the most affluent Jewish community per capita in the world and equally to visiting businessmen. He founded L.I.F.E. – Lubavitch in the Far East – to provide for the needs of Jewish communities in countries spanning Japan to Vietnam, Laos to Nepal. Wife Goldie, daughter of this list’s paramount influence, #1 Avrohom Shemtov, has contributed tirelessly to her husband’s accomplishments. That success has led to the establishment of more than 20 Chabad Houses in 8 countries and growing.

#15 Mordechai Gutnick, Melbourne, Australia

When research began on this project Rabbi Dovid Groner was the unanimous endearing influence within Chabad Australia. His passing in July of 2008 opened up the gates for a host of new leaders to fill the void. Gutnick is filling a segment of that gaping hole. His scope of control can be observed in three realms: (1) He directs kosher supervision for the entire continent under his “Kosher Australia” umbrella organization, the premier authority for the entire Australasia region; (2) He is acting head of the Melbourne Beth Din (Jewish Court) and is spiritual leader of the Elwood Hebrew Congregation, a position previously occupied by his late father the venerable Rabbi Chaim Gutnick; and (3) The name “Gutnick” travels far and wide: one of his 3 brothers is business mogul (gold and diamonds) and prominent philanthropist Yossel Gutnick.

Top 10 Global Rising Stars


#1 Chaim Kaplan, Tzfat, Israel

Kaplan is the head emissary to Tzfat –one of the Jewish faith's four holiest cities –and is the influential director of Yeshivas Tzeirei Hashluchim (Young Emissaries Yeshiva). The yeshiva is one of the primary training grounds for children the world over. Kaplan also made headline news in 2006 when he was injured in a Hezbollah rocket attack.

#2 Moshe Garelick, Brussels, Belgium

If ever in need of a lesson in entrepreneurship, international relations or power politics just dial Garelick’s number. He is a founder of the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) and serves as its executive director out of its Brussels headquarters. His father is Chabad’s chief representative to Milan and heads up the RCE’s Executive Committee. If no one slows Garelick down he might find himself all too soon chairing the European Union.

#3 Yitzchak Schochet, London, England

Schochet is an impassioned communicator, a staunch defender of religious freedom and is routinely sought after by the British media. His appearance on the BBC’s “The Big Questions” - a television program which focuses on issues concerning morality and ethics - have now become a matter of routine. Schochet is the rabbi of the Mill Hill Synagogue in North London and is also the son of Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet (Leading Educators & Intellectuals #2)

#4 Ari Raskin, Brooklyn, New York

Raskin founded Chabad of Brooklyn Heights and became the head of B’nai Avraham Synagogue both at the ripe age of 21. Ambitious and intelligent, he’s a prolific writer who has penned two books to date - Letters of Light and The Rabbi and the CEO – with another soon going to print. And let’s not forget that he also earned the distinction of being the first Chabad rabbi to ever appear on the cover of National Geographic in 2006.

#5 Chaim Shaul Brook, Brooklyn, New York

Brook received an invitation in 2004 to become the youngest member of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch (Merkos), the movement’s educational arm. He declined and continues to serve in his role as director of Lahak, an organization which reviews and publishes in Hebrew all of the Rebbe’s talks. He continues to receive extensive guidance from Rabbi Yoel Kahn (Leading Educators & Intellectuals #1).

#6 Chaim Nochum Cunin, Los Angeles, California

Cunin is another Chabad emissary who stands to inherit an impressive dynastic thrown, and deservedly so. He is the executive producer of the Chabad Telethon, directs public relations for West Coast Chabad Lubavitch , is board member of popular website AskMoses.com, and is an editor of Chabad’s flagship magazine, Farbrengen. These and his other achievements must make his father (Top Global Rabbis #4) sleep well at night.

#7 Levi Shemtov, Washington, D.C.

Shemtov has done an admirable job of carving out his own sizable niche considering that he is the son of Top Global Rabbi’s #1, Avrohom Shemtov. He has assumed virtually all daily responsibilities as head emissary to the nation’s capital and director of American Friends of Lubavitch. In short, he is at the epicenter of political affairs for the movement in Washington. Perhaps a future seat awaits him on the Agudas Chasidei Chabad? You can bank on it!

#8 Mendel Kaplan, Toronto, Canada

The quintessential rising star who possesses strong inter-personal skills, savvy media relations and high intellect, Kaplan might soon find himself on the list of the Top 15 most influential Chabad rabbis. And to think that he hasn’t even reached his 39th birthday! He is the head emissary and founder of Chabad@Flamingo in Toronto, Canada, which houses a 22,000 square foot religious and cultural center with another 20,000+ square feet on the way. He is also the chaplain of the York Regional Police and a member of Toronto’s Vaad HaRabbanim (Rabbinical Committee).

