Chabad House Celebrates 18 Years With New CTeen Lounge

A grand housewarming ceremony was held at Chabad of Old Tappan last Wednesday, including the formal inauguration of a CTeen lounge and Mikvah.

“Some stories remain forever etched in your memory,” Rabbi Mendy Lewis’s voice echoed around his spacious backyard. “One such story is that of the Rebbe’s parents. As Rabbi and Rebbetzen of Yekaterinoslav, Ukraine, they opened their family home to Jewish refugees from nearby Russia. In what became a vibrant hub of communal activities, theirs was perhaps the first Chabad House in the 20th century.”

With a crowd of 120 assembled for the housewarming garden party, to celebrate 18 years of Chabad Old Tappan, Rabbi Lewis explained how together with his wife Devora, they have aimed to emulate the Rebbe’s parent’s open home policy, to create a uniquely homey Chabad house. Starting off in a little basement, followed by 13 years in an office space, their efforts have seen a burgeoning community develop. With hundreds of Jews passing through their doors over the years, they’ve seen a long-lasting impact from their outreach programs.

After 18 years of full-time dedication, the couple looks forward to their next phase, including two new ventures, a CTeen lounge, and a Mikvah. Both were funded partially by grants from Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky OBM vice-chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, who the Rebbe entrusted to expand the network of Shlichus resources, the two new projects mark a notable upgrade for the Chabad of Old Tappan.

As the sun set over immaculately laid garden tables and buffet last Wednesday evening, Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302 took the stage (well, the deck). Referencing how apropos it was that the daily Chitas discussed the inauguration of the Mishkan in the desert, he encouraged the community members to further Jewish outreach too, concluding “For every person gathered here today, there are more people and families to be brought in and be inspired by this Chabad house. If my father was here today, he would bless you to outgrow this new building too!”

The state-of-the-art CTeen lounge has already played host to numerous activities in the past few months,  including making falafel and Israeli salad packages to sell to the local community raising funds for families who lost loved ones in Israel. 

With bold plans for the future of the space, it will facilitate all manner of teen programs. As a space for teens to relax together, it offers respite for the often toxic anti-Semitic rhetoric Jewish teens face daily online and in school.

In her speech at the event, local CTeen leader Orlee Drillich, 15 proudly declared “Even though I’m not in a Jewish high school, CTeen enables me to remain connected to Jewish holidays and observance. Having a dedicated lounge allows me and other local teens to have a place we can count on for connection, Jewish learning, and a place to relax. It helps remind me I’m part of a 15.7 million strong Jewish people when I encounter everyday antisemitism in School or elsewhere.”

A CTeen lounge, a mikvah, communal prayer, JLI classes, Shabbat meals, challah bakes, farbrengens, and family interactions, all from the comfort of the Rabbi’s new home, allow everyone to find their safe space at Chabad of Old Tappan. Beyond the increase in Torah study and performance of Mitzvot that this new home has initiated, it’s not an uncommon site to see two adults who recently met at a Chabad program, playing ping-pong together in the Rabbi’s house. The Old Tappan Jewish community is deliberately centered around a family home, a home for everyone and a model for bringing the light of Yiddishkeit into every Jewish home in the community

The housewarming ceremony brought the community together and was also graced by esteemed guests Rabbi Binyomin Fajnland, shliach in Long Beach, California (Mrs Lewis’ father),  and Rabbi Mordechai Shain, director of Lubavitch on the Palisades, under whose auspices Chabad of Old Tappan operates.

The spa-like Mikvah is named Mikvah Mei Sarah, after Sarah Levy OBM, community member David Levy’s Mother, and displays a portrait of her painted by the Rabbi’s daughter, Mushka, befitting the Chabad House’s family spirit.

As Mrs Devora Lewis concluded in her speech “A mikvah is so vital to a Jewish community. We have already seen many miracles in the months the mikvah has been in use, and we’re sure we’ll see many more G-d Willing. Seeing our new home already serving our community in so many beautiful ways is an honor and privilege. We hope this brings us one step closer to experiencing the inauguration of the third Bet Hamikdash, the ultimate Chabad House, with the coming of Moshiach.”

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