Chabad synagogue on the north shore in Massachusetts

Over the past few decades, many North Shore communities saw a decline in their Jewish populations; many synagogues shrank or shut down. Yet some communities have stayed strong, like Marblehead and Swampscott. And some places offer new life to the community.  Chabad of the North Shore is one many new outreach centers (nationwide and worldwide) that reaches out to Jews of all backgrounds and observance levels.

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Chabad has a point of view, like any group worth respecting does. It’s an open-hearted Hasidic Orthodoxy that meets Jews where they are, offering pathways to a meaningful Jewish life. They’re not missionaries; rather, they inspire Jews to become educated about their own heritage, and to take a step up the ladder of observance, from wherever they are.

As is traditional, some rituals are for men, some are for women; only men can be rabbis; and there is a tasteful, translucent mechitzah (divider) between the men’s and women’s sections during prayer services.

Women and men are both valued equally, and that’s not rhetoric. Chabad encourages women to study Torah and Talmud, and to teach. At their community seder, the service was led equally by the Rebbetzin and Rabbi. The Rebbetzin teaches classes on Talmud and on Kabbalah. That’s egalitarian, even if not Reform style.

My family has been to the Chabad Community Synagogue for their community Purim party, a traditional Shabbat morning service, and to their community Passover seder. We felt most welcome!

I have been to many kinds of synagogues, and what matters most is this: Is there joy? Ruach (spirit)? Does it encourage people to come to again, and inspire children to think “Judaism is worth doing, learning, celebrating.” Chabad of the North Shore succeeds in this. Their Purim celebration and Passover seders are lively, and a joy. If you haven’t been to one, you are missing out.

The Shabbat service could use more Shlomo Carelebach-type melodies and harmonies. But that’s true of nearly all synagogues nowadays. It also could use a few more moments of prayers in English, which helps keeps people involved if they don’t know the format.  That aside, this is a place very much worth coming to, and a worthy addition to the Jewish community of the North Shore.

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