News coverage on Chabad Jewish Center

East Brunswick Sentinal, Thursday, October 9, 2003

Chabad Center gets new home; attendance triples
Staff Writer

MONROE — Many local Jewish residents were able to celebrate the high holidays at a brand new center these last two weeks.

Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky said turnout at the new Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe for Yom Kippur was excellent.

"We had 140 people, basically tripled from last year," he said. "The whole operation came to a new level."

This past summer, Zaklikovsky opened a center out of his new home on Gravel Hill Road in Monroe. Though services for Yom Kippur had to be held at a nearby hotel where more space could be afforded, the upcoming Sukkot, which begins tomorrow and lasts for eight days, will be held at the center.

"We build little huts outside and cover them with branches," he said.

For over a year, Rabbi Zaklikovsky had been commuting from Brooklyn, N.Y., with the purpose of starting up a new Chabad Jewish outreach center. Since that time, he has conducted his business from the Concordia Shopping Center, while looking for a more permanent home.

"Chabad is a world-wide movement. It is an acronym with chachma, bina and da’at, meaning wisdom, understanding and knowledge," Zaklikovsky said.

There are more than 2,500 Chabad centers around the world and about 40 in New Jersey.

Zaklikovsky said that the center is more than a religious place — they have workshops and holiday celebrations as well as services.

"It’s a focus on heritage and traditions as well as services," he said. "I just
finished a series of shofar-making workshops."

A shofar is a ram’s horn that the rabbi traditionally sounds during the observance of Rosh Hashana, he said.

"We present the faith and tradition the right way, through enthusiasm, in a meaningful, nonjudgmental environment. People are able to appreciate their heritage and develop an interest."

Zaklikovsky believes his approach is unique.

"Whereas other congregations are built by a group of members that have an interest in a synagogue, we are catering to Jews that are unaffiliated, and
creating the interest," he said.

"It’s much more difficult, yet much more rewarding," he added.

Zaklikovsky encouraged people to attend next Monday night’s Sukkot celebrations, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the center, located at 264 Gravel Hill Road, at the corner of Union Valley Road.

He said it is also something of a house-warming party, where a traditional mezuza will be affixed to the front door.

"We’ll have music and dancing and refreshments in the Sukkot," he said. "It’s an opportunity to meet the rabbi and his family in a more informal and celebratory environment."