#9 Levi Wolff, Sydney, Australia

Wolff is a refined and charismatic emissary who arrived in 2001 to serve as rabbi of the city’s highly aristocratic Central Synagogue. He has become a recognizable face throughout Australia and was recently in the national spotlight in April 2009 when he presided over the funeral of billionaire Richard Pratt, the country’s fourth wealthiest man.

#10 Hirschy Zarchi, Boston, Massachusetts

Approachable, amiable and able, such are just a few of the traits of Chabad’s lead emissary to Harvard. Zarchi is adept as well at sustaining relationships with the brilliant and beneficent: His Chabad House faculty advisor is the legendary professor Alan Dershowitz and a portion of his financial support comes from the über-generous Rohr family.

Top 5 Global Educators & Intellectuals

#1 Yoel Kahn, Brooklyn, New York

Well-respected for his erudition and authenticity, Kahn was at the side of the Rebbe from the day he assumed the position in 1950. He not only transcribed the Rebbe’s talks but explained often hidden mystical concepts to the masses. Through Kahn’s methodology of documenting the Rebbe’s remarks, he was instrumental in the publishing of the first 9 volumes of Likkutei Sichot (Anthology of Talks). He is also the author of multiple books on Chasidus and retains a commanding spiritual influence among Chabad Chasidim. Kahn is now endeavoring to publish a Chassidic encyclopedia.

#2 Jacob Immanuel Schochet, Toronto, Canada

He brings brains – lots of them – to the table and is considered one of the big guns when intellectual demarcations need to be articulated both within and without the movement. A mainstay on the Chabad lecture circuit, Schochet thrives on provocative and scintillating debate. He is professor emeritus of medical ethics, well-read author, an expert in debunking cults, Messianism and addressing all aspects of Jewish identity.

#3 Manis Friedman, Twin Cities, Minnesota

Dean of Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies, an institution specifically catering to the needs of women of all ages. Friedman is touted for his practical yet probing insights into the complexities facing the modern day Jew and is master of the human psyche. An accomplished author and public speaker, his name is synonymous with scholarship and reason.

#4 Simon Jacobson, Manhattan, New York

Founder of the Meaningful Life Center in New York City, Jacobson is a no-nonsense, straight-shooting scholarly thinker and educator. He is the author of the blockbuster best-selling book Toward a Meaningful Life which has sold over 300,000 copies. One of Judaism's most in-demand speakers, Jacobson likely has chalked up more frequent flyer miles than any other headline name in the organization.

#5 Zalman Shmotkin, Brooklyn, New York

Chabad-Lubavitch in Cyberspace (Chabad.org) has one of the zippiest slogans on Internet: Spreading Judaism at the Speed of Light. The initiative was the brainchild of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, one of the Web’s early adopters and visionaries back in 1994. Good Morning America went so far as to dub him the “Cyber Rabbi” prior to his passing at the tender age of 44 in 1998 The site that has since reached millions worldwide under the able stewardship of Shmotkin. He directs an innovative and expert team of professionals. Shmotkin also serves in the dual role as director and spokesperson of the Chabad Lubavitch Media Center.

Orthodox Jews asked to consider Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville is known for its beaches, military installations and the slogan hailing it as "the bold new city of the South."

But it isn't known as a major center for Judaism, with the local Jewish community estimated at 13,000, compared to about 2 million in New York and about 550,000 in South Florida.

So Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov said he was puzzled to learn the Orthodox Union listed Jacksonville among 22 "emerging communities" Orthodox Jews should consider if seeking to leave Jewish mega-centers such as New York City.

"Jacksonville really lacks, at this point, the basic necessities for Orthodox Jewry," said Kahanov, spiritual leader of Chabad of Northeast Florida.

The city has no kosher restaurants or grocery stores, so meats and other supplies have to be shipped in from Atlanta, Miami and other cities. The educational system — two day schools, one of them Orthodox, and no high school — for Orthodox youths "is still in its infant stages," he said.

"To be put on a list like this, to me, is surprising."

So how did northeast Florida make the list?

The answer is partly to be found in the nation's ongoing economic slump, but also in decades of Jewish migration from large urban centers in the Northeast, especially the greater New York City area, denominational leaders and scholars said. Others active in the city's Jewish community say its location, climate and welcoming reputation overcome difficulties in obtaining the foods, religious education and other services plentiful in major Jewish centers along the Eastern Seaboard.

Amy Lipper concedes northeast Florida presents a "challenge" to those adhering to the strictest dietary and religious standards in Judaism.

But Lipper said she and her husband, Jay, enthusiastically represented her city and Orthodox synagogue in New York at the Orthodox Union's "Emerging Communities Fair" featuring 21 other communities touted on the list.

Lipper was an ideal delegate for the task: Born and raised in New Jersey, her family moved to Jacksonville in 2004 after her husband lost his job earlier in the decade.

Her family struggled at first without those amenities, but has since thrived with the food co-ops, lower tuition costs and the Jewish community's friendly, welcoming nature. Area grocery chains also are adding a growing number of kosher products.

