By Elsie Walker
The Chabad Jewish Center was started in 2004 by Rabbi Yaacov and Fraida Shusterman. Serving the Jewish community in Chester, Mt. Olive, Washington, and Warren County, the Chabad rented various spaces for high holy day services and other events. That changed on February 3rd when the Chabad got a permanent home for its various offerings at 11 Deerfield Place, Flanders. Its website is www.mychabadcenter.com
Shusterman, who is also the Jewish Chaplain at the Morris County Correctional facility, explained that the Chabad is a Hasidic group that’s very much into “outreach instead of in reach”. “It invites the entire community. It is open to everybody,” he said. For example, there are no tickets necessary for high holiday days.
The rabbi noted that through word of mouth they find other Jews in the community. “Not all people come to us, so we come to them,” said Shusterman. “We visit people in their offices and homes.” They bring those they visit Challah (a Sabbath bread). There are about 500 Jewish families currently on the Chabad’s mailing list.
The rabbi shared that the Chabad offers “programs that strengthen the Jewish identity” and that “we try to come to everyone at their level.”
Among those programs at the Chabad is a Hebrew school. It is every Sun. from 10 a.m. – noon for ages 6- 13. Shusterman shared that at the school, “children have a very enjoyable time, enjoy being Jewish and practicing their heritage.” The Chabad website notes that it is done through “arts and crafts, and hands-on learning. Children also learn about the deeper meanings of each holiday and its relevance today.” Payment plans are available, and no child is turned away for lack of funds.
Also, speaking of children, Shusterman shared that they are having a Challah bake for kids on Sun. May 5th at 4:30 at the center. It is asked that those interested in coming RSVP for the event.
The Chabad also offers a variety of adult learning experiences. There is a Talmud study on Tues. from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and a Torah study from 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. on Thurs. On the first Wed. of every month, a ladies’ group, “Larger than Life: Weaving G-d Into the Details” meets and focuses on a Jewish topic. The study is held twice that day: from noon – 1 p.m. and from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. To learn about more offerings and to reserve a spot in a class, see the website.
Services are every Sat. morning. At 9:30 a.m., there is a study and from 10 a.m. – noon, there is the service. Also, there is a service on the first Fri. of every month from 6:30 -7:30 p.m., with matzo ball soup afterwards. Shusterman noted the atmosphere is very warm and the service is a “cozy night shul”. (“Shul” is the Yiddish word for a place of prayer and study.) The Chabad’s website explains that, “Our Hebrew/English books are user friendly, and during services, page numbers are called regularly, and explanations are given for each step of the way so that even a novice attendee will feel at ease”.
Looking at the upcoming Passover, there will be a Seder the first night of Passover. To reserve a seat, visit the Chabad’s website.