Chabad Lubavitch of Roosevelt Island was founded in July 2006. My husband, Rabbi Zalman, and I moved to Roosevelt Island with our little son, Mendel, and instantly fell in love with the community. Our hope is to foster the love and sense of community unique to Roosevelt Island by celebrating Jewish experiences, Shabbat, holidays, and life cycle events together, and to welcome anyone seeking to share in these experiences. Additionally, we wish to help residents enhance their individual connection with Hashem (G-d) by providing Jewish and holiday needs, like Shofar house calls on Rosh Hashanah, Lulav and Esrog for Sukkos, Koshering kitchens, hanging Mezuzos, providing Bar and Bat Mitzvah lessons, and anything else that is needed. Our dream is to enjoy a Shabbat Dinner with every Jew and interested person on Roosevelt Island.
The names “Chabad” and “Lubavitch” are interchangeable. Chabad is the Hebrew acronym for Chochmah, Binah, Da’at—Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge—which represent the intellectual underpinnings of the movement’s philosophy. The name “Lubavitch” is the Yiddish name for the originally Belorussian village, Lyubavichi, where the movement’s roots are, and means “the city of love.” Today, Chabad Lubavitch is by far the largest Jewish community-building institution in the world. Headed by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson OBM, Chabad Lubavitch has grown to a network of centers in over 2,500 communities in 76 countries and 49 states. (South Dakota is on the agenda.) Chabad Centers offer a wide array of Jewish services, including educational, social, and religious programming, each according to the needs of the local community.
Zalman and I were both educated in the Chabad educational system in the spirit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Zalman is Director of Development at Colel Chabad—the Chabad’s Social Service arm in Israel—and I am a trained educator. We are raising our seven children in the same fashion, following the Rebbe’s teachings of sharing, caring, kindness, and bringing the world closer to perfection
The goal of Chabad is not to make you Orthodox. Chabad is an educational organization dedicated to providing everyone, regardless of background, affiliation, or personal level of observance, the opportunity to deepen their level of Jewish knowledge and involvement. Chabad’s outstanding educational programs provide the opportunity to expand your understanding of your Jewish heritage in an open-minded and non-judgmental atmosphere. Some of the programs that Chabad Lubavitch of Roosevelt Island offers to the community are: community-wide traditional holiday celebrations; a variety of children’s activities on a monthly basis (this past Sunday, we went apple-picking for Pre-Rosh Hashanah); Hebrew School; Mini Chefs; and women’s programs throughout the year. Rabbi Zalman officiates at life cycle events. Being the only Rabbi living on and serving the Island, he has a keen understanding of the local community. Chabad Lubavitch of Roosevelt Island also offers individual assistance based on need, be it family-related, health-related, spiritual guidance, or anything in between.
While Synagogue and Temple membership and participation across North America are in sharp decline, a recent study by the Jewish Federation in Miami shows that “more than one in four Jewish households—some 26 percent—have engaged with Chabad programming during the past year, including 42 percent of Jewish households with children at home.” Chabad attendees identified themselves as Conservative (32%), Reform (19%), Reconstructionist (1%), or “just Jewish” (23%). Chabad Lubavitch of Roosevelt Island enjoys a steeply higher participation rate among the approximately 400 Jewish households. Fifty percent of households, including 80% of families with children, participate in activities at least once a year, though just 1% classify themselves as Orthodox.
Jewish women are in high standing in the worldwide Chabad community and are central to its success. Rabbi’s wives, or Rebbitzens, like myself, take a leadership role in the operation of the Chabad Center. As the cornerstone of Jewish family life, the woman can attain a profound and meaningful spirituality, one that fulfills her deepest needs and aspirations, opening fresh perspectives on self-understanding, growth, and Torah knowledge. Misconceptions and myths about Jewish women have been used to turn many people away from an appreciation of Torah and a traditional Jewish lifestyle. Chabad is working hard to correct those misconceptions.
Chabad Centers are not financed by the Chabad Lubavitch world headquarters in Brooklyn. It is Chabad policy that each center be supported by the community it serves. All funding for local Chabad programs is solicited locally, so all donations received from Roosevelt Island remain right here in our community. Chabad Lubavitch of Roosevelt Island does not charge any membership fees, nor is anyone turned away from any programs due to lack of funds. Donations and sponsorship are welcomed and encouraged.
Upcoming programs include weekly Shabbat prayers and Community Kiddush; High Holiday prayers and Kiddush on Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur break fast [space intentional] and services (if you don’t know Hebrew, don’t worry; we will help you along, and we insert English readings into the celebrations); Sukkos in the Sukkah; Simchas Torah Hakkafot; and Chabad Hebrew School. Some of the programs have a suggested donation and requested RSVP, but all of our prayer services are always free of charge and open to all. Chabad of Roosevelt Island is a regular advertiser in The WIRE, so look for our ads before the holidays!
Tomorrow, Sunday, September 13, at 6:51 p.m., join us in ushering in the Jewish New Year (Year 5776), celebrated not with a ball-drop and party in Times Square, but with prayer and Shofar-blowing (Monday.) Chabad is pleased to offer free holiday services with enough seats for everyone (no reservation or ticket required) in the Renwick Room in the Roosevelt Island Community Cultural Center. See our ad on page 9 for a full schedule of services
Additionally, we invite the whole community, regardless of where you pray, to The Tastes of a New Year. We’ll have tastings of various traditional and symbolic Rosh Hashanah foods from Jewish communities around the world at 8:00 p.m. in the Community Cultural Center.