The Chabad Center: Positive Impact in the Community

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chabad center

Rabbi Perlstein

The Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Greater Gainesville and Manassas was established as a nonprofit organization by Rabbi Shmuly Perlstein and his wife, Goldie Perlstein, in May 2017. Rabbi Perlstein said the Center focuses on being “a resource for anyone looking to connect or learn about Judaism, and foster a welcoming and non-judgmental community that helps bring our community forward.”

Chabad-Lubavitch

The Chabad Center in Gainesville is part of a larger organization, movement, and philosophy called Chabad-Lubavitch, a branch of Hasidic Judaism. The name “Chabad” is an acronym derived from the Hebrew words for wisdom, comprehension, and knowledge. “Lubavitch” means “the city of brotherly love” and comes from the name of a city in eastern Russia where the movement has roots. The modern Chabad-Lubavitch organization dates to the 1940s when Rabbi Menachem Mendel began to found numerous Chabad centers around the world. The global network of Chabad Centers currently has more than 3,500 institutions committed to serving Jewish communities.

Faith-Informed

The values of Chabad-Lubavitch guide Rabbi Perlstein’s work within the community. He said, “As a religious organization, faith is at the center of all that we do, our belief in the inherent Godly value in each individual, inspires us to do our best to serve and be there for everyone regardless of affiliation or past, and treat everyone with dignity.”

Perlstein and the Chabad Center strive to make their services accessible to any who are interested. He said, “We strongly believe that religious and educational experience should be available to all, so at Chabad we do not require membership for participation in our services. We will also never turn someone away due to lack of funds. [During] the High Holidays, we offer free seats so that all are welcome and included in our services.”

Impact on the Jewish Community 

The Chabad Center has made a positive impact on the Jewish community in Prince William in many ways. Rabbi Perlstein said, “Since we have started, we have found the Jewish Community to have a voice and home in Western PWC. Whether it’s the child in Hebrew School who for the first time has an opportunity to connect to their heritage, or the elderly in senior homes that are no longer alone, or the woman who is too ill to leave home for services that receives holiday bags to bring her joy. We have been blessed to see a community of loving and caring individuals coming together.”

chabad center

People of all ages are involved in the center’s community work. Rabbi Perlstein said, “At our teen programming, we encourage our teens to give back by making meals for local shelters, packing gifts for kids in hospitals and other community service events.” The teenage group started to work with the SERVE shelter in Manassas. In the High Lifeline program, teens make care packages for children with terminal illnesses.

Perlstein said that his community is looking to partner up with senior homes to more consistently pair up with residents and hopes to have the program more established by early 2024. 

Ellen Malka, a retired teacher, is one member of the Gainesville Chabad community who exemplifies the spirit of contributing to the local community. Ellen started working with “senior buddies” at local retirement homes when she retired four years ago. She visits seniors both in homes and those who live in local elder care facilities. Malka said, “Our main goal is to help combat social isolation among the elderly, which is a huge problem. We also give respite to caregivers.”

Malka’s work with seniors has snowballed into other community connections as well. She has helped to connect seniors with local Head Start programs. Malka said, “The seniors started making picture books and terrariums for the kids. The kids loved these gifts and the older folks felt like they were needed and doing something significant for the younger generation.”

Malka said, “We’re always looking for new members of the community to help out with different programs. I started working with the Warrior Retreat for veterans in Haymarket and am involving other members of our congregation.” Malka also works with local SPCA chapters to place adoption posters for animals in local businesses.

Additionally, the center offers weekly and seasonal educational classes for the community. Rabbi Perlstein said the classes “offer a deeper understanding of Jewish values and tools for personal growth.” Many of the weekly classes focus on important Chabad-Lubavitch texts, such as the Tanya written by the founder of Chabad Hasidism.

Holidays

Chanukah Menorah Lightings will occur from Dec. 7 to 14 this year. Rabbi Perlstein said, “We offer public Menorah lightings and experiences open to share the message of religious freedom and liberty.” There will be three menorah lighting events this year, including one at the new Rollins Ford Park. Perlstein had his first menorah lighting in the Town of Occoquan last year and plans to continue this year. At the Harris Pavilion in Old Town Manassas, the Chabad Center holds the “Menorah on Ice” lighting.

To learn more, connect, or support, you can reach out to 571-445-0342 or visit ChabadGainesville.com.

 

Paul Keily is a local writer, educator, and artist. He has lived in Prince William for the majority of his life. He is an active participant in and organizer of DIY events at Clearbrook Center of the Arts.

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