"You just gotta think out of the box," said Lipper, a member and staffer at Etz Chaim Synagogue in Mandarin.

The Orthodox Union began its list of emerging communities last year, partly as a response to the economic downturn that hit the New York-area economy especially hard, organization President Stephen Savitsky said.

Cities on the list are selected in part based on their "Jewish infrastructure" — a combination of availability of kosher food and religious and educational institutions.

But cost of living, housing prices and the availability of jobs also are considered, Savitsky said.

Jacksonville was added to the list this year because it has an Orthodox Union synagogue, hosts the Torah Academy school and has a ceremonial bath known as a mikvah. The city's diverse economy, lower home prices and a Jewish community known for its social service network and outreach were other reasons, he said.

"It's an atmosphere in which you can raise an Orthodox family," he said.

According to the National Realtors Association, the median sales price of single-family homes in the greater Jacksonville area was running about $154,000 during the first quarter of 2009. Single-family homes were selling from $321,000 to $430,000 in various New York-area markets.

Jobs are another story.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the region's unemployment rate at 9.2 percent, compared to 7.8 percent in and around New York City.

But job seekers from larger metropolitan areas such as New York City "may have a leg up" in experience and reputation when competing for jobs as they start becoming available in Jacksonville, said Candace Moody, vice president of communications for WorkSource, a nonprofit that promotes employment in Northeast Florida.

The Orthodox Union effort comes at a time when some Jewish communities are competing for members.

The Jewish community in Dothan is offering $50,000 to households that relocate to the Alabama city. The community in Tulsa, Okla., is touting its city's job market and lifestyle at JewishTulsa.org, on Twitter and Facebook.

Jacksonville's Jewish population has remained steady around 13,000 since it was last counted in 2002, suggesting that new members are born or move to the city near the same rate they leave, said Joanne Cohen, assistant executive director of the Jacksonville Jewish Federation.

"As opposed to other communities, which are losing members, this is a thriving community where lots of things are possible," she said.

Kahanov said he would be cautious touting Jacksonville as a place for the Orthodox, but added the city has much to offer those "with a pioneering spirit."

But Lipper noted that many Orthodox and other Jews may be willing to overlook their concerns if they are facing economic hardship.

"Up there when you have no job, you have high mortgages and high (Jewish school) tuitions, you really have to go elsewhere," Lipper said. And it might as well be Jacksonville, "where you stand a chance to get back on your feet."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interest-free loans steeped in tradition

Interest-free loans steeped in tradition

By Kristin E. Holmes

The Philadelphia Inquirer

June 10, 2009

In tough economic times, a centuries-old financial lifeline might be one of the best-kept secrets in the Jewish community.

It is a secret whose roots go back to the Torah, where it is called an act of "lovingkindness."

When rent is due or tuition is short, there are loans available for thousands of dollars -- interest free.

The programs are part of a tradition in the Jewish community of offering loans without interest to people in need. The money has helped families adopt babies, a woman buy a pacemaker, and immigrants start a new life.

"I was going to Israel, and I just needed some extra money," said Yaron Gola of Northeast Philadelphia. "It was a tremendous blessing. It makes you feel a part of a community."

About 50 groups in the United States and abroad lend millions in interest-free loans each year, said Mark Meltzer, past president and cofounder of the International Association of Hebrew Free Loans.

In the region, the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia in Elkins Park and the Chaya Mushka Lubavitcher G'Milus Chesed in Northeast Philadelphia are two of the independent organizations that carry on the tradition.

Jewish nonprofit groups also offer small interest-free loans, often for educational pursuits.

It is viewed as a mitzvah, a good deed, said Rabbi Zalman Lipsker, director of the Lubavitcher fund. In fact, G'Milus Chesed translates to "deed of lovingkindness" in Hebrew.

The underlying principle goes back to biblical instruction, said Rabbi Aaron Landes, founding rabbi of the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia and rabbi emeritus of Beth Sholom Congregation, the society's headquarters.

Exodus 22:25 says, "If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest." Similar instructions are in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

"When immigrants came over from Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1914, they brought these associations with them," said Shelly Tenenbaum, author of A Credit to Their Community: Jewish Loan Societies in the United States.

Other ethnic and religious groups have their own loan programs. Interest is prohibited in Islamic law and references to the law appear in the Quran and in statements of the prophet Muhammad, said Masood Ghaznavi, professor emeritus at Rosemont College.

Among the Hebrew loan societies, organization assets range from $100,000 to more than $20 million. Groups vary with respect to professional staffing, business partnerships, and annual lending, Meltzer said.

The first Jewish immigrants to the United States "got $25 to get their pushcart," said Tamar Granor, who with her husband, Marshall, runs the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia.

A bond of mutual trust linked the society, the borrower, and his or her cosigner. Each borrower usually must have at least one.

"It's one thing to default on an impersonal institution," Tenenbaum said. "It's another to default on someone you're close to."

