Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Experiencing Shabbat in Crown Heights


Shown here (l-r): Arnie and Happy Frank and Susan and Jerry Lewin light candles during the musical Havdalah ceremony on Saturday night in the Ohelei Torah Ballroom.

A few weeks ago a group of 13 Central Floridians went to Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York, with Rabbi Yanky and Chanshy Majesky of The Chabad of North Orlando to experience Shabbat in the Heights-a weekend trip sponsored by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. This same time one year ago, Orlando resident Rhonda Des Islet went on the trip and shared in the Heritage that she was grateful to experience the Crown Heights lifestyle by living among the Orthodox Jews for the weekend. 

"I have to admit, it felt good walking to and from the religious places that Shabbat weekend," Des Islet wrote in the article. "It reminded me of my ancestors and grandparents who did the same thing in Russia and Chicago."

This trip was no different for those who immersed themselves in life among their fellow Jewish brothers and sisters in the Heights.

The Shabbaton brought together several hundred people from Chabad communities around the world for an uplifting and genuine Shabbos experience.

The trip included a tour of 770-Chabad world headquarters, and the choice to visit the world's only Jewish children's museum with exhibits such as the six days of creation, Noah's ark and all the Jewish holidays coming to life, a visit to the OK Kosher Labs, the offices of a Sofer (a Scribe writing Torahs and Tefilin), a tour of the Mikvah and the gallery of local Chassidic artist Michael Muchnick.

The Orlando group had the privilege to meet privately with the Rebbe's personal secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, using the opportunity to get first-hand insight on the Rebbe's life and teachings.

One of the highlights of the Shabbaton was the Saturday night Havdalah and concert by the Belsofsky brothers followed by a lecture by former NBC producer Molly Resnick, who described her personal Jewish journey in becoming Shabbos observant; greetings by Rabbi Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia; and of course a delicious dinner.

Dr. Daniel Layish was amazed on "so many levels" by this first-time experience: "To walk down the street and say 'Good Shabbos' to everyone you pass... to have so many options for Kosher restaurants and so many Judaica stores... to explore your spirituality... to share Shabbat Services and Havdalah with people from around the country."

Everyone on the trip stayed in the homes of observant families. Layish said it made for a "truly tranquil Shabbat."

Dr. Bruce Hoffen highly recommends Shabbat in the Heights. He, too, "experienced a beautiful and meaningful Shabbat with wonderful people, inspired learning and elegant meals."

Hoffen had heard how beautiful Shabbat in Crown Heights was from his eldest daughter, Sara. In November 2017 she attended Pegisha, a Chabad Shabbaton for Jewish college students in New York City.

"After her trip," he stated, "I knew I had to go to Crown Heights and see for myself how amazing a Shabbat weekend could be."

The weekend included speakers, spirited worship and a Shabbat lunch with 45 people, hosted by Rabbi Majesky's parents in their home. The group also had the opportunity to visit the Rebbe's house (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson) and grave

"It was a truly Jewishly transformative experience," said Hoffen.

The Central Florida group posing in front of 770 Eastern Parkway. back row (l-r), Akiva Anderson, Dr. Bruce Hoffen, Staci Layish, Dr. Dan Layish; front row (l-r), Jerry and Susan Lewin, Chanshy and Rabby Yanky Majesky (holding baby Menny), and Happy and Arnie Frank.Not present for the photo were Ken Feldman and Dr. Michael and Ody Zerivitz.

For Akiva Anderson, the most meaningful part of the weekend was going to 770 Eastern Parkway (central headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement) and the Ohel (The Rebbe's resting place).

"I have learned so many of the Rebbe's teachings, heard so much about his love for every human being and been touched and inspired by Chabad Shluchim - the Rebbe's emissaries," he said. "It was very moving to visit 770, and was touching to watch and hear the Chassidim singing ancient melodies at the end of Shabbos in 770. One can feel very close to Hashem at these holy places."

For Layish the trip also meant spending quality time with old friends and make new friends. "I would go back again in a heartbeat!" 

For more information on how to join this trip next year or learn of other JLI programs, please contact Rabbi Yanky Majesky at Rabbi@JewishNorthOrlando.com or 407-636-5994

But don't wait until next April, the Majeskys will be leading a local group to the National Jewish Retreat in Rhode Island this August for a luxurious vacation, uplifting and fulfilling for both body and soul. For more information on the Retreat, please visit www.JRetreat.com.


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