Rabbi Menachem and Chana Caytak with their daughter Chaya Mushka

Rabbi Menachem and Chana Caytak used Detroit Federation’s 2018 Jewish population study to find the best location for their new Chabad center in Troy.

Featured photo courtesy of Caytak family

The Jewish new year began sweetly for Rabbi Menachem and Chana Caytak and their baby daughter, Chaya Mushka. They launched the opening of Michigan’s new Chabad center in Troy with a festive Rosh Hashanah dinner with 35 local guests who had long believed they were the only Jews in the neighborhood.

The Caytaks’ dedication to building a Jewish community in unexpected places was instilled in them since childhood. Chana, 21, is the daughter of Bassie and Rabbi Levi Shemtov, founders of the Friendship Circle of West Bloomfield. Menachem, 23, is the son of a Chabad rabbi in Ottawa. His parents supervise Jewish adult and children’s libraries and a preschool.

They have been raised to instill a love of Judaism in all Jews no matter where they live or their level of observance. Many of Chabad’s rabbi and rebbetzin teams, numbering in the thousands, may live in remote corners of the country and may reside far from their families or a prominently Jewish neighborhood. Chana said she is very fortunate to live just 45 minutes away from her family in West Bloomfield.

“My wife and I watched and learned from the examples of our parents, who have spent their lives giving to and serving others,” Menachem said. “Like other young couples, we always knew we wanted to open a Chabad center somewhere in the world.”

In planning to open the Chabad Jewish Center in Troy, which started last spring, Menachem said they did some of their research, by using the Detroit Federation’s 2018 Jewish population study. It identified approximately 531 people who identify as Jewish in 221 households in the Troy-Rochester Hills area. Many in this population have little to no affiliation with a Jewish institution, according to Menachem.

“We are finding there are numbers of Jews who are not affiliated but are interested in being part of a community, to participate in Jewish holiday celebrations for their kids,” he said.

“Many feel they live too far [from synagogues in other parts of Metro Detroit]. Chabad centers create a local place for those to celebrate their Jewish heritage. Our goal is to bring Jews together, to reach out until we have a connection to every Jew. The Rebbe [Menachem Schneerson] taught us, there is no such thing as an insignificant Jew.”

Chana said, “Our goal is not to make every Jew religious, but to help them learn about Judaism, do one more mitzvah and connect them with their Jewish community.”

As they scouted the area while living with Chana’s family in West Bloomfield, Chana baked challot as she cared for Chaya. Menachem trekked to Troy daily to hand-deliver the challot and chat with their soon-to-be neighbors.

“Menachem recently delivered a challah to a woman who had just gotten off the phone with a friend from Florida who told her a Chabad (center) had just opened near her,” Chana said. “Now she’s overjoyed to learn she will be able to go to a Chabad center in Troy.

“People were so excited, not just because we will be nearby, but the fact they thought they were the only Jewish people around.”

Within the first few weeks of moving into their Troy home, the Caytaks hosted Shabbat dinners and greeted more local Jews. They planned to build a sukkah and have some events with Congregation Shir Tikvah of Troy.

For details about the Chabad Jewish Center and upcoming events, email rabbi@jewishtroy.com.

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