I am sitting at The Dan Panorama Mall writing this post at my favorite café. The upscale mall houses high end clothing and jewelry stores. There are several restaurants, a beauty salon, and a pharmacy. The community Chabad center is located here as well. It is my spiritual home and favorite place to buy religious artifacts and handmade paintings and home décor. The Rabbi is named Levi Yitzchak. He is about thirty, razor thin, dark hair, and smiles consistently. He has six children ranging from eleven months to eleven years in age. My favorite is his eleven month  old daughter named Devorah or bee. She already beams her father’s smile. I visit the store almost daily in the hope that the kids will be there.

In the course of two years Levi and I have discussed the need to promote English language courses in our community in various topics of Judaism. Chabad is recognized throughout the world for the superb quality of its spiritual teachings. I chose to study at a Chabad center for a year before immigrating to Israel. My classes included Talmud, Tanach or Bible, and tutoring in Hebrew. They have my deepest appreciation for their support.

What is Chabad-Lubavitch?

Chabad-Lubavitch is a major movement within mainstream Jewish tradition with its roots in the Chassidic movement of the 18th century. In Czarist and Communist Russia, the leaders of Chabad led the struggle for the survival of Torah Judaism, often facing imprisonment and relentless persecution for their activities. After the Holocaust, under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak Schneerson and his successor, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Chabad became a worldwide movement, caring for the spiritual and material needs of all Jews, wherever they could be found.

Today, over 3,000 Chabad centers are located in more than 65 countries, with a new center opening on the average every ten days. In South Africa, South America, Russia, Australia, the UK, and many parts of the USA, and of course Israel. Chabad has become a dynamic and dominant force within the Jewish community.

This week Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and I decided to act on our dream of establishing a study center for English speaking immigrants and visitors in Haifa.

We visited the Habad center in Safed to meet their leader there Eyal Riess.www.tzfat-kabbalah.org). He has decades of experience in planning and administering programs for English speaking individuals. He speaks the tongue of Shakespeare wonderfully but sounds a bit British. He actually was born and raised in Israel.

He is housed at The International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah was founded in the Old City of Safed in 2007 by the Jewish Federation of Palm BeachFlorida, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the Jewish Agency for Israel to promote Safed as a kabbalah center.

The center has a “Visitors center on the history of the Kabbalah of Safed”, a lecture and study room, and a library. The center holds seminars and workshops in receipt of Safed rabbis, visitors, and local residents.

Eyal Riess (on the right), yes, with Paula Abdul!

Eyal Riess and Rabbi Levy Yitzchak have a list of English speakers from Haifa and the surrounding communities who have inquired about starting classes in our city. We added a team leader Zecharya Gonsher, who was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He made aliyah at the age of 28 where he met his Israeli wife through the help of a Chabad shadchanit (matchmaker). Zach earned his MSW in family clinical therapy in St Louis, MO, where he connected to Chabad. He lives in adjacent Kiryat Ata with his wife, Liat, who works as a doula, pregnancy and birthing coach, and newborn twins.

The Reform Jewish Movement has some classes in our community. My very close friend Rabbi Edgar Nof hosts a Pirke Avot group one day a week, for example. However, there are those Jews who are more oriented to other streams of Judaism. We are planning to have an open house in the fall to build a garin or seed of those interested in supporting this program. It will be sponsored by our Dan Panorama center.

On August 20th, we held our first activity. Rabbi Riess hosted and spoke at a “meet and greet”. He presented a spiritually uplifting lecture about Jewish values. We had more than two dozen participants. Most committed to attend and support further activities in our program. They did and our group has grown.

We added a crash course on Yom Kippur, our most holy day of observance on September 10th. Two days later we celebrated the holy day together. We converted the upstairs café in the mall to a bet Knesset or synagogue. Dozens of people attended prayer and thanked us for the convenience of a prayer site in our community. “Several of us are senior citizens or have medical limitations and came to pray by local homes” noted one of those attended our make shift sanctuary. Israel does not generally permit transportation on Yom Kippur. I loved the fact that my home is directly across the street from the new place of prayer.

The host also hosted a Party in the Sukkah on the 23rd at the largest Synagogue in our community. Thirty to forty of us sang, told stories about Sukkoth, eat lots of food and drank a bit of Jack Daniels. Kids danced and laughed to the joy of us all.

We now have a Parashat Ha Shavuah twice a month led by Zacharia. Women study together in a group hosted by Zach’s wife Liat. Our group continues to grow and share the joys of studying our faith, Judaism together. We host people from all streams of the Jewish world join together to learn and enjoy friendships new and old.

Come and join us this week for our first Hanukkah celebration together and share the joyous occasion together. Come all and bring a friend!! Special Mazal Tov to our friend and mentor Rabbi Eyal Riess and his Bat Mitzvah “student” Paula Abdul.

Zecharya for details – 058-545 4770 from Haifa!