For Yolanda Richman, there’s no place like home. Or at least, after two years of praying in a rented office space, there’s no place like Chabad of Chatsworth, CA,’s new home.
“It is a wonderful, warm feeling. Every time you come to the door, you see the sunlight coming through the beautiful windows,” said Richman. “You feel like ‘aahh’ you’re home.”
Before Chabad of Chatsworth moved into its spacious new center — a remodeled 1920’s-era house — Richman and her family climbed a flight of stairs in an office building to get to the prayer services lead by Chabad representative Rabbi Yossi Spritzer. “When you are in an office space, you’re under cold drop ceilings and with paper-thin walls – you hear the phone ringing next door,” Rabbi Spritzer recalled. “In our new place, it’s instantly a warmer feeling.”
Moving out of the rented space sends an important signal, according to Executive Director