Chabad of Texas Celebrates 30 Years, Unveils Plans for Expanded Facilities

Jewish Herald Voice; April 3, 2003

Houston - Three decades ago, 500 people packed a large hall at the Jewish Community Center in Houston for an event which served to establish Chabad’s roots in the Lone Star State. The event, coined “An Evening with Lubavitch,” commemorated the 174th anniversary of the liberation of the founder of Chabad from Czarist prison and saluted the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory, on his 70th year.

People came that night to find out what Chabad was all about, to understand what it stood for and to learn what its objectives were. Thus the crowd was introduced to then-newcomers Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff, Texas regional director of Chabad Lubavitch, and his wife Chiena, who would ultimately establish a Chabad network of 11 institutions in eight cities statewide.

As a result of that kickoff event in 1972, Chabad began a weekly minyan in Houston. Since then, Chabad of Texas has founded schools and shuls, built mikvaos (ritual baths), and offered hundreds of classes and educational programs, touching the lives of thousands.

And it was precisely those who have been touched by Chabad over the last three decades that attended a gala event on March 9 at the Doubletree Hotel Post Oak. They now know what Chabad is all about; they recognize what it stands for and are supportive of its objectives.

The dinner’s more than 500 guests — from across the state and from as far away as Israel and Australia — came to celebrate Chabad’s 30th anniversary in Texas and to pay tribute to the unrelenting dedication and exemplary support of Sam and Aranka Kane, Stuart and Carol Nelkin, Benjamin Danziger, Melech and Chana Weiss, and Ronald and Ethel Gruen.

Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Israel and a Holocaust survivor and noted speaker, served as guest of honor. Fred Zeidman, president of the National Holocaust Museum and Texas chairman of Israel Bonds, chaired the event.

One highlight of the dinner was Rabbi Lazaroff’s unveiling of plans for a 14,000-square-foot expansion to the current Chabad headquarters in the state, located at 10900 Fondren Rd., in Houston. The enlarged facility — which will, in essence, double the current building’s size — is slated to house a men’s mikvah, a keilim mikvah, additional classrooms, social halls, and a full-service kitchen. Blueprints of the new building were published in a commemorative journal handed out to dinner guests, which included a year-by-year photo history of Chabad’s activities in the state.

Following a roll-call of the various Texas cities represented at the event — Austin, two locations in Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, three locations in Houston (the Texas Regional Headquaters – Chabad Lubavitch Center, Chabad House at Texas Medical Center and Rice University, and Chabad Outreach), Plano, S. Antonio, and Sugar Land— dinner guests were treated to a video presentation, entitled “Chabad of Texas: Frontier.” (The video can be accessed at www.chabadtexas.org.) The video traced the multitude of Chabad-sponsored activities and events throughout the state, capturing the fun and excitement of Gan Israel day camps, as well as the discovery and progress of children at Chabad elementary schools, preschools, and Hebrew schools. It followed Chabad’s shluchim — emissaries — on their daily routines, including visiting the mentally disabled, conducting Jewish holiday workshops for schoolchildren and adults, and celebrating the dedication of a new Sefer Torah. It also documented the growth of each Chabad House in the state, including original footage from the Houston Chabad Lubavitch Center’s groundbreaking ceremony in 1977.

A particularly poignant moment in the video told the story of a boy named Danny, whose mother brought him to the Texas Medical Center for medical treatment. Danny’s mother praised Rabbi Lazer Lazaroff, director of the Chabad House at the Texas Medical Center, who was at Danny’s bedside the night he passed away.

“In the most difficult time in my life [Rabbi Lazaroff] had a way to give me comfort, which nobody else could,” the woman recalled, tears streaming down her face. “I remember the night that Danny died, and he just came at that moment, when I was all alone. He knew what to do, and I just felt like he was doing what Danny wanted. He couldn’t stop the bad things from happening, but he could help me through them.”

This example of Ahavas Yisroel, unfettered love for a fellow Jew, serves as Chabad’s charge. It is the mission promoted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, the dynamic leader of the Chabad movement responsible for establishing Chabad of Texas and thousands of institutions like it worldwide.

Rabbi Lau, Israel’s chief rabbi, stressed Chabad’s tremendous accomplishments when he spoke about his first visit with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, on the same date as the dinner, 29 years earlier. Rabbi Lau’s private audience with the Rebbe, of blessed memory, began at 1:30 a.m., and lasted for two hours and 20 minutes, until 3:50 a.m. The Rebbe spoke of the welfare of the Jewish people in the wake of the Yom Kippur War. Rabbi Lau retold a story that he had related to the Rebbe, after which “pearls” fell from the Rebbe’s eyes onto his hand, he said. Rabbi Lau also told a story — which he was repeating for the first time — about the dedication of Chabad shluchim worldwide, who are wont to go to any length — even at the risk of their own lives — to strengthen Judaism in remote parts of the world.

To inquire about sponsorship opportunities for the expanded Chabad Lubavitch Center of Houston, call 713-777-2000 or e-mail [email protected].

To view a complete photo album of this event, and to order copies online click here.