The process is designed to be dignified and devoid of embarrassment, so applications can be brief. The Lubavitcher group, which typically lends up to $1,000, doesn't ask a reason for the loan. The Hebrew Free Loan Society requires a credit check of the cosigner, but not the applicant. The group lends a maximum of $5,000. Terms for payback vary.

Default rates were typically lower than those of banks, Tenenbaum said. Some borrowers have failed to pay the Lubavitcher group, Lipsker said. Fewer than 1 percent at the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia have defaulted. Court action is extremely rare, Tamar Granor said.

The Northeast Philadelphia program, with rolling assets of $150,000, has been in operation since the early 1970s. In Elkins Park, the Free Loan Society celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The group has assets of $350,000.

Both organizations rely on contributions and fund-raising to replenish the money.

As the economy has worsened, loan inquiries have started to increase. But Marshall Granor, whose parents, Bernard and Marie, helped start the fund, is surprised that more applicants haven't turned to the society. He has money to lend but no takers.

"It's been hard to connect with people," he said.

With only a volunteer staff, public relations isn't often a priority. The group's members hope to hire a part-time worker who can help spread the word.

Said Granor: "It's a tremendous feeling when a parent calls and says, 'My son graduated from Drexel, and I couldn't have done it without you.' "

Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Interest-free loans steeped in tradition

Interest-free loans steeped in tradition

By Kristin E. Holmes

The Philadelphia Inquirer

June 10, 2009

In tough economic times, a centuries-old financial lifeline might be one of the best-kept secrets in the Jewish community.

It is a secret whose roots go back to the Torah, where it is called an act of "lovingkindness."

When rent is due or tuition is short, there are loans available for thousands of dollars -- interest free.

The programs are part of a tradition in the Jewish community of offering loans without interest to people in need. The money has helped families adopt babies, a woman buy a pacemaker, and immigrants start a new life.

"I was going to Israel, and I just needed some extra money," said Yaron Gola of Northeast Philadelphia. "It was a tremendous blessing. It makes you feel a part of a community."

About 50 groups in the United States and abroad lend millions in interest-free loans each year, said Mark Meltzer, past president and cofounder of the International Association of Hebrew Free Loans.

In the region, the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia in Elkins Park and the Chaya Mushka Lubavitcher G'Milus Chesed in Northeast Philadelphia are two of the independent organizations that carry on the tradition.

Jewish nonprofit groups also offer small interest-free loans, often for educational pursuits.

It is viewed as a mitzvah, a good deed, said Rabbi Zalman Lipsker, director of the Lubavitcher fund. In fact, G'Milus Chesed translates to "deed of lovingkindness" in Hebrew.

The underlying principle goes back to biblical instruction, said Rabbi Aaron Landes, founding rabbi of the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia and rabbi emeritus of Beth Sholom Congregation, the society's headquarters.

Exodus 22:25 says, "If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest." Similar instructions are in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

"When immigrants came over from Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1914, they brought these associations with them," said Shelly Tenenbaum, author of A Credit to Their Community: Jewish Loan Societies in the United States.

Other ethnic and religious groups have their own loan programs. Interest is prohibited in Islamic law and references to the law appear in the Quran and in statements of the prophet Muhammad, said Masood Ghaznavi, professor emeritus at Rosemont College.

Among the Hebrew loan societies, organization assets range from $100,000 to more than $20 million. Groups vary with respect to professional staffing, business partnerships, and annual lending, Meltzer said.

The first Jewish immigrants to the United States "got $25 to get their pushcart," said Tamar Granor, who with her husband, Marshall, runs the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia.

A bond of mutual trust linked the society, the borrower, and his or her cosigner. Each borrower usually must have at least one.

"It's one thing to default on an impersonal institution," Tenenbaum said. "It's another to default on someone you're close to."

The process is designed to be dignified and devoid of embarrassment, so applications can be brief. The Lubavitcher group, which typically lends up to $1,000, doesn't ask a reason for the loan. The Hebrew Free Loan Society requires a credit check of the cosigner, but not the applicant. The group lends a maximum of $5,000. Terms for payback vary.

Default rates were typically lower than those of banks, Tenenbaum said. Some borrowers have failed to pay the Lubavitcher group, Lipsker said. Fewer than 1 percent at the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia have defaulted. Court action is extremely rare, Tamar Granor said.

The Northeast Philadelphia program, with rolling assets of $150,000, has been in operation since the early 1970s. In Elkins Park, the Free Loan Society celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The group has assets of $350,000.

Both organizations rely on contributions and fund-raising to replenish the money.

As the economy has worsened, loan inquiries have started to increase. But Marshall Granor, whose parents, Bernard and Marie, helped start the fund, is surprised that more applicants haven't turned to the society. He has money to lend but no takers.

"It's been hard to connect with people," he said.

With only a volunteer staff, public relations isn't often a priority. The group's members hope to hire a part-time worker who can help spread the word.

