Chabad houses found in extraordinary places!
Since the Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rabbi Menachem Schneerson – insisted that Judaism be made accessible to all Jews, there are Chabad Rosh Hashanah services and meals – even in the most far-flung corners of the globe.
According to Rabbi Ari Kievman of Sandton Central Shul, so Jew needs to be found wanting on Rosh Hashanah. “In places where there is no Jewish infrastructure or formal set-up, we send yeshiva students to ensure that no-one is left behind,” he said. “Food is one of the ways to get people involved.”
From Antarctica – where the first inroads were made by Chabad emissary Meir Alfasi, who sailed there from Argentina to Dubai in the Muslim United Arab Emirates, Chabad’s presence is felt.
Earlier, there was a permanent Chabad presence in Dubai, but now the small numbers of Jews are served by Yeshiva bochurim on the high holidays.
For decades, Chabad – an international Jewish organisation – has firmly believed Jewish traditions and customs are the birthright of every Jew. Accordingly, the movement has made High Holy Day services available free of charge, a model other synagogues and organisations around the world are aiming to replicate. “If there are Jews, there’s Chabad,” is their motto.
“Our goal is to lower the barriers of entry, and encourage each and every Jew to actively participate in these most holy and introspective days.”
Rabbi Kievman cited the inexhaustible list of Chabad services in far-flung places including Aruba, Abidjan, Vietnam, remote parts of Russia, the Cayman Islands, China, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Kenya – where there is a permanent Chabad presence – Latvia, Mexico, Russia and Thailand.
The Lubavitch website reports that there was recently a grand opening of a new Chabad centre and mikveh in Belgrade, Serbia; a Jewish wedding in Seoul, South Korea and a new synagogue opening in Moscow’s Domodedova International Airport to serve travellers passing through.
Chabad, of course, is active in most Western countries including Switzerland and Greece. It also has a strong presence in many African countries, including Mauritius.
Are there problems in predominantly Muslim countries? No, says Rabbi Kievman. However, many remember a 2008 terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai where Chabad Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg, his wife, Rivky, and seven others were killed.
But Chabad soldiers on. Six years ago the new Chabad Centre was opened in that city.
“Of course where there are security threats, we take more precautions and beef up security,” Rabbi Kievman says.
He himself spent time in India in 2002, as did other well-known South African Lubavitchers, including the late Dr Rodney Unterslak, z”l.
A Russian, Rabbi Zvi Herschovich, recently came to South Africa after he was expelled by the KGB, but a strong Chabad movement still exists in the country.
“Chabad services on Rosh Hashanah are a meaningful experience. We explain what is going on and all the commentaries.
“This is the idea of Chabad globally. There are a lot of shuls, which don’t come with a price tag. We are spreading the message of the Rebbe,” says Rabbi Kievman.