A new Chabad center is coming to south Phoenix, a fast-growing region of the metropolitan area that previously had no synagogues. Rabbi Mendy Rimler and his wife, Sarah, will co-direct the Chabad Jewish Center of South Phoenix.
“The first in the area is always a big thing,” said Grant Galas, a local real estate agent who worked closely with Rimler on ideas for the center.
The rabbi plans to focus on social and educational programming at the Chabad House, including Jewish classes and youth events and activities in addition to Shabbat services, Shabbat dinners, counseling, visitation and kashering homes.
Rimler, the former assistant rabbi and outreach director at Rohr Chabad at ASU, grew up immersed in Chabad life in Melbourne, Australia, where his parents directed a Chabad House.
“I was saturated with the concept of looking out for the welfare of every Jew, wherever they are,” Rimler said. “I grew up with the conviction that every Jew deserves to have a sense of family, a sense that they have a community that loves and cares for them.”
In south Phoenix, many Jews have felt the need for that sense of connection. Without a synagogue nearby, Galas had to drive around half an hour to get to services in Tempe or Chandler. He hopes the new center will provide his family with a stronger sense of community in their area.
“My wife is from Israel, and here it’s just not the same,” Galas said. “I’m always trying to make up for it by going to things, meeting up with other Jewish families, whatever makes her feel like she’s still connected.”
The plan to establish a center in south Phoenix has been in motion since August.
“That’s when we really started to assess the area, and we saw a need,” Rimler said. “Building community is really essential to this area. It’s a hidden gem.”
The new Chabad House was appointed by Rabbi Zalman Levertov of Chabad of Arizona, and inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
The center will kick off with a Chanukah party on Dec. 22. Called the Chanukah Community Celebration, the event will start at 4:30 p.m. and will have entertainment for children and adults.
“What better time is there to get the community together than this time of year?” Rimler said.
He emphasized that Chanukah is great for bringing people together.
“This is the message of the Rebbe, that we can’t just light the menorah in our own home,” he said. “It’s important to light our own menorahs, but at the same time, we have to bring light outside into the world around us. The power of that collective light can dispel so much darkness.”
Galas and his family will host the Chanukah Community Celebration.
“Everyone should come, even if they think they won’t know anyone there,” Galas said. “It’s going to be very welcoming, very open.”
Rimler encourages anyone in south Phoenix to reach out and get involved in the new Chabad Jewish Center, regardless of whether they’re Jewish or just know a Jewish friend. “Chabad is an organization for all Jews. If you’re Jewish, you’re a member,” he said. “Labels divide us, they don’t define us.”
For Galas and other families in the area, the center is already making a difference.
“It’s exciting to have something near where we live,” Galas said. “I’d like to see where it turns out in the next five or 10 years.” JN
To register for the Chanukah Community Celebration, visit jewishsouthphoenix.com/rsvp.