Said Granor: "It's a tremendous feeling when a parent calls and says, 'My son graduated from Drexel, and I couldn't have done it without you.' "

Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

A Spooky Story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe

David Klinghoffer

I'm thinking of the night the Lubavitcher Rebbe died, which was exactly 15 year ago this coming Friday, June 12, 1994. I'm not Chabad -- a fellow traveler at best, and that only pretty recently -- but I have a vivid memory of being in Amagansett, New York, on a weekend beach trip with a friend. That night, which was a Saturday, we were both sticking our heads out of a skylight to catch the sound of the surf and the smell of the wind. Very strangely, we both suddenly had a feeling of being "spooked." Did you ever have an experience like that? It was a strong intuition of loss, as we mutually confirmed before we knew anything about what might have called it up. Returning to Manhattan on Monday morning, we learned that the Rebbe had died the previous day.

Of all the Jewish movements going at the movement, I consider Chabad the most successful and on balance the most admirable and appealing. My wife asked me the other day, half jokingly, why we don't put a picture of the Rebbe up somewhere in our house, as many Chabad admirers who are not Chabad themselves will do. Many, for example, is the Israeli taxi with a yarmulke-less driver and a picture of the Rebbe dangling from the rearview mirror.

Sorry. As I explained, that's not for me. I'm not a joiner and never feel quite comfortable with groups of any kind. Maybe that's why I'm a Jew. The word for Hebrew, in Hebrew, Ivri, has as one of its meanings being on the other side from something. A Hebrew is always in contrast and conflict with his surroundings. Abraham, the first Hebrew, is called that (Genesis 14:13) because he came from the "other side" of the Euphrates River. A Jew should always feel on the outs with the wider culture. When my spiritual and intellectual affiliations seem, superficially, at odds with each, that's my comfort zone. Maybe that's why the thing that initially turned me off liberalism, on arriving as a freshman at Brown, was the smug feeling shared by so many of my fellow students that only we, smarty-pants liberals, had it all figured out and three cheers for us.

But that's all an aside. Going back to my wife's question, I thought, why not put a picture of the Rebbe up on this blog? That I can handle. So here it is.

Chabad Of Hunterdon County Celebrates Its 6th With Banquet And Awards

Chabad of Hunterdon County celebrated its sixth anniversary with a banquet at the Grand Colonial in Perryville.

More than 230 attended, including many business, civic and political leaders.

The event featured Joe Piscopo from Saturday Night Live as its emcee and entertainer as well as Yoel Sharabi, a world renowned Jewish singer and performer.


Honorees included Stanley and June Goldstein with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Miles and Zak Griffin with a Hebrew School Children of the Year, and Michael Camerino with a Community Leadership Award.
Rabbi Eli Kornfeld, executive director of Chabad of Hunterdon County, remarked, "The event was a tribute to the community and its willingness to support and partner with Chabad in ensuring its continued growth and success."
Proceeds from the dinner will fund Chabad of Hunterdon's growing number of programs.
Following the cocktail hour, everyone was treated to a special video presentation highlighting the achievements of Chabad during its first six years as well as its vision for the future.
The event featured many who shared their personal experiences with Chabad, including Richard Kaplan of Novartis and Sharon Gonnen of Thomson Reuters who spoke about the recent passing of her mother Renay Salamon A'H who was a chairwoman for the event and a prominent supporter of Chabad of Hunterdon.
The event concluded with the annual raffle drawings. Ilene Kaplan won a fur coat, William Fiore won a Breitling watch and Dave Ryback won the 50/50

Jews, God, and Videotape

How media have molded modern Jewish religion

Jews, God, and Videotape
Religion and Media in America
By Jeffrey Shandler

New York University Press.

340 pp. $23

Reviewed by Glenn C. Altschuler

Videotaping bar and bat mitzvahs, many observant Jews maintain, violates Talmudic prohibitions against work on the Sabbath, distracts the worshiper from worship, and transforms tranquil and dignified ceremonies into spectacles.

And yet, as Jeffrey Shandler reminds us, more and more parents - and teenagers - insist on documenting their families' coming-of-age rituals.

In Jews, God, and Videotape, Shandler, a professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, provides a fresh and fascinating account of the impact of technology on the religious life of American Jews during the last one hundred years.

The "new media," he argues, have helped shape a popular Jewish religion, more concerned with consumerism, celebrity, and community than with theology or rabbinical authority. Reorganizing emotion and experience, this "religion in the making" is struggling to identify strategies through which "the People of the Book" can accommodate and/or confront how Jews can (or should) fit in and stand out.

In a richly detailed chapter on The Eternal Light, a long-running radio broadcast, created in the 1940s by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Shandler shows how the medium can affect the message.

Aimed primarily at a non-Jewish audience, the overarching goal of the show, which reached about five million Americans by the end of the decade, was to combat anti-Semitism by demonstrating (through historical dramas and literary adaptations) that Jewish "particularism" was incidental to its "fundamental universalism" and that Jews were anything but anti-American radicals or communist sympathizers.

