Person of the Week
Sharing the Spirit of Chabad
Since 1999, Rabbi Yossi Yaffe has led Chabad of the Shoreline. Together with his wife, Rochel Baila Yaffe, he has helped to foster, educate, and celebrate the heritage of the area’s Jewish community, as well as working to bolster that identity by offering special programs. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Just as he has done for several years, every night during Chanukah (celebrated Dec. 22 to 29 in 2019), Rabbi Yossi Yaffe of Chabad of the Shoreline successively lit the candles of large, public menorahs on the Branford, Guilford, and East Haven town greens.
Chabad of the Shoreline also coordinated two public Chanukah events hosted by Yossi and his wife, Rochel Baila Yaffe: a family-friendly first night of Chanukah celebration in Branford at the Academy on the Green and another special gathering for all in Guilford on the final night of Chanukah.
Each year, the timing for this Jewish holiday, which commemorates events that happened some 300 years earlier than the birth of Christ, roughly coincides—and so is overshadowed—by the huge number of Christmas celebrations taking place. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to extend to those of the Jewish faith an opportunity to celebrate Chanukah in a more public way, Yossi explains.
“In this season, when people want to do things with their families and their kids, the point is to have something that commemorates the holiday of Chanukah and allows the children and their family to fully feel comfortable in their heritage and their faith, without feeling sort of left out,” he says.
Now in its 21st year, Chabad of the Shoreline has helped to foster, educate, and celebrate the heritage of the area’s Jewish community, as well as working to bolster that identity by offering special programs. Chabad of the Shoreline also hosts the annual Jewish Festival on the Guilford Green, which just marked its 14th anniversary in July.
“Our goal is to make Judaism comfortable for people wherever they may be religiously, in the sense of people who are exploring their heritage to find out more about it,” he explains. “So since that is the goal, the means to it may vary from year to year and time to time, as far as what attracted the most people and what people appreciate the most. So classes, the festival, and holiday programs are always a core thing that we feel we like to have.”
What is Chabad?
One question this couple hears often is “What is Chabad?”
As Rochel explains, there are Chabad all over the world.
“I think that one thing that’s unique about Chabad is that on the one hand we’re all traditionally observant Chassidic Jews, but each Chabad is just a family. So instead of people coming to a synagogue, they’re coming to a family,” she says. “It’s a husband and wife that move out to a place to work with the Jewish community. Over these 20 years, they’ve seen us raise our seven children [and] they see Jewish family life.”
The couple first arrived on the shoreline in 1999 from Brooklyn, New York, with homes in Branford, Madison, and Guilford through the years. Their spacious home today, framed by wooded surrounds, is close to the Branford/Guilford town line on the Boston Post Road and open to all who contact the Chabad for support or services. Chabad has no membership fees.
“When we moved out here, our mission was to be here for the Jewish community in any way they needed,” says Rochel. “As needs were shown, that’s where we’ve assisted. If people didn’t have a Passover Seder to go to, we have a Passover Seder. My husband has classes, I have classes. We’re here to promote Judaism to Jewish people.”
Chabad of the Shoreline also offers traditional Jewish services to compliment the experience for those belonging to temples, as well as to assist any who may not be otherwise involved.
“Many people who belong to temples come to us, as well, to supplement [the] more traditional perspective, coming to us for different programs or when we have children’s programs or family events,” the rabbi says. “And people who are not members of any established organization, they’ll be comfortable coming to us for things like holiday services [or] for Friday night dinners and things like that. That’s why we have this house and the fact that it is in the structure of a home that’s warm and inviting with very low barriers of entry.”
Chabad of the Shoreline also provides outreach services for the Jewish community.
“Because we’re not membership based, anytime anyone might need a service [for] whatever life cycle events or challenges they’re having, we try to help them in some way,” Yossi says.
In addition to offering the likes of funeral, bar mitzvah, and other religious services, if needed, they’ll also answer the call to help out with requests such a visit from the rabbi to a hospice bedside, or bringing Kosher food to someone in the hospital.
“We get requests like you’d ask of a cousin or of a friend,” says Rochel. “That’s what we’re here for. We want people to think of us as your extended Jewish family.”
As Chabad is also dedicated to raising program funds locally and spending those funds locally, sponsors are always welcome to assist with supporting community programming.
To contact Chabad of the Shoreline, email email@example.com or call 203-533-7495. For more information about Chabad of the Shoreline, visit www.jewishshoreline.org or find Chabad-Lubavitch of the Shoreline on Facebook.