It was not exactly the Exodus, but after more than a year wandering around Williamsburg for a home, Rabbi Menachim Heller has finally found a space for his Chabad of East Williamsburg branch on the first-floor of a commercial building on Flushing Avenue.
“What we wanted was something open from the street,” said Rabbi Heller.“It’s going to be open all the time.You can grab a coffee, read something, use the computers, join some classes, and have Friday night meals there.”
The move to The Loom (1087 Flushing Avenue), a four-story commercial loft space with 21 first-floor retail spaces, was finalized just in time for the High Holy Days, where 20 people prayed during Rosh Hashanah services on September 19.
So far, they have a Torah, some honey, and a few folding chairs, but little else.Rabbi Heller, who walked 45 minutes from Crown Heights to lead the service, remains hopefulthat word of mouth will increase attendance. He intends to make the site the “Jewish home for the neighborhood.”
“We’re still getting our furniture, but we had a minyan, a kiddish after, and meals after the service,” said Rabbi Heller. “We served gefilte fish, chicken soup matzo balls, beer, schnapps, meat, chicken, challah, pomegranate, honey, all the Jewish things.We didn’t have any kishka yet.Next week, we’ll have cholent.”
Heller has been consulting with Rabbi Shumly Lein, who runs Chabad North Brooklyn (132 North 5th Street, Williamsburg), regarding the design of holiday programming and marketing events to neighborhood newcomers who want to reconnect with their Jewish identity.
“They recently moved to a retail space downstairs off Flushing and it is going well,” said Lein.
So far, Heller has been taking advantage of extensive ties within the Chabad community to provide support during the holy days. The shofar blower flew in from Canada and walked from Crown Heights on Sunday while the Torah was rescued from a synagogue in Iraq by Israeli military officials and donated to the Chabad branch following a US Government auction.
“It is over 200 years old and is written on special parchment, gvil, which is very difficult to write on,” said Rabbi Heller.“The Torah hasn’t been read in 50 years and now it’s being read here in Bushwick.”
Heller is preparing to lead another round of services for Shabbat, Kol Nidre, and Yom Kippur this weekend.He has the encouragement of The Loom’s owner, Joseph Hoffman, who brought him into the space, and described the Chabad as “adding color to the building.”
“More people will come to shul on Yom Kippur than any other time,” said Heller. “Yom Kippur will end with the blowing of the shofar, a nice kiddish and a break fast.”
After the holidays wind down, Heller is planning to hold Jewish-themed art events in the space, perhaps turning it into a temporary gallery highlighting the work of neighborhood Jewish artists.In the meantime, Heller hopes to add a few tables and couches to make the space more inviting.
“People are very excited about it.It’s an awesome place, and they like way it’s been designed,” said Heller. “Just put some wi-fi in there and we’ll be there.”
Chabad of East Williamsburg, located at 1087 Flushing Avenue, will hold Yom Kippur services on September 27 at 6 p.m. and September 28 starting at 10:30 a.m..For the full schedule of events, visit www.chabadofeastwilliamsburg.org.
©2009 Community News Group
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