Populated by actors whose voices were ethnically "unmarked," The Eternal Light, Shandler speculates, allowed Jews, sight unseen, to invite themselves into the homes of their non-Jewish neighbors, confident that they were subjects of "respectful attention."

More often than not, Shandler implies, modern media have marked - but have not made - changes in Jewish attitudes and behavior. The themes of The Eternal Light, for example, reflected the "powerful integrationist impact" of the post-World War II suburban migration of American Jewish culture. When, in the 1960s, concern about anti-Semitism gave way to fears of the "erosion" of a distinctly Jewish culture, the ecumenical, assimilationist Eternal Light dimmed.

Frequently, according to Shandler, modern media provide an arena for contests over appropriate conduct. E-cards, he points out, reflect a range of responses to the "December dilemma" of Jews. Some postulate parity between Christmas and Hanukkah, pairing Santa Claus with Tevye. Others, however, are more hostile to "interfaith" sentiments.

In 1989, Shandler writes, the American Jewish Committee, in conjunction with the National Conference of Christians and Jews, denounced greeting cards that combined the religious and cultural symbols of the two holidays as "an affront to the integrity of distinct faiths."

With respect to religion, Shandler writes, provocatively and persuasively, the notion of "separate but equal" lives on.

Recently, Shandler reveals, ultra-orthodox Jews have overcome an aversion to technology as a corrupting distraction - and begun to use television, video, and the Internet to spread their messianic vision. Under the leadership of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who almost never left his neighborhood in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, the Lubavitcher hasidim have raised millions of dollars through telethons, even as they make sure that the arms, legs, and breasts of the female celebrities who appear on the small screen are covered.

DVDs and Chabad.org allow Schneerson to communicate with his disciples long after his death.

Technology, Shandler concludes, hasn't changed everything. It can - and does - facilitate traditional communal rites, including synagogue worship, as well as more secular practices.

For many, it may be less helpful in forging new links than in renewing, in the virtual world, a sense of belonging to links already established in the "real" one.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Lubavitch Shul Expanding

Chabad Lubavitch of Baltimore, at 6701 Old Pimlico Road, has received Baltimore County’s approval to build a 3,600-square-foot addition on the site of an existing playground.

But the synagogue’s Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan said there are no immediate plans to activate the plan. “It’s too early to know if we will build,” he said. “We have to do fund raising first.”

Don Rascoe, of the county’s Department of Permits and Development, said the congregation came to the county several times with versions of the addition proposal. “We agreed to a refinement of a previously approved plan,” he said.

The initial plan was submitted in October 2008. Paul Abrams, a neighbor, said he received a letter from the county informing him of a hearing. Mr. Abrams said he and about eight other neighbors raised questions about the plan and met with Rabbi Kaplan and his wife, Rochelle.

Mr. Abrams said his neighbors were satisfied with the Kaplans’ plan, but he was not.

Another hearing was held last January. County Deputy Zoning Commissioner Thomas Bostwick heard testimony about the plan for a 11⁄2-story addition that would be connected to the main building via a covered hallway. The plan required an amendment to the existing zoning, which Mr. Bostwick subsequently approved.

Mr. Abrams said he attended this hearing and protested the plan, which in his opinion would disrupt the neighborhood. He also brought up the issue of parking, saying the synagogue has a small parking lot that would not accommodate additional activities. No appeals were filed regarding Mr. Bostwick’s decision within the required 30 days.

Mrs. Kaplan said the addition is 11⁄2 stories because of the topography of the land. On the lower level, she said, there would be a social hall and on the main level an adult ed center.

Topol leads cast of 'Fiddler' revival

There are few shows that deal with faith, love, and Jewish suffering as dramatically and melodically as "Fiddler on the Roof," one of Broadway's most emotional musicals.

Based on the timeless stories of Sholom Aleichem, "Fiddler" features many of Broadway's most heartfelt hits, including "Sunrise, Sunset," "If I Were a Rich Man," "Tradition," and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker."

"Fiddler" tells the story of Tevye, a poor milkman, and his hardships while the Czar systematically persecutes Jewish families -- sometimes invading weddings, other times driving people from their homes.

Forty years after it landed on Broadway, hit the London stage, and became a popular movie with Chaim Topol, a revival of "Fiddler" (starring Topol) begins Wednesday at Chicago's Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre.

Director Sammy Dallas Bayes recreates this classic show exactly as it was performed on Broadway, using many of Jerome Robbins' original production numbers. The show will feature Topol in his final tour as Tevye. Topol appeared in the movie and in 2,500 stage productions all over the world.

Jewish spiritual leaders from Northwest Indiana applaud the strong themes of Jewish faith and solidarity that are reflected in Tevye's poignant journey.

"Fiddler is both Jewish, and at the same time it's very universal," said Congregation Beth Israel's Rabbi Benjamin Kramer. "While it talks about Jewish people, at a particular time in a particular community, people still connect to it in a very universal way."

