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A NEW CHABAD, AS ALWAYS, WITH AN OPEN DOOR.

Byline: HOLLY J. ANDRES Staff Writer

WEST HILLS -- The welcome mat will be out Sunday for the grand opening of the Chabad of West Hills, the 19th Chabad center in the San Fernando Valley.

The synagogue actually held its first service at sundown June 1 for the Jewish festival of Shavuot.

It was an appropriate holiday on which to launch a Chabad center because Shavuot, Hebrew for ``weeks,'' is all about making a sincere connection to God.

Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah -- God's instruction and guidebook for living a good life -- and its acceptance by the Jewish people.

Chabad synagogues have an open-door mission to all Jews, no matter if they are religious or not, to help them strengthen or discover their link to God and the commandments.

``The key word is inspired. I've become more observant because Chabad has inspired me,'' said Gil Weinreich, a finance journalist who took a business ethics course at Chabad of Agoura Hills. ``I wanted to make my work more meaningful.

``The class was very powerful. There were some very deep moral lessons about a person's responsibility in the world of business.''

Weinreich, who grew up in a nonobservant Jewish family, began taking more courses, many led by Rabbi Moshe D. Bryski from Chabad of Agoura Hills. He was bowled over by the welcoming and caring of the ``Chabadniks'' whom he met there.

``The target audience of Chabad is the nonobservant Jew. It's for Jews who don't know what they're doing. It's about personal growth, and the starting point is up to you,'' Weinreich said.

Chabad is an acronym of Hebrew words for wisdom, understanding and knowledge. It is also a Hasidic sect founded more than 200 years ago by Rabbi Schneur Zalman in Eastern Europe.

The roots of Chabad come from the Hasidic movement that was started by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer in the early 1700s. Hasidism -- from the Hebrew word for ``pious'' -- was an attempt to bring religious education and a sense of joy in following God's commandments in everyday life, to all class levels of Jews of that time.

Chabad often has the word Lubavitch added to its name. Lubavitch, ``the town of brotherly love,'' is the name of the town, now in Belarus, where the movement was based until the early 1900s.

``Chabad is a family center for all Jews. It's a place where you can feel happy and be proud to be a Jew,'' said Rabbi Avi Rabin, who will lead the new Orthodox Jewish congregation. ``Our mission is to bring the light of Judaism to all, to create a warm and exciting environment and to educate people in a beautiful heritage.''

Rabin, who grew up in South Africa, said that members of Chabad follow all the traditional Orthodox Jewish customs and laws. It should be noted for those attending a Shabbat service and not accustomed to Orthodox services, that men and women sit separately and all prayers are said in Hebrew. Selected parts of a service are in English and, Rabin said, he has a running commentary in English throughout.

``The first impressions are that people will feel an excitement and a warmth at the service. They will feel at ease,'' said Rabin. ``It's a smooth entry into Orthodox tradition.''

Grand opening of Chabad of West Hills, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at 23747 Roscoe Blvd. Shabbat services at sundown Fridays and 10 a.m. Saturdays. Call (818) 268-9666.

holly.andres(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3708

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Rabbi Avi Rabin is leading the new Chabad of West Hills, the 19th Chabad center in the San Fernando Valley. The center is holding its grand opening on Sunday.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 10, 2006
Words:620
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