Chabad of Orange and Woodbridge, the local branch of a world-wide movement promoting and deepening Jewish life, recently opened a new community center at 280 Boston Post Road, Orange. “We envision this as a space for people to connect, be inspired and engage with their Judaism,” said Rabbi Hershy Hecht, 28, whose parents Rabbi Sheya and Bluma Hecht started the local group right around the time Hershy was born. He is now continuing their work together with his wife, Riki. The center is open to Jews of any background, he said.
Chabad Jewish Center is located in the space that was formerly occupied by Lampshades Plus. The store, once filled with lampshades of all sizes and shapes, is now a light-filled open space that allows small groups to occupy a corner. There is a corner for a book lending library, a corner for the youngest ones to learn about Jewish life; a corner for the sale of Judaica – currently mostly menorahs, given that Chanukka is just around the corner.
A large conference table points to the heart of it all: the study of and discussion of scripture. Not far away, right opposite the entrance, hangs a portrait of the most influential leader of the Chabad movement, Menachem Mendel, who, according to a Wikipedia entry, “transformed the (Chabad) movement into one of the most widespread Jewish movements in the world today.”
The local Chabad is offering after-school programs for young children from public schools so they experience Jewish life; also, Torah classes for adults; they will establish a Mitzvah Center for good deeds; form a Jewish birthday club.
For Hershy Hecht, and his wife Riki, the center is an extension of their home life. Both grew up in Chabad households, Hershy in Orange, Riki in Pittsburg. “Our home [in his parents’ house] was always full of guests,” he said. They were delivering food, making Purim baskets, helping those in need. “That’s what I’m made of,” he said when he showed this reporter around the new center.
Even before the center had officially opened, a group of women gathered to make mezuzah cases with fuzed glass. These cases will be attached to a door frame and hold parchments inscribed with Torah verses. “We had a local scribe to talk and show the practical side of a mezuzah scroll,” said Riki Hecht. It was a joyful gathering.
Up until recently the local Chabad has been operating out of the Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy on Derby Avenue, where Rabbi Sheya Hecht is the headmaster. But the school has been growing and space became tight at times. Events that draw larger crowds, such as for Chanukka or Purim, will continue to be held at the school, Hershy Hecht said.
The new center offers office space, a Judaica shop, a Jewish lending library, a small children’s corner and more. In their vision, the center will become a welcoming place for Jews who live or work in the area. Parents who wait for their children involved in after-school activities might choose to use the lending library. Hecht is planning to start a Lunch and Learn class for those who work in the area. Starting in mid-January they will host JLI (Jewish Learning Institute) courses.
“It will be a place where the spiritual heartbeat of our community can grow,” the Hechts wrote in an email announcing their plans.
For more information, you can check out their website at www.chabadow.org. The Chabad Jewish Center will be open Monday – Thursday from 10:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. or by appointment.
- Making Mezuzah – Local women recently gathered at the new Chabad Jewish Center on the Boston Post Road to create glass-fused mezuzah cases. These cases hold parchments inscribed with Torah verses and will be attached to a door frame. (Photo by Riki Hecht)
- Rabbi Hershy Hecht and his wife, Riki, with daughter Miriam, preparing for the grand opening of the new Chabad Jewish Center
- The new Chabad Jewish Center offers a welcoming, light-infused space where Jewish families can deepen their faith. Pictured is Riki Hecht, who is creating programming for children and women.
By Bettina Thiel, Woodbridge Town News Correspondent