As he approaches, dozens of students stand in anticipation, for they know who’s on that bike.
He’s the one, the only, the Rocking Rabbi.
A friend to students across the West Island, the Rocking Rabbi hosts the Shmooze Club, a once-a-week lunch session at various private high schools. Over the course of an hour, students ar treated to a generous helping of pizza, and fries with a dose of spirituality and a few laughs mixed in.
Needless to say, this program is exciting, different and a complete success, and for the Chai Center, it has developed into one of their signature events stemming from their new branch in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.
The Chai Center, along with Town of Mount Royal’s Chabad of the Town, Cote St. Luc’s Beth Chabad, are just three of the Chabad centers in Montreal, and although each organization operates individually, they all serve the same mandate, to make Judaism accessible, interesting, and appealing to every Montrealer.
“Our mandate applies to all Jews] no matter their age, background, or affiliation. We want every Jew to be able to call Judaism their own,” said Rabbi Moishe Krasnanski, from Chabad of the Town. “A lot of Jews do not have the
As such, each center tailors programs to appeal to people all ages, some of which would be difficult to find at your run-the-mill synagogue. This truly enables everybody in the community the chance to reconnect with or strengthen their Jewish roots. “Our services are not like everywhere else, we sing a lot, we have a very interactive situation where people really get into it and find it interesting,” said Rabbi Krasnanski. “They come
However, even though they truly appeal to a diverse crowd, for the Chabad centers in Montreal, their main focus has become the youth, and to provide a safe and nurturing environment for those who seek one.
“We have the Chai Cafe which is very popular, a pool table, air hockey, all kinds of things catering to their needs, and at the same time, we’re doing all of this in a Kosher atmosphere,” said Rabbi Yossi Kessler. “[The teenagers] love it because they’re having a good time, and many of them come again and again.”
Such values are echoed at Chabad of the Town as they plan to begin a club whereas young adults can get together and have fun, but give back to the community at the same time. “[We plan on starting] a club where [teenagers] will get together, do fun things, but it will [also] be centered around volunteering,” said Rabbi Krasnanski. “They will do a mitzvah, do
Although most would agree that children are a much easier crowd than teenagers, Chabad centers in Montreal are still trying to give both groups equal amounts of attention as they work to tailor programs which peak the interests of all youth, while at the same time, enhancing their appreciation for Judaism.
Such opportunities are the Chai Center’s Living Legacy program, which offers children a plethora of hands-on experiences such as Matzah and Havdalah candle making which enable them to visualize their Jewish education. While at Chabad of the Town, children can attend their winter and summer camps, where they get the opportunity to learn core values by “stretching their hearts out” while they exercise. A summer camp can also be found at Beth Chabad, which is tailored specifically for teenagers aged 12 to 16, and along with some learning, offers a mix of sports, Shabbatons and two weekly trips.
However, behind all the programs, events and even the Harley Davidson are the Rabbis, and for the youth, they are more than spiritual leaders — they are mentors.
“When we say Rabbi, at the Chai Centre, a Rabbi means a mentor. It is a person you can lean on, a shoulder to lean on, a father to cry to,” said Rabbi Kessler. “We provide guidance for life and [the opportunity to learn] values. We’re not turning [anyone] into Chabadniks because that’s not our goal, just [into] Mentchs.”
For these mentors whether in Cote Saint Luc or the West Island, their jobs does not end with young adults as the
aforementioned shoulder to lean on is extended to any individual who needs it. Along with programs and activities for special needs children, each center also offers facilities that provide social and humanitarian aid and support for the less fortunate.
Even though it is a combination of the people, programs and facilities which make these three Chabad centers special, at the heart are the Jewish beliefs and teachings which are being passed down to the next generation, and fortunately for today’s youth, these Rabbis have found entertaining and exciting ways to do it.
Courtesy of the Montreal Jewish Magazine