Chabad Jewish Center of Livonia fills a gap in the Jewish community.
With the last Jewish temple in Livonia closed in 2011, the Wayne County community went more than 10 years without a central gathering point for Jewish residents.
When Beit Kodesh closed its doors after more than 50 years in operation, Livonia faced a void. “There was no real community center in Livonia,” says Rabbi Tzemach Shemtov, 27.
Shemtov, who grew up in Toledo and attended school in Oak Park, began searching for a home one year after marrying his wife, Devora, 25. The couple specifically looked for a location where they could be of help to the Jewish community. One city they considered was Livonia.
“A lot of people who live within a few blocks of one another don’t even know there are other Jews around,” he says of the city.
Therefore, the Shemtovs decided to launch Chabad Jewish Center of Livonia to help Livonia and Wayne County Jews connect and build a community.
Moving to Livonia six months ago, the Shemtovs opened the center at the same time and currently run programming out of their home. Over the past six months, they’ve met more than 70 Jewish families in Livonia and continue their outreach efforts to identify more Jewish residents.
Prior to opening the center, Shemtov said many Livonia residents traveled to West Bloomfield or Farmington Hills for Jewish community needs or programming. Now, interest in Chabad Jewish Center of Livonia is peaking, and Shemtov says they may need to find a bigger space.
“For each holiday, we’ve had [programming],” he explains. Recent events have included a Lag b’Omer barbecue, a women’s circle and a challah bake. Depending on the program, Shemtov says the center sees anywhere from five to 15 or more people attend.
“It’s getting a little squished,” he laughs. However, there are more area Jews to reach. Shemtov says he continues to seek out Livonia residents with Jewish-sounding last names or to connect with people on social media to generate awareness about the new center and its offerings.
Over the upcoming High Holidays, Shemtov says the center plans to hold Rosh Hashanah programming. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Sept. 26, Chabad Jewish Center of Livonia is hosting a shofar blowing at 4:30 p.m. followed by a community dinner. On Tuesday morning, Sept. 27, they will also host services at 10 a.m. with a kids’ program and traditional lunch.
As parents of two children, Mussia, 2, and Chana, 5 months, the Shemtovs understand the need for parent- or family-friendly programming. Plans for the center’s future include a Mommy and Me club, a Jewish kids club, teen programs, Hebrew school and more.
Chabad Jewish Center of Livonia is also starting a weekly parshah, or Torah portion, class.
Shemtov says lifecycle events, like bar and bat mitzvahs or weddings, are opportunities
that the center can help with as well.
“Our goal is to create a warm and welcoming environment for the Jewish community of Livonia and surrounding cities throughout Wayne County,” Shemtov says, “where every Jew, regardless of their background or affiliation, can feel welcome.”