Chabad of the Rivertowns: Meeting Jews Where They Are

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by Alexander Roberts – 

Jay and Elina Lindauer were skeptical.

Emily Wachs
shows off her handmade
challah at Chabad Hebrew
School.
—Photo by Benjy Silverman

Secular Jews whose son had “hopped around” several Hebrew School programs, the Dobbs Ferry couple never thought he would enjoy an Orthodox synagogue. But Julian, now 11, has looked forward to Sundays at Chabad of the Rivertowns for two years. He said that Rabbi Benjy and his wife, Hinda Silverman, make Judaism fun at the synagogue, which is located at 303 Broadway in Dobbs Ferry.

Elina, an author of 20 books, said that the key to Chabad is that it emphasizes community over everything else, which is reflected in a congregation that ranges from the non-observant to the religious.

“Chabad offers a rich and traditional taste of Judaism where everyone is welcome and respected for who they are,” said Rabbi Benjy. “People walk out of Chabad feeling better about their Judaism and themselves.”

Chabad has its roots in the Hasidic Orthodox tradition, which distinguished itself from standard Orthodoxy because of its insistence on experiencing Judaism with joy. While other Hasidic sects tend to be insular, Chabad has a unique mission of engaging all Jews, offering a welcoming, non-judgmental environment that invites questioning.

Since its humble beginning over a flower shop in Ardsley 12 years ago, Chabad membership has grown to 280 families, with about a thousand others who connect on the High Holidays or some of the many free events, such as the Chanukah Village and menorah lighting it presents every year in Irvington.

Rabbi Benjy is most proud of how his wife has grown their Hebrew School, in which parents may drop off their children each Sunday for two hours of Jewish values and history. “We make sure the children have a wonderful time,” said Hinda, “while giving their parents a needed break for brunch.”

Adding to the program of activities, there are adult classes on contemporary issues, and members sponsor small dinner parties so they get to know each other. Shabbat Services include a free lunch where Jews may connect and share a story related to the week’s Torah portion.

For more information, contact Chabad at (914) 693-6100.

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