HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, Canada — Nova Scotia’s most populated city with a Jewish community 1800 strong is far, far away from major centers of Jewish life. It’s an eighteen-hour drive from Halifax to Toronto. Twelve from Montreal. There’s no kosher butcher shop, not enough young children for a Jewish day school, and it’ll take an eleven-hour drive to Boston, for a slice of kosher pizza.
After years of seeing young rabbis and their families leave when their own kids turned school age and needed a day school, Marcia Yampolsky of Halifax became reluctant to bond with her local synagogue leaders. “When you live in a place that rabbis come and go, you stop investing in relationships with them. It’s a natural defense.”
Thirteen years ago, Chabad representatives Rabbi Mendel and Bassie Feldman and one month old Zevi moved to Halifax to stay. Chabad representatives who establish new centers are not on a career ladder; their adoptive hometowns are never a stepping stone to someplace bigger, or more glamorous, but a place they’ll call home for life.
“Halifax has truly become our home,” Mrs. Feldman told a crowd of 250 Haligonian friends at son Zevi’s bar mitzvah last week, “and yes, we are here to stay. In fact, most of you even believe us now with the building of our magnificent new Chabad house, which will be completed any day.”
Standing three stories tall, Chabad’s new center, funded significantly by the Rohr Family Foundation, is an outgrowth of the Feldmans’ expanding role in Halifax. Secure in the knowledge that the spiritual leaders in town wouldn’t fly the coop, steady crowds of Haligonians attend Chabad programs.
“Before Mendy and Bassie, we didn’t have a Jewish day camp. We didn’t have women’s programming,” said Mrs. Yampolsky.