Kramer said people relate to Tevye's simple desire -- to protect and make his daughters happy. Tevye fiercely safeguards his Old World traditions from the frightening forces that threaten to eliminate his faith and his people.

"Tevye's a father, and he's trying to provide for his family, and those issues transcend a particular time," Kramer said. "That's the thing I like about the story. You can relate to the story of some outside force threatening your family and your home. The idea you worked your whole life, and everything can be taken away is a universal fear."

Kramer said the music and setting are nostalgic for American Jews, who never had to endure the hardships Tevye did.

"There's something we like about a world where people were connected to family and religion, where people worked hard while they sang and danced," Kramer said. "The music is great, without a doubt. For American Jews, the music and setting will conjure a world that we'd like to think existed but might not have existed. There's a certain element of nostalgia in it." "Fiddler" does not glaze over the story of Jewish persecution, but as a musical, it celebrates the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people to survive horrible hardships.

In Tevye's conversations with God, he comes up with pointed answers to life's perplexing struggles. Often Tevye strikes out at life's injustices with his salt-of the-earth wisdom and his edgy sense of humor.

"What appeals to me is he has a very Jewish sense of humor," Kramer said. "Tevye combines self-deprecation with optimism when he's put through some very trying situations. The fact Tevye isn't broken by his adversities is a sign of his faith."

Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov, from Chabad of Northwest Indiana, said even if "Fiddler" is a fictional story, the story of Jewish struggle it represents is repeated over and over in history books.

"This story is all about traditions, and that's what kept Jewish people surviving throughout history," Zalmanov said. "By staying true to our Jewish laws and the Torah, that's what kept us together. It's not such a happy ending, but that's the story of the Jewish people."

Zalmanov believes Tevye made some mistakes when his daughters began to rebel, but he still respects Tevye's unshakable devotion to his faith.

"In our faith, we believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, but for things to work, we have to do our part," Zalmanov revealed.

"What we can learn from Tevye is when we're able to connect traditional values with modern times and make it palatable to the next generation, then we've done our job," Zalmanov added.

'We believe even a person that is simple or ordinary can have a great faith and a close relationship with God.' --Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov, Chabad of NW Indiana.

For Chabad, for Families

Continuing to connect with people is a mission of Rabbi Joseph Eisenbach and his wife, Mina, as they celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Connecticut, which has headquarters in Litchfield.


