by Aharon Loschak and Mordechai Lightstone – chabad.org
This past week some 45 million Americans took to the roads, rails and the skies, many traveling for the first time in more than a year. Fueled by a surge in vaccinations and the subsequent easing of coronavirus restrictions, the summer of 2021 is shaping up to be a period of unprecedented travel. Tens of millions more international travelers are gearing up to hit the road as well. Travel-industry experts project the coming summer season to see more vacationers than even during the pre-pandemic travel boom in 2019.
With so many people moving about, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in once-again-open tourist hotspots around the world are preparing to meet the needs of Jewish travelers—from Torah classes to kosher food to kaddish with a minyan.
Now Jewish travelers have a new tool in hand: Chabad.org is rolling out a beta version of an entirely revamped Chabad Locator available exclusively at Chabad.org/New-Directory. Combining the power of Google maps and the ingenuity of Chabad.org’s development team, the new directory maps out a global view of the incredibly vast network of thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch centers worldwide.
The new platform enables users to easily identify the unique offerings and the location of each center, along with contact information, a list of available services and other pertinent information.
While the directory is fully operational, being launched in beta means that the release is limited to users that use an exclusive url—Chabad.org/New-Directory, as it’s not yet available by going to the directory through Chabad.org’s homepage. By creating a limited release, the development team is able to use the feedback from early users to work out any unnoticed issues missed during testing before it’s full debut.
The beta-version of the new directory is being launched in advance of3 Tammuz, the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—which is observed this year on Sunday, June 13. While a practical guide, it is also a window into the extent of the ongoing and growing impact the Rebbe continues to have on Jewish life around the globe, bringing the beauty, depth and joy of Judaism to every corner of the earth. Each one of the thousands of Chabad centers around the world—from frozen tundras to sunny beaches, inner cities to leafy suburbs—are facets of the Rebbe’s influence and global vision.
This Isn’t the St. Petersburg You’re Looking For
The new directory can help avoid some potential pitfalls as well. When Rabbi Sholom Pewzner of Chabad of St. Petersburg, Russia, received a phone call from an English-speaking gentleman looking for a Passover Seder just prior to the holiday, he thought nothing of it.
Often called “The Venice of the North,” the cosmopolitan Russian city’s world-famous museums and graceful czarist palaces draw travelers of all backgrounds. The annual Seder held near the famous Choral Synagogue, one of several throughout the city, brings locals, expats and tourists together.
To handle the influx of attendees, Pewzner offers reservations through his site. But this time, he was somewhat mystified. As much as the gentleman on the other end of the line insisted that he had reserved online well in advance, Pewzner couldn’t find his name in the system. It was only after further conversation, that the mystery was solved: The gentleman had indeed reserved a place for the Passover Seder at Chabad of St. Petersburg … Florida. Same name, different country. The gentleman had searched for Chabad in St. Petersburg, and followed the online directory to the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean. After sharing a chuckle over the mishap, Pewzner quickly arranged a seat for his new guest.
Thanks to the visual design and mapping of the new directory, such mishaps won’t likely occur again. After all, when looking at the map, it’s hard to mistake St. Petersburg, Russia, for its counterpart some 5,297 miles away in Florida.
A Service Always in Demand
The new Chabad Locator is not just for globetrotters. Every day, thousands of people in every nook and cranny of the planet search for the Chabad center near them. All around the world, people look for a local rabbi or rebbetzin to talk to or for answers to urgent questions about Jewish life and law. Others are looking for the nearest public menorah-lighting, a kosher meal, a place to pray or to vacation, or even a place to move to that has a Chabad center and Jewish schools nearby.
To date, the directory has serviced hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of interactions on every level.
Utilizing customizable filters, users can instantly narrow a search to Chabad centers that fit the most specific needs—for example, only centers providing a Hebrew school, hospital visitation or daily synagogue services.
With the new map-centric view, in addition to being able to connect the world more efficiently with these 5,000 emissary couples and the institutions they run, it’s now easier to appreciate the reach, impact and scope of Chabad worldwide.
With new centers popping up all over—from Cranberry Township, Penn., to the Turks and Caicos Islands—the tool is more useful than ever before.
To take the new Chabad Locator for a test drive, click here.