Chabad does Shabbos with chopsticks

The Jewish State, August 12, 2005

There was no roast chicken served on this particular Shabbos evening. Instead there were sesame chicken and sweet and sour chicken. Gefilte fish? Fugettabut it. Try a Chinese-type salad.

And all because Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky, spiritual leader, Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe, figured it would be “more exciting for people to have a Shabbos experience when it’s not regular, traditional food.”

So, on June 29, more than 200 worshippers-visitors to his Gravel Road, Monroe, home, were treated to a variety of kosher Jewish cuisine provided by Lin’s Kosher Chinese Kitchen, Manville.

“Exotic,” is how Zaklikovsky labeled the event. It was a way to draw the “unaffiliated in the community, or people who did not have a Shabbos experience in many decades.”

Part of that experience was a special table on which women lit the candles, with the men watching from a distance.

One woman caught Zaklikovsky’s attention.

“She was in tears because she hadn’t done it in 30 years,” Zaklikovsky said. “She was elated to be able to do it again.”

As were others, he suggested – all of whom were “provided (by Chabad) with the tools to tap back into their Jewishness. Many of them were remembering their grandmothers doing it. It brought back a lot of connections, bonds,”

On the program, too, were a Woman of Valor prayer delivered by Tiby Eilen, Dora Perel, and Dorothy Thompson – and a special presentation to the three “chairladies” – June, Katz, Barbara Moss and Frieda Posnock – who were instrumental in arranging the event.

“Outreach,” is how Zaklikovsky characterized in the efforts to bring in all those who either were new to the ritual or hadn’t participated in so long.

“Magnificent, people were happy. There was a lot of camaraderie,” Zaklikovsky said.

“The message was very clear,” he noted: “The beauty of the Jewish tradition is meant for every single member of the community – no matter how much (Judaism) knowledge, or the affiliation.” All, he stressed, “presented in a non-judgmental atmosphere.”

–Norm Oshrin