Chabad on the ‘First Coast’ is rolling out the red carpet for Rabbi Mendel and Dini Sharfstein, along with their two children – the newest recruits to the growing Chabad faculty in the greater Jacksonville area.
Rabbi and Mrs. Sharfstein have been appointed by Rabbi Y. Kahanov, founder and director of Chabad of Northeast, FL., as the directors of the latest Chabad Center on the First Cost to serve as a Center for Jewish Life for St. Johns, Nocatee, and World Golf Village.
This brings the number of Chabad Centers in the greater Jacksonville area to six.
“Given Chabad’s single-minded focus on building Jewish community and the enhancement of Jewish life, the decision to establish the first Jewish institution in the burgeoning St John’s area was rather easy,”says Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov.
As part of a national Chabad summer outreach program, in which Rabbinical students visit outlying communities across the globe, in order to connect with Jewish families and individuals with minimal Jewish affiliation, Rabbinical students have been visiting and meeting with members of the St John’s community for some years. The data from these visits supports the need of a local Chabad center to serve the St John’s community.
“After developing and maintaining a connection with numerous Jewish families in the area, we felt it was time for St John’s to have its own Center,” says Rabbi Kahanov. Having spent some time visiting with local Jewish residents, the Sharfstein’s decided that they were ready to take the challenge.
Rabbi Mendel and Dini Sharfstein bring an abundance of talent to their new positions. They have both been involved in Jewish outreach for several years and are eager to continue their work as a couple, here in St John’s.
“Connecting with others through the warmth, depth and joy of Judaism has always been my passion,” says Rabbi Mendel, “I enjoy answering the important questions people ask and enjoy helping them grow in Torah and Mitzvos,” he adds.
As the spiritual leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, spearheaded a worldwide reconstruction of post-Holocaust Jewish religious life and inspired a re-awakening of Jewish awareness and observance.
Amongst its accomplishments, the movement established educational and outreach centers on five continents that provide religious, social, and humanitarian programming and activities to Jews, regardless of religious affiliation or background. Rabbis along with their wives are urged to establish Chabad centers to serve the spiritual and material needs of outlying communities. The Sharfstein’s will serve as emissaries (Shluchim) of the Rebbe.
Sharfstein began his career in outreach at the tender age of thirteen. Shortly after his Bar Mitzvah he would take the train to Wall Street, Manhattan every Friday to visit with businessmen and help them fulfill the Mitzvah of Tefillin. Those personal visits, which he has continued for all these years, have gradually blossomed into a large route with weekly visits, individuals and group study sessions, as well as an array of holiday programming. He and his wife have developed deep personal connections with the many of the people they’ve met over the years.
Mrs. Dini Sharfstein was born and raised on Shlichus in Denver Colorado and actively took part in all aspects. She worked summers in Gan Yisroel Day Camps around the globe as counselor, head counselor, division head, etc.
After two years in seminary she lived in Puerto Rico and then in Long Beach, NY, where she taught and directed Hebrew School, organized holiday and youth programs. She also founded and directed Hebrew school, Jewish Discovery Program, and studied with women. She was honored at one of their dinners in November 2010/Cheshvan 5771. “Shlichus has always been my passion in life and I”YH will continue,” says Dini.
“People may see themselves as unaffiliated, Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox. Chabad sees all Jews as being Jewish. No labels. No differences. Chabad is a home for every kind of Jew. St John’s seems like the perfect place for a Chabad center,” said Rabbi Sharfstein. “We’ll be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “Everyone is welcome.”