Thursday, November 23, 2006
Warm Welcome Longmont’s first rabbi encouraged by initial response
By Susan Glairon The Daily Times-Call
LONGMONT — Whether shopping in a Longmont store or walking on Main Street, Rabbi Yakov Borenstein is often approached by area Jews who are curious about him. They ask if they can join him for Saturday morning services and about signing up for adult education classes. Some are pledging financial support, he says.
“It’s an unbelievable success,” said Borenstein, 25, who moved from Brooklyn to Longmont about a month ago with his wife Shayna, 22, and children Meir, 17 months, and Chaya, 3 months. “It’s been phenomenal.”
Borenstein is Longmont’s first rabbi. Since announcing in April their plans to move to Longmont, the couple have added about 200 Longmont-area Jewish families to their e-mail list, created a Web site and hosted nearly a dozen Longmont-area Jews for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) dinners at their home.
Borenstein is a member of Chabad, an orthodox sect of Judaism whose goal is to create Jewish awareness and to appeal to both nonpracticing and affiliated Jews, he said. It’s also to make Jewish programming more accessible.
“There are Jews in Longmont who are yearning to have Judaism,” Borenstein said. “They shouldn’t feel intimidated no matter how religious they are or how unobservant. Everyone is welcome.”
Longmont has never had a synagogue or rabbi. The city’s only Jewish organization, the 14-year-old Longmont Shabbat Group, is not affiliated with any particular branch of Judaism or with Borenstein, said its organizer, Susan Scruggs. It has about 100 members and meets monthly for Friday night Shabbat services.
“Now Longmont will have two Jewish groups,” Scruggs said. “The Longmont Shabbat Group wishes Rabbi Borenstein and his family lots of success in establishing their outreach Chabad House.”
Although Longmont resident Dorothy Handle regularly attends the Longmont Shabbat Group, she said there’s room for other Jewish groups in the city.
“The addition of Chabad is a good thing,” said Handle, 69. “Diversity is a good thing.”
Handle said she plans to continue attending the monthly Longmont Shabbat Group but also would consider taking classes with Borenstein or attending a Chabad event, such as an upcoming menorah lighting at Twin Peaks Mall.
The Borensteins say they have immediate plans to offer high holiday services, adult education, bar and bat mitzvah classes, and Saturday morning services. Plans include creating a Jewish Center in Longmont, Hebrew lessons, Jewish story time at local bookstores and a “Mommy and Me” group for Jewish mothers and their small children.
Chabad has about 3,500 centers worldwide, with 10 in Colorado. The Longmont Chabad Center is the third in Boulder County, including one in Boulder and one on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus.
Borenstein estimates that about 3,000 Jewish people live in the Longmont area, based on conversations with local Jewish residents, mailing lists and Web sites. Between 12,000 and 15,000 Jews live in Boulder County, according to estimates from the Jewish Community Center in Boulder, but there are no figures available for Longmont from the center.
Borenstein came to Longmont with seed money from fundraisers in New York but will need to solicit private donations to open the Jewish center, he said.
He previously worked as a seventh-grade teacher in a Jewish school.
Borenstein grew up in Brooklyn in a family of emissaries following a prominent Orthodox Jewish rabbi. As a child, he studied in a yeshiva, a Jewish school. He later studied in France and performed Jewish outreach in Hungary, Russia, Japan and India and throughout the United States. He received his rabbinical degree from the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, N.J., and was ordained by the chief rabbi of Israel.
Shayna Borenstein taught preschool for two years at Chabad-run Kiddie Korner in downtown Brooklyn and hopes to bring Jewish songs and crafts to programs for children.
The couple don’t know whether the creation of a Jewish center in Longmont will be months or years away. For now, they plan to offer programming out of their home and other local venues, such as hotels.
“It’s definitely a dream,” Yakov Borenstein said.
For more information, visit www.JewishLongmont.com or call Rabbi Borenstein at 303-678-7595.