Rabbi Mendel and Sheva Rapoport will be moving on Shlichus to Northridge, California, to take on a diverse range of outreach and education projects in the heart of California’s S. Fernando Valley.
By Dovi Paltiel
As the week of the Kinus Hashluchim begins, two new lamplighters are preparing to head out to Northridge, California to further the Rebbe’s mission of spreading light to Jews of all ages.
Rabbi Mendel and Sheva (nee Rivkin) Rapoport are veterans in the field of Jewish outreach. As the scion of a multi-generational family of Shluchim in Mequon, Wisconsin, Mendel grew up immersed in the life of Shlichus, engaging the local children and teens alongside his parents. He developed his skills through the following years, working with young IDF soldiers in Chevron. Sheva’s many summers volunteering in the well known “Camp Yeka,” along with her long tenure as director of CKids Club for Merkos 302, have cultivated her ability to relate to and engage the younger demographic.
Located in the heart of California’s S. Fernando Valley, the greater Northridge area is a region with a vast Jewish population of over 25,000. Its proximity to Granada Hills Charter High School -one of the most prestigious high schools in the country, with an estimated 1,000 Jewish students out of a total student body of 5,000- creates a powerful teen presence with tremendous potential for growth.
Under the auspices of Chabad of the Valley, Rabbi Mendel and Sheva are joining Rabbi Eli and Tzippy Rivkin, who have been directing Chabad activities in Northridge since 2004. “We are so incredibly excited to have such a creative, talented and energetic couple joining the Chabad of Northridge team,” says Rabbi Rivkin. “Our community is very fortunate to be having the addition of such devoted shluchim.” They will be expanding some of the existing programs, taking over the helm of the city’s flourishing CTeen chapter and working to reach out to the thousands of unaffiliated teens looking to get involved
The new couple will be leading some new undertakings as well- such as ACE, Aaron’s Culinary Experiences. The recent initiative is dedicated to the memory of Aaron Freidman, a Northridge community member who combined his passion for the culinary arts with a love of Judaism. ACE aims to do the same, bringing the richness of Judaism to the Northridge community through a series of creative food-related programs, uniting Jews of all ages and persuasions over the same culinary traditions that have brought Jews together for centuries.
As well, the new Shluchim will be assisting the Rivkins in continuing to reach out and engage the as-of-yet unaffiliated Jews throughout the region. Many families and individuals have been hit hard by Covid-19, and the Rapoports hope to put their creativity and out-of-the-box outlook to use, innovating new ways to reach out and inspire Jews who have been affected spiritually, financially and socially by the current climate.
Already, they have begun harnessing the opportunities afforded by technology to lay the first foundations of their new Shlichus, starting a series of Zoom events that were enthusiastically received by the local teens. Enthusiastically enough, in fact, to prompt an advance trip into Northridge for a teen bonfire and barbecue- adhering closely, of course, to Covid-19 safety guidelines. “People are really looking to connect to others in a warm and friendly, yet safe and healthy environment,” explains Sheva. “And we intend to continue helping them do just that.”
The couple also produced their first ACE initiative project, sending out a Rosh Hashanah honey-themed cooking recipe package, along with all the necessary High Holiday supplies. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Rabbi Mendel reports, “both on the part of the teens and the community at large. We can’t wait to move in and begin the next phase of our Shlichus!”
Despite the difficulties in moving out on Shlichus in the midst of the pandemic, Rabbi Mendel and Sheva have persevered and worked tirelessly to establish the necessary groundwork and support base for their new mission. To partner with them in their vitally important work, and help insure a brighter future for the Jews of Northridge, click here.