A Warm New Home for Jews in Sudbury

From Chabad.org by Liza Wiemer:

During a mid-winter night in 2006, shortly after Rabbi Yisroel and Shayna Freeman moved to Sudbury, Mass., to open a Chabad center, the rabbi woke, chilled to the bone. In the morning, he discovered he’d left their front door wide open.

That open door became both a metaphor and a guiding philosophy for the co-directors of Chabad Center of Sudbury—about 30 minutes due west of Boston—as it has for Chabad-Lubavitchemissaries around the world. And it eventually led them to the establishment of a brand-new building, based on welcoming local Jewish residents of all ages to pray, learn and celebrate the beauty of their traditions and of Jewish history.

The grand opening of the new 5,000-square-foot building, which was attended by more than 300 people, took place on Sept. 10.

“This dream became a reality thanks to the dedicated people, including our advisory committee, who went the extra mile with their contributions, support and hard work,” the 39-year-old rabbi tells Chabad.org. “It’s built by the community and is the pride of our community.”

Guests such Massachusetts State Rep. Carmine Gentile and Sudbury Selectman Len Simon participated in the celebration and witnessed Freeman affix a mezuzah to the main entrance. Together with his wife, 36, and four of their five children, the rabbi also cut the ceremonial ribbon, officially opening their new doors.

Located on two acres of land (an ideal spot for outdoor weddings and other festive celebrations), the new Chabad facility is also connected to a 54-acre nature preserve. Inside the center is a large multipurpose room, which serves as both the synagogue and the community room, in addition to a library, classrooms, offices, commercial kosher kitchen and guest suite for the visitors they expect on a regular basis.

The Freemans serve an estimated 800 Jewish families in Sudbury, which has a total of approximately 5,500 households. Incorporated back in 1639, the town is home to a growing Jewish community in Boston’s far suburbs.

And the new building, noted the rabbi, “is a tremendous game-changer.”

A Focus on Youth Involvement

Charlie Sherer, 12, spoke about his educational experience at the Hebrew school, stating that it made him appreciate what it means to be a Jew. Chloe Meyer, 16, and a junior at Southborough High School, shared her story about Googling Jewish life in Sudbury and discovering Chabad.

That search took Chloe and her family on a journey she could never have imagined. She celebrated her bat mitzvah, spent the past summer attending the CTeen Extreme Camp and now is active in building their local CTeen chapter, helping to plan activities. She also assists at the Hebrew school.

Avi Lepsky, a senior at Lincoln Sudbury High School, spoke about how the Freemans changed his life not only through learning Jewish values, but by the diverse experiences he has had directly because of them. From holiday celebrations to visits with senior citizens, Holocaust survivors and people from Europe—coupled with meeting those who had only recently discovered that they were Jewish—the 16-year-old realized that “with a Chabad center filled with light and space, there is a perfect spot to radiate that positivity.”

Adults Share Their Stories

Fran Levy, a retiree who used to work in the New York City Housing Authority and moved to Sudbury in 2012, spoke about how she searched for a synagogue, but struggled to find the right fit. One Saturday, she walked into Chabad, then housed in a second-floor office.

“Our steps are directed by G‑d,” she said. “I knew I arrived at my new Jewish home.” From that moment on, she said, she has actively participated in Shabbat services, classes and programs.

Mark Rosen, a management consultant fighting a battle against ALS, spoke at the grand-opening ceremony with the aid of a computer. He described his initial skepticism and preconceptions about religious life. “After all,” he said, “I identified with the Israeli sabra-warrior.”

And then, Rabbi Freeman came knocking.

Over the course of six months, they shared their life stories, hopes, dreams and mission. “We quickly learned we have similar values,” said Rosen, “including a Judaism that is more spiritual than rote praying, more inclusive and tolerant of different approaches to integrating Jewish practices in our daily lives, without being told we are wrong and rejected as a non-believer.”

Since that initial meeting, Rosen has joined adult-education classes and been involved with Chabad in a number of ways, including embracing and guiding the vision to build the new center.

As he said at the opening: “We gathered to celebrate this amazing achievement, all of this built—the building and our congregation from nothing more than two Jewish human beings with a dedication and a commitment inspired by an animating religiosity and philosophy of belief and action. Sudbury Chabad tapped into a deep longing for meaning in our lives through our eternal connection to our Jewish roots and our Jewish future.”

The concluding guest speaker at the event was Rena Finder, one of 1,200 Jews who survived World War II and the Holocaust due to the efforts of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who used Jewish laborers for his factory. Born in 1929 in Krakow, Poland, she moved to the United States in 1948 after marrying, eventually making her home in the Boston suburbs.

Her relationship with the Freemans began when they started visiting her and her husband, Mark, at the Wingate at Sudbury rehabilitation center. “The weekly visits, with challah made by Shayna, are beautiful and meaningful. Not only am I a part of the Freeman family, but the family of Chabad.”

In his concluding remarks, the rabbi offered “a special thank you to Rabbi Levi and Chani Fogelman, co-directors of Chabad Center of Natick, Mass., for enabling us to initially establish the Chabad center of Sudbury 11 years ago, and for providing us with guidance and encouragement along the way.

“When we first came here, our dream was to open our doors and build a community. This new facility is one more step—a significant step—to reaching every Jew and welcoming them home.”

Rabbi Yisroel Freeman, co-director of the Chabad Center of Sudbury, blows the shofar at the Sept. 10 grand-opening ceremony of a new 5,000-square-foot building.
Event chairperson Nancy Schwartz, at podium at right, welcomes the 300-plus attendees.
Gathering round for the ribbon-cutting.
Four of the five Freeman children help cut the ribbon. Bottom, from left: Mendel, Zalman and Levi, with Chana in the back.
Entering the Chabad House, which sits adjacent to a 54-acre nature preserve.
Community members Rick and Gabrielle Henken, left, and Jill and Charles Katz
Holocaust survivor and guest speaker Rena Finder, right, with daughter Debbie Katz and son-in-law Arnold Katz.
Hanging out with the crowd, many of them teens, college students and young adults.
The rabbi with the youngest member of the family, Devorah Leah Freeman
Speaking with guests at the reception following the ceremony.
Rabbi Yisroel and Shayna Freeman

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