Rabbi Barbara AB Symons sent out a personal message in the Temple David Bulletin expressing concern about the Chabad House and how it might affect local congregations.
We at The Chronicle disagree with Symons’ concerns about the new Chabad in Monroeville. We would have preferred a better welcome for Rabbi Mendy Schapiro and his wife Esther into the Pittsburgh Jewish community.
In our opinion, we believe Chabad is a great addition to any community. The organization has a history of enriching communities with additional options of study and practice. Instead of publicizing a false image of predatory behavior on local congregations, let the community see for itself what Chabad has to offer.
Everyone is welcome to Chabad events, regardless of level of observance or knowledge of the Jewish faith. In this way, Chabad is a nonjudgmental source of Jewish outreach.
For those who believe Chabads are a threat to memberships of other congregations, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While all Jews are invited to Chabad events, it is not the intention of Chabad to increase its membership at the expense of the other synagogues.
It might be hard to believe in this day and age that there is an organization out there that wants to offer programs simply for the sake of expanding one’s knowledge of Judaism — but there is. And maybe Chabad’s appeal is that they allow people to explore, express and celebrate their Jewishness without any strings attached.
Chabad can offer communities programming choices. While members of congregations might choose to attend a Chabad event or Jewish studies class, they are not compelled to join Chabad or give up their synagogue membership. There are scores of Jewish Pittsburghers who happily incorporate Chabad into their lives while maintaining active congregational memberships.
We believe it would be in everyone’s best interest to work together and help those looking to further enrich their Jewish connections. Both congregations and Chabads want what is best for the Jewish people — for Jews to practice the Jewish religion.
When sentiments like those made in the Temple David bulletin are expressed, tensions mount between two types of religious institutions that ultimately are fighting for the same cause.
Furthermore, we believe the success of the current Chabads in Pittsburgh demonstrates that the organization must be doing something right.
The fact is, the formula by which Chabad operates has been fulfilling the needs of Jewish people for years and years. It brings another way to explore Judaism to our communities, without forcing anyone to take on more than they choose.
We at The Chronicle wish nothing but the best of luck to Schapiro and his wife Esther as they establish their Chabad in Monroeville. We were happy to learn that Symons and Schapiro plan to get together. We hope they follow through on their meeting and discuss how to best meet the needs of the Jewish people in their shared community.