When Morganville resident Evelyn Fabrikant’s father died in 1992 and her strictly observant brother flew in from Israel, she needed to organize an Orthodox shiva minyan. She reached out to Rabbi Boruch Chazanow, leader of the Manalapan-based Chabad of Western Monmouth County, and everything went smoothly.
Fabrikant is just one community member out of thousands who has benefited from contact with the Chabad, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Sunday, March 19, with a dinner at Lake Terrace in Lakewood.
“The great contribution of Chabad is the sense of Jewish community and pride it helped create in the Freehold/Manalapan/Marlboro area,” said Debbi Rau, who remembers what it was like before Chabad arrived. “My family came to Manalapan when I was four. There were no kosher restaurants, except for one deli, and no kosher butchers. To get meat, we had to make an expedition to Lakewood. Now, I’m thrilled by the thriving Jewish community, especially at holiday times — the giant menorahs, the Chanukah party at Freehold Raceway Mall, the restaurants at Summerton Plaza, and the mobile sukkah during Sukkot.”
A member of the group’s Women’s Circle for more than 20 years, Nancy Halpert of Marlboro remembers weeklong cooking sessions at the Chabad House kitchen, as a cadre of volunteers prepared dinner for more than 200 attendees at the annual Jewish Women’s Day program. “I was guest of honor in 1997,” she said. “In those days, we didn’t use a caterer; we did everything ourselves.”
At 93, Manalapan’s Vivian Goodman continues to pursue an active lifestyle, thanks to the help of Chabad volunteers. “I look forward to the monthly meetings of the Smiling on Seniors (SOS) program,” she told NJJN in a phone interview. “We mingle with others in our age group, hear speakers, and engage in activities that keep our minds alert.” She praised Chabad’s staff members and volunteers for their kindness, for treating physically challenged participants with patience and understanding, and “for doing all they do with an open hand.”
Sharon Marks of Freehold is part of Chabad’s Bikur Holim hospital visitation team, some 20 volunteers who commit to seeing all the Jewish patients at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold every Friday. “There are usually between 25 and 30 patients,” said Marks. “I bring them flowers and a smile, and offer to arrange for a Mishebeirach (prayer for healing) to be recited at services.” During Chanukah, she added, she brings a chanukiah and helps them light and bless the candles.
Manalapan resident Kevin L. Uniglicht, an attorney, has been active in the Chabad-sponsored Jewish Business Network for approximately five years. Noting JBN’s membership growth, Uniglicht praised it for its opportunities for “incredible networking,” and for providing access to educational and marketing seminars.
“I have three children,” said Randi Goldberg of Morganville,” and all have derived benefit from Chabad’s Friendship Circle” — its program that recruits teens to help special-needs youngsters and their families — “two as volunteers, and one who is a client with special needs.”
“The group, which is dedicated to the memory of Ari Kraut, meets at Robertsville Elementary School almost every Sunday afternoon, and Joshua loves those programs,” said Goldberg. “There are also Monday sports activities, with the sport changing every six weeks or so for variety, and a Thursday Gym & Swim at the Y in Freehold.”
Chazanow said, “Our mission is to inspire personal growth through the teaching of Torah and the experiences of Jewish culture and tradition.” He placed particular emphasis on interactive programs for children and families, including the Chabad school and youth programs run by Rabbi Shmuly Volovick and his wife, Mushkie, as well as the Gan Israel Day Camp, which is under the direction of Rabbi Avrohom Bernstein.
“We would like to ensure that any Jewish student who enters a university is capable of being an ambassador for Judaism, not an apologist. And that means starting early,” Chazanow explained.
“We serve 250 kids for eight weeks each summer,” said Bernstein. “Our goal is to provide a fun experience in a Jewish environment. Each season, we feature a Jewish Pride week, during which the campers are encouraged to explore their heritage through songs, stories, and projects. It’s our belief that school is where you learn to do things, and camp is where you learn to be a mensch.”
“There are 60 kids participating in Friendship Circle right now, and most show up for at least one of our three weekly sessions,” said Chana’le Wolosow, the program’s director.
Her husband, Rabbi Levi Wolosow, focuses primarily on the Expanded Adult Education and Lecture series, which attracts over 1,000 attendees a year, and the Young Jewish Families program, through which he and Chana’le reach participants with Friday night dinners, Shabbat day events, and interactive holiday programs.
“We are always seeking new and innovative ways to make Torah study relevant and interesting to all Jewish members of the community,” he said. “Recently, we began offering classes via telephone conference calls in order to reach people driving to work in the morning. For many, this is the only time in their busy days that they have time for study.”
Tova Chazanow, Rabbi Chazanow’s wife, is in charge of the Women’s Circle, the Bikur Holim effort, and the Smiling on Seniors program. She called special attention to Bella Scharf Zelingher and Barbara Silvers for their “tireless work” on SOS.
The banquet’s theme is “Inspiring Generations.” Three couples — Shirley and Mark Chudnoff of Manalapan, and Barbara and Hal Crane, and Stacy and Seth Feldman of Morganville — will be the guests of honor.
A memorial tribute will be held to honor Miri Horowitz, a beloved member of the community who lived with her husband, Jay, and children, Naomi and Natan, in Marlboro. Jane and Erwin Schneider of Marlboro will be honored as Pillars of Dedication and Friendship.