This weekend, hundreds of adults and children from seventy five cities around the world will spend Shabbos in Crown Heights to get a taste of Lubavitch life.
“Many Shluchim wanted to introduce their communities to Crown Heights and its vibrant community,” says Rabbi Shmuly Karp, who coordinates the annual event, dubbed ‘Shabbat in the Heights,’ ”but such a visit was difficult to organize from afar.” In 2015, several Shluchim approached the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), Chabad’s preeminent provider of adult-education for help and together with the Lubavitch Youth Organization which has hosted Crown Heights guests for decades, created the first ‘Shabbat in the Heights.’
Rabbi Efraim Mintz, JLI’s executive director explains that the program fits in perfectly with the Institute’s objective. “The content of our courses are developed to illustrate the profound relevance of Torah in our day-to-day living. Experiencing an authentic Shabbos and encountering the heart and soul of Chabad at Shabbat in the Heights is another way to spread the message.”
Eighty-five adults attended the first year and since then the number of participants has grown so that this year organizers expect 380 adults. Many, like Greka and Yitzchak Isaac Leimberg, are repeat guests. The Pasadena couple have come every year since the inauguration of Shabbat in the Heights. “We, spiritually and emotionally recharge our batteries when we go to Crown Heights with our rabbi,” explains Greka.
“The schedule is tightly packed, with a focus on giving our guests an insight into the inner workings of Chabad while encountering the hospitality for which the Crown Heights community is renowned,” says Yisroel Beenstock, director of outreach for the weekend.
Participants visit various notable communal figures, at their homes, and are hosted for Friday night dinner by Crown Heights families. They attend lectures and join discussions, and fire questions at a panel of rabbis and rebbetzins. They visit the Rebbe’s shul, office, and home—culminating in a visit to the Rebbe’s Ohel.
Presenters in this year’s program include Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Rabbi Naftali Silberberg, Rabbi Kasriel Kastel, Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, Rabbi Manis Friedman, Rabbi Daniel Walker, Rabbi Yitzchak Hanoka, Rabbi Zalman Marcus, Mrs. Shaindy Jacobson, Mrs. Chaviva Tarlow, Mrs. Devora Caytak, Mrs. Dina Rosenfeld, Mrs. Adina Adry and Mrs. Sorah Shemtov.
Rabbi Chaim Hanoka, now chairman of Shabbat in the Heights, has brought guests from all levels of Jewish observance and involvement. He says the feedback, both from his fellow shluchim and his congregants shows the effect the weekend has, even once it’s over. “People go home with renewed energy and vigor in their own Judaism, becoming ambassadors to their communities, where they encourage others to become more involved.”