‘The Center’ in Florida Saves Lives and Gives Direction

The Center of Miami serves as a safe space for both boys and girls (with separate programs) between 18 and 30 years of age with different challenges in life, helping them get to the next stage in life.

Dovid was raised in a Jewish home, yet suffered for years from childhood trauma. It all became too much for him and one day he found himself in a desperate moment of crisis. He was severely depressed and crying his heart out. A terrible idea came to him: “Why should I continue living?” After all the trauma he had been through, he couldn’t find a way out of the darkness. The more he thought about it, the stronger he felt this was the only way out of his misery. 

A life hangs in the air. There is no one he feels he can turn to during this time of pain. 

Then suddenly, a call that saved Dovid’s life. Just minutes before he was going to carry out his fateful decision, Rabbi Avrohom Rimler from The Center in South Florida called him. 

That question Dovid asked a few months earlier now had a very different answer: “Why should I continue living?” He couldn’t imagine finding a way out, a path of healing, until he found The Center. It helped him find purpose, meaning and connection. Today Dovid’s happily married and working a successful job.

Founded by Matis Abarbanel and ran by assistant director Rabbi Rimler, The Center is located in Miami and is the equivalent to Crown Heights’ Aliyah Institute. It has become Dovid’s family, support, lifeline, and his home away from home, like so many others. This crucial space serves 500 members, including active attendees and alumni, and where visitors from Crown Heights often come when heading to Miami to visit Aliyah’s sister organization. After renting several homes for the past fourteen years, they will finally have a home of their own, to expand their offerings where youth in need can flock towards.

It’s a safe space for both boys and girls (with separate programs) between 18 and 30 years of age with different challenges in life. They help youth get to the next stage in life, whether it’s therapy, rehab, finding a job, army placement, college, shidduchim or marriage.

Today is the crowdfunding campaign to raise the last 280K to complete their new home, which includes a 850 square feet game room and outdoor basketball court that still needs to be finished. The new Center will also feature a music room, large farbrengen room and lounge, shul, Beis Medrash, library, and BBQ area.

“Some need food or a shoulder to lean on, some need intensive help, some need help with jobs,” said Rabbi Rimler. “It takes time for them to open up, but we accept everyone and keep in touch with them. The Center also has Shabbatons, some divorced guys come too. It’s a safe space where people can just be themselves. They have been through the system, but not all are religious now. Our job is to try to help them heal and automatically the Yiddishkeit comes along with it. Most kids, about 80 percent, are Lubavitchers. It’s important to support own kids.”

 Avi had been on prescription drugs since the of age 14. His family and doctors thought there was something wrong with him so they decided the best course of action was to put him on heavy medications. What they didn’t yet know was that the source behind Avi’s pain was the severe abuse he went through as a child.

When Avi showed up at The Center he was a mess. He would appear briefly for a few minutes, coming in and out, living as a zombie, not able to work or function as a human being. One day, he decided to get off his meds and become clean. The Center rabbi called him in perfect timing. At first, though, he was hesitant, declining his calls for months, but Rabbi Rimler kept on pushing. One day, Avi decided to accept the rabbi’s lifesaving rope to guide him out of the depths. He started going to The Center and getting more involved. It was his only connection to humanity. Everyone was friendly and it felt like home. Soon, someone there offered Avi a job at a farm up North, a five-hour drive from Miami, setting him up with a cabin on a 500 acre property.  Within a week, he was taking care of the animals and he felt like another person. Things started to improve mentally at the farm and his thoughts cleared. 

After a few months, Avi returned to Miami and The Center and asked the rabbi to help him find a local job and he immediately gave him a contact to call. Avi’s been working at the same job for a year and half. The Center has been there for him in every way – never judging, creating a safe world, a sense of family. 

Avi sees everything as an experience given by G-d. He grew up religious, went to yeshivah, but felt detached from his relationship with G-d. He was obedient, always listening to his parents, following the Torah, but yet, traumatic experiences occurred that appeared so bad.  

The Center kept him in touch with G-d. “They are always welcoming to every Jew no matter what their past was like and they try to bring them closer through love, friendships and warmth,” Avi said. “I’m happy with who I am today as a person and that’s thanks to the Center.” 

The stories of finding healing, purpose and meaning happens over and over again through the hundreds of youths that continue to pass through their open doors since 2009. At the Center they have found a home away from home and a support group to help them take their next big step in life.

They have 22 events every month. For guys there’s Sunday minyan and brunch, Tuesday nights learning and Dinner and Thursday nights Smoked Meat BBQ, a beautiful catered event where around 50 guys come to a farbrengen with shluchim, entrepreneurs and investors from all walks of life who share their personal stories, challenges and life experiences. In the past speakers included Rabbi Avrohom Korf, Eli Nash, Rabbi Leibel Shapiro, Rabbi Noam Wagner from South Africa, David Shottenstien and this past Thursday a kumzitz took place until 3 am with a music therapist for kids at risk. There’s also Friday Mivtzoim and lunch, Shabbatons, camping trip weekends in the woods, a trip to Mexico and an upcoming excursion to Peru. 

Rabbi Rimler also takes boys out for lunch for alone time by restaurants to hear their stories. “It’s a powerful way to connect,” he said. “The more time you spend with them, the more they are likely to open up and share their life challenges so we can help them and turn around their lives for the better.” 

Girls have a weekly Tuesday night event with either art or speakers, always including dinner and farbrengen.

Nex Sunday on Yud Alef Nissan is the 14th anniversary, inauguration and grand opening of the brand new Center with a Siyum Sefer Torah, welcoming its first Torah organized by member Yossi Dubow in Zechus of his family and the Center family. It will be followed by a dinner and farbrengen in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday featuring music by Choni Teitelbaum, entertainment by Nosson Zand and L’chaim OG and speakers Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar from the Bal Harbor Shul and Rabbi Chay Amar.

They are giving the privilege to Chabad at large to complete the Center home for our own kids in pain and hurting. Join them in completing the new Center building, a home of connection and community for our youth, our future.

Link to fundraiser page: https://thecenter.raisegiving.com/

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