"As we reach 13 years, there is no limit to acts of goodness and kindness that we are able to do in a community, but I think we have some huge programs that we hope to implement," said Rabbi Eisenbach, speaking of the array of programs planned by his group for this summer.
The Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Connecticut is part of the largest Jewish organization in the world with more than 5,000 branches world-wide. The Chabad is against proselytizing, said Rabbi Eisenbach.
The word Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for the words wisdom, understanding and knowledge, with a big emphasis on educating people. Lubavitch is the name of the town in Russia where the movement began in the mid-18th century and means the "city of brotherly love."
"The whole concept of Chabad is people helping people," said Rabbi Eisenbach.
Rabbi Eisenbach explained that the beauty and uniqueness of Chabad is that when a rabbi and his family move out to a community, they traditionally arrive without knowing anyone and ultimately build a community within that host community.
The couple left their families behind in Montreal, Canada, and West Hartford. Both of their parents are emissaries and Rabbi Eisenbach is the fifth generation in his family to become one.
As emissaries, the rabbi and Mrs. Eisenbach evaluated their community. They established programs to suit their surroundings, while following the teachings of the seven dynastic leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch Dynasty, known as rebbes.
"The whole concept of the rebbe is that you've just got to continue to do the right thing, you've just got to continue to try to change the world one mitzvah at a time," said Rabbi Eisenbach.
"We were blessed to be sent here to Northwest Connecticut, and the unique and the beautiful part is the fact that over the last 13 years we have seen tremendous growth in all areas," said Rabbi Eisenbach.
For more than a decade, the Chabad in Litchfield has seen an influx of families and children. Many of the older Chabads that have been around have taken care of three or four generations, he said.
"Every single Jewish community [has] what we call reform, conservative, [and] orthodox," said Rabbi Eisenbach. "At Chabad, we say labels are for food packages not for our brothers and sisters. It's amazing, the turnout that you get."
According to Rabbi Eisenbach, the theology of Chabad is to embrace everyone, and that has been why Chabad is the world's largest Jewish outreach organization.
Since its 10th anniversary, Rabbi Eisenbach has seen a tremendous growth in the summer children's camp program, Camp Gan Isreal located in Washington Depot, which attracts between 50 to 80 campers weekly. Mrs. Eisenbach is the director.
Weekenders are involved in assisting with the camp program, which offers sports and arts and crafts, according to Rabbi Eisenbach. The camp focuses on education in a fun and interactive way and the Chabad buses children from inner cities, similar to the Fresh Air Fund.
"Our camp has seen super growth in the sense that it's been amazing for this size community that we have," said Rabbi Eisenbach.
The Chabad also runs a network of Hebrew schools that has grown steadily, according to Rabbi Eisenbach. In the last three years, the Chabad started the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), created in the tradition of teachers reaching out to students pursuing intellectual and spiritual growth in their adult years. The courses are designed for students ranging from first-time learners to those with years of prior study.
"The JLI has really attracted people from every single part of the region, Jewish, Catholic, Episcopalian ... we have seen such a grand blessing since our 10th anniversary," said Rabbi Eisenbach.
According to Mrs. Eisenbach, knowledge of the Jewish religion and Jewish history and of the Torah is something of a rite for every Jewish person. But, unfortunately, not everyone is aware of his or her cultural past. The Eisenbachs have helped to institute new programs, including monthly themed Shabbat dinners called T.G.I.S. (Thank G-d It's Shabbat), to attract more participation.
"We make it fun and exciting; it's a family program where people come and celebrate the Shabbat with us, hear stories and learn," said Mrs. Eisenbach. "It's all about educating people, because unfortunately today we have assimilation reaching such new levels where Jewish people don't know the basics of their own religion."
"Judaism is alive, it's vibrant, it's not just something to study, it's a way of life," said Mrs. Eisenbach.
She added the Chabad holds a monthly Jewish Kids Club, where members gather for fun interactive activities that promote Jewish values and friendship. Each meeting has craft projects and games with a special emphasis on Jewish customs and culture.
Communication is important and Rabbi Eisenbach said one of the greatest developments over the last three years is the Chabad's online magazine. The Internet presence has allowed people to study their religion and interact with the rabbi.
The online magazine has allowed everyone from celebrities who are weekenders in Northwest Connecticut to the average person to log in. The online magazine can be found on the Chabad's Web site at www.chabadnw.org. There is also a bi-monthly publication known as the Jewish News.
"We do a feedback which is 24/6, except the Shabbat," said Rabbi Eisenbach. "It's like a whole community on its own."
Vital to any religious organization is the building it occupies. In 2007, Litchfield's Historic District Commission denied an application to relocate the Chabad's headquarters from Village Green Drive to Litchfield center in a building that would have been renovated and significantly expanded.
The commission based its denial on the scale of the proposed expansion and restoration of the 135-year-old building but said it would be willing to consider a revised plan, including a downsized version.
The envisioned expansion totals 21,000 square-feet, and would involve a four-story addition off the back of the structure. It would include a synagogue, a community center, classrooms, several kosher kitchens, offices, a swimming pool and ceremonial pool. The facility would also have residential quarters for Rabbi Eisenbach and his family, as well as housing for visitors and staff. The historic building was purchased by the organization in 2006.
"We're hoping to have our new home in the center of town, and we're hoping to be able to reach out to as many more people as possible," said Rabbi Eisenbach.
Without offering specifics, he said the Chabad is currently in the midst of making the synagogue happen within the town of Litchfield.
But Mrs. Eisenbach said that most of her husband's work is not with the synagogue. Rabbi Eisenbach can be found visiting hospitals and nursing homes every week.
Chabads, she said, are not run by a rabbi, but rather the partnership of the rabbi and his wife. And the Eisenbachs' partnership is blessed with eight children.
According to Rabbi Eisenbach, most of his time is involved with Chabad. However, he said, he enjoys taking his children for hikes at White Memorial and he shared that he is a big skier.
He said he has connected with people in many different ways during his travels both locally and beyond.
"It's not just that the people who come to synagogue only come here for their religious needs, we become friends in every manner, in every way," said Mrs. Eisenbach. "We become very close."
Rabbi Eisenbach said he and his wife look forward to bringing in more Chabad couples to help them with their programs and hope to open satellite offices throughout Northwest Connecticut to reach out and care for, and be a helping hand to, everyone.
For more information on Chabad Lubavitch of Northwest Connecticut, visit the Web site at www.chabadnw.org. For more information about Camp Gan Israel, call 800-979-CAMP, or visit www.cginw.org.

Come to Chabad — near the pub

A £250,000 Chabad centre has opened in Manchester’s Whitefield area. A one-year refurbishment has transformed the former off-licence into a facility housing a Jewish resource library, Judaica store, lounge and a multimedia lecture hall.

However, director Rabbi Shmuli Jaffe says the centre’s greatest asset is its location. “It is opposite the Parkfield Inn pub, which is full of Jews on Thursday evenings, and its street corner is where the kids are on motzei Shabbos, being the only stretch of Jewish shops in the neighbourhood.”

Funding has come from local individuals and some small lottery grants. Rabbi Jaffe hopes the building will become a mini-community centre.

“We officially opened on Lag b’Omer with a community barbecue for 400 people.

“The idea is to cater for the 90 per cent of the community who only go to shul twice a year, according to a survey.” Chabad was offering “a place where people can drop in”.

Mother and baby sessions, adult education and kosher takeaway nights are some of the activities planned.