Daily Israel Report

Diverse Chabad in Jerusalem Celebrates 5 Years

You never know who you'll bump into at the diverse Chabad of Baka, located in south Jerusalem.
By Ben Bresky
First Publish: 7/19/2013, 2:08 PM

Chabad of Baka - Beit Levi will hold a special 5th anniversary gala dinner this Friday evening. Rabbi Avraham and Dina Hendel have led the congregation providing weekly Shabbat services, meals and Torah classes. The Chabad has also held special events in the community. They built a sukkah at the annual Baka street fair and held a Lego menorah building event for children during Chanukah at the Hadar mall in Talpiot. On high holidays they held services at the Baka Farm School in a large Bedouin style tent.

Baka, officially known as Geulim, is an older neighborhood in south Jerusalem with a mixed population. Chabad of Baka has a large percentage of English and French speakers from a variety of different countries. In addition to native born Israelis, there are also some Spanish speakers, immigrants from Holland, Gibraltar and a variety of other nations attesting to the diversity of the neighborhood and Jerusalem in general.

Noted lecturer Ari Abramowitz will be the keynote speaker. Abramowitz has been featured on CNN, Fox News, and BBC, as a pro-Israel advocate. He co-hosted the Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem TV show and the A Light Unto the Nations radio show on Arutz Sheva with Jeremy Gimpel.

Rebbitzin Dina Hendel, spoke to Arutz Sheva news about the event and the community. She related one of the many instances of what she sees as Divine providence and acts of kindness in the community. "A woman called up and said she had a debt to pay to Chabad," Mrs. Hendel stated, relating one of the many unusual phone calls Chabad of Baka receives. "Her daughter was now getting married after travelling the previous year in Thailand. There she was pickpocketed and wandered aimlessly until she found a Chabad synagogue. The Chabad in Thailand gave her $100 and told her she didn't have to repay that Chabad particularly but could repay it to any Chabad as a donation. A year later just before the wedding, the young woman's mother looked up different Chabad listings and found ours. The $100 donation was exactly how much Chabad of Baka was short in covering its monthly dues, so B'H this surprise act of chesed, which had begun in Thailand a year before, arrived just in time," Mrs. Hendel explained.

Beit Levi, as the synagogue is called also holds a public Passover seder meal in which tourists as well as locals are invited. On one particular seder night a tourist visiting Israel for the first time from Jamaica told the group she had recently discovered she had Jewish roots and related it was the first Passover she ever experienced. Such occurrences have become commonplace for the Hendels.

Another instance Mrs. Hendel recalls was the day they celebrated the installment of their synagogue Torah. "Someone from the community had the Torah written in memorial of his mother," Mrs. Hendel stated. "The day we held the celebration, the Torah reading was parshat Korach. In that Torah reading it states, "from the staff of Aaron, Beit Levi shall flourish (sprout)." The name of the donator was Aaron and the name of our synagogue is Beit Levi."

Chabad of Baka is named after Levi Hendel, the younger brother of the rabbi. He was tragically killed when he was 13-years-old on Chanukah in 2006. He and three other Chabad volunteers were killed in a car crash on the road to Eilat. They were on their way for a volunteer program on an IDF army base to deliver Chanukah donuts, candles and help with holiday celebrations. The other volunteers killed in the crash were Yonatan Biton and Moshe Golan. Four other people were wounded. The tragedy was part of the reason the Hendels left America where they were living at the time to return to Israel and work in the field of Jewish outreach.

Both Rabbi Hendel and his wife's families go back quite a few generations in the Chabad-Lubavich chassidic movement. Rabbi Hendel was born in Israel to American parents who were part of a select group of shluchim (emissaries) chosen by the Lubavicher Rebbe to be the first official representatives of Chabad in Israel.

Rabbi Hendel was the subject of an episode of Israel National Radio's Life Lessons with Judy Simon. For mp3 download click here.

The Chabad of Baka - Beit Levi gala dinner will take place Friday July 19th at the Euphoria wedding hall in the Baka / Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. For more information on weekly Shabbat services, women's learning classes and more, visit www.chabadofbaka.com or call 054-830-5799 .