Shua’s Kollel is a welcoming place where young men can discover their love for learning. They are purchasing a building so more people can join their growing community and participate in Shabbos minyanim and events.
Three years ago, following two years of running their own yeshiva in La Paz, Mexico, Eli and Josh Engelson realized there was a lack of community for their students, young men who were moving on to the next stage in their lives.
Sending them into the world after time submerged in an environment solely focused on spiritual pursuits was extremely unsettling and confusing, ultimately leading to loneliness and feeling disconnected. Moving to Crown Heights, Shua Polonsky’s Kollel was born:
A half day learning experience, where participants, ages nineteen to late twenties could come to learn, receive payment and have time left in their day to work and establish an income, while still staying in the world of Torah.
Named after Shua Polonsky A”H, the Kollel aims to create an environment where much like its namesake, promotes healthy positive living and an emphasis on healthy and balanced Yiddishkeit. These single young men are able to transition from their previous experiences whether it was Yeshiva or in many circumstances other environments, into an accepting, non-judgmental home, encouraging growth in mind and soul.
Workshops every Friday bring in different balebatim around Crown Heights, therapists, trades people and marriage counselors to share their personal experiences about life and mentorship to it’s young members.
Teachers such as Rabbi YY Geisinsky, Rabbi Mendel Groner, Rabbi Shmuel Rubinstein and Rabbi Eli and Josh Engelson teach nigleh, chassidus, Jewish history, dating/marriage preparation, so there is something to challenge and enrich everyone. After two years, with over 120 members having to come through their doors, there has been tremendous growth, success, shidduchim, and inspiration from the kollel’s impact.
In addition, Shua’s Kollel has had a junior branch-Chabad Boys Academy Highschool with a Judaic and General studies curriculum as well as a competitive athletic basketball team, led by Coach Yosef Halevy, fully operating alongside it. After tremendous success, this coming year Chabad Boys Academy will be transitioning to Yerushalaim, together with its staff and doubling its student body.
Center for Jewish Life of Crown Heights
While Shua’s Kollel thrived during the week, on Shabbos, the members lacked a place to belong and a Shul and community with which to connect to others. A minyan formed in the Engelsons’ home and faster than could be anticipated, attendance grew unprecedentedly for both young men and young women. What started as a small Chassidus shiur on shabbos morning, has evolved into a Likkutei Torah class with 40-60 people attending and a Kiddush which hosts on average 100 people weekly.
For many, outside the kollel, it is the only in-person Chassidus/Torah they will learn all week. With a weekly kiddush, farbrengen open to all, and new faces attending from Crown Heights, the upper west side, Queens, Lakewood and Flatbush, there is a feeling of a true Chabad House flourishing right in the heart of Crown Heights. Now with the intent to purchase a building to continue all the activities, it is with your help to make this dream, and space for the communities’ own, to finally feel welcomed and embraced just as they are. We support our brothers, sisters, far and wide and yet sometimes it takes a little reminder to remember that our very own children are right here beside us.
Shuas Kollel/Center for Jewish Life’s Upcoming Charidy campaign will be held on Sunday, May 23, the 13th of Sivan, for $200,000. Every donation will be doubled by the generosity and care of David and Eda Schottenstein, Joey & Lindsay Schottenstein, Sruli Litkowsky, Yoel Pesso and Yaniv & Simi Hoffman. Funds will go directly toward the down payment of the building!
As a boy growing up in the “system” I was burnt out by Yeshiva and dropped out when I was seventeen. I always stayed frum, because Emuna wasn’t something I struggled with. For me the struggle was having an interest in learning, because Torah was something I associated with my bad experiences. It was a hard balance to stay connected to Judaism while actively avoiding so much of it.
Two years ago, I got a call from Eli Engelson expressing how much he would love it if I joined Shua’s Kolel. I never reached out to him, and I’m not sure what triggered his phone call. At the time I was at a pivotal moment in my life because I was twenty-two and it felt like I was at a crossroads- his timing was impeccable. Joining Shua’s Kollel felt like an amazing opportunity to reconnect and get a love for learning, while making enough money that it wouldn’t be a burden.
What happened to me since I joined has been indescribable. I went from not learning a word to learning for many hours a day. Even when there isn’t Kolel, I have watched myself put hours into learning. I have finished a few mesechtas of Gemara, many chapters of Tanach and Chassidus.
The love I have for Torah now is something I didn’t think was feasible. It is all thanks to Shua’s Kolel which embraced me with open arms. A place that has no judgement, no rigidity, and amazing people that have a wealth of Torah knowledge and are willing to help you through whatever.
The Shul that has now been established reaches out to way more people than the kolel ever could. It is packed every shabbos with people that come early to hear Eli’s chassidus shiur, and sit through a beautiful davening. I can confidently say that most of the people there wouldn’t go to shul otherwise, yet they feel at home by Eli and Miriam. By the time the massive kiddush comes around there’s already about a 100 people packed both inside and out. Lots of young singles come just for the food because they don’t have another meal to go to, there is always enough food for all of them. It is really a marvel to look at.
In addition to the absolute toll it takes to run a shul and a kollel, the Center hosts many of the Yomim Tovim and special days in Chabad for farbrengens and meals. Their home is always overflowing with guests. They are truly a Chabad House in Crown Heights.
I really hope Shua’s Kollel and this new Center for Jewish Life have the necessary resources to help many more people like myself. It’s impact is so necessary in today’s world, in which people need a place to feel welcome in order to thrive.
Help Shua’s Kollel/Center for Jewish Life build a home for our own in Crown Heights. Donate here.
Photos: Rebecca Eagle, Avraham Edery