New Library At Bais Chabad Of Oak Park Attracts All Ages

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Feiga Bowick and Hadassah Werner run the library.
Feiga Bowick and Hadassah Werner run the library.

As the weather gets cooler, parents are increasingly looking for ways to entertain their children indoors. One new option is the Machon Devorah library, which opens twice weekly out of Bais Chabad of North Oak Park, 15401 W. 10 Mile Road.

Music plays softly and bookshelves are packed with more than 1,000 of the newest in Jewish literature, including books for all ages and preferences. Beyond books, the library also boasts the latest in educational games and toys, which are set up strategically around the room.

Volunteer Brachi Werner, 13, reads to the kids and plays with them as mothers get a chance to shmooze and enjoy that their kids are occupied and happy. In every corner, kids are reading, sprawled cozily on bean bag chairs.

“This is great,” an Oak Park mother enthused. “I used to go to the Oak Park JCC all the time; my kids would play in the toddler gym and I’d get to socialize. I was so upset when they closed. Now I bring my kids here.”

Children relax with some books.
Children relax with some books.

The Machon Devorah library opened its doors in May 2016, spearheaded by Hadassah Werner, wife of Rabbi Shea Werner of Bais Chabad of North Oak Park. She started the library in memory of her grandmother, Dora (Devorah) Bergstein, a lifelong book lover who even enjoyed reading during her final days in hospice, and who always encouraged children to read.

“I wanted to perpetuate my grandmother’s memory by helping others do what she loved most — reading and learning,” Werner said. “I saw there was a need for a nice local Jewish library; new books can be expensive for big families.”

The library was launched with the help of seed money donated in honor of Bergstein and has expanded with book donations from community members. Any books unfit to lend are placed in a basket and are free for the taking.

Run by Werner and Feiga Bowick of Oak Park, with the help of Bowick’s computer-adept daughter, Devorah, 11, the books are entered into a computerized system, then color-coded before being shelved and checked out by library patrons.

“People love it; the reaction has been tremendous,” Werner said. “Each week, we see all ages from great-grandmothers to little babies. More than 100 families are members already, with more joining each week.”

Part of the library’s appeal is that the nominal membership fee of $36 per year entitles families to the free Jewish monthly programs they provide, such as the hands-on demonstration by sofer (scribe) Rabbi Levi Kagan and the make-your-own-sukkah activity held shortly before Sukkot. A Chanukah program is slated for Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. at the library, where Home Depot representatives will be helping kids construct their own menorahs.

The library is open Sundays from 1:30 to 3:30 and Monday evenings from 6-7 p.m. Werner has dreams of expanding and being open for longer periods of time.

“The greatest of projects, whether a library or business, starts out as a small dream,” she said.

For details, call (248) 895-8103 or email Machondevorah@gmail.com.

By Rochel Burstyn | Contributing Writer

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