Rabbi Avrohom Litvin leaving Anshei Sfard to work with Chabad full time
On August 1, Chabad will open a new Chabad House in Big Spring Gardens, in the neighborhood that adjoins the Jewish Community Center. The Chabad House will be similar to a synagogue, providing the community with daily prayer services, and similar to a social service agency, providing a wide variety of programs for children, teens, adults and seniors.
The Chabad House will be unique for it will not be designated as Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. Instead, it will aim to be a “home away from home” and welcome all Jews with programs and activities geared to people of all ages and backgrounds.
There will be no membership fee required because the Chabad motto is “One should not need to pay to pray,” and everyone is welcome regardless of financial ability. Instead, the Chabad House will invite partnerships that will enable people to support and participate in Chabad’s efforts to help provide for the needs of the Louisville Jewish community.
The Chabad House will build its program with the leadership of Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, regional director of Chabad of Kentucky; Rabbi Boruch Sussman, who has directed the Chabad Chai Center on Shelbyville Road since February 2011; and Rabbi Chaim Litvin, who has assisted his colleagues with a variety of programming.
As its programs outgrew the Chai Center, Chabad’s leaders said it became obvious that the community was responding to such programs as TGIS – Thank G-d It’s Shabbos celebrations and dinners and BLT – Bagels Lox and Torah Sunday Brunch Torah Classes. Classes were added specifically for woman and for teens.
The key, Chabad’s leaders said, was to offer programming that welcomed participation without making any judgments or requirements upon participants. Their success led them to conclude that the Chai Center needed a larger location and the Chabad House will be the next step in that growth process.
At the same time, Congregation Anshei Sfard was struggling with rising costs and dwindling membership. The Board of Directors of the Congregation felt that the best way to ensure the viability of the congregation as a modern Orthodox Synagogue is by attracting Orthodox members from out of town to move to Louisville. Rabbi Avrohom Litvin felt that it was best to adapt services and programming to include the unaffiliated members of the current Louisville Jewish community. They each decided to pursue their endeavors independently, hoping together to best serve the overall Louisville Jewish community.
Rabbi Litvin resigned from the congregation effective July 31, and will focus his efforts on providing inclusive programming at the Chabad House geared to include the entire Jewish community, especially the unaffiliated.
He also indicated that he will continue to offer his services as a teacher, service leader and member of the minyan to Anshei Sfard and all other congregations in the community. “My goal is to provide programming for the widest spectrum of the Jewish community,” Rabbi Litvin said, “the affiliated and the unaffiliated with no labels or judgements about current or previous backgrounds.
“Recently, when I led a Birthright trip to Israel, it opened my eyes to the needs and the openness of the younger generation and their connection to Judaism,” he continued. “It seems to me there are many hundreds, if not thousands, of young adults and families who could be encouraged to participate if they were invited to participate in a nonjudgmental environment.”
To implement this concept, the new Chabad House will be designed to be a welcoming home and Rabbi Litvin has set a goal of completing the building in three to five years.
The organization will operate on a family concept. “There will be no dues,” Rabbi Litvin said, “and no requirement to pay to pray.” Instead, the Chabad House will offer “partnership initiatives” through which people can choose to sponsor individual programs or provide annual sponsorships “and take part in programs we offer throughout the year.”
Rabbi Sussman and Rabbis Avrohom and Chaim Litvin invite the Jewish community to attend the opening events at the Chabad House scheduled for the month of August. Watch the upcoming issues of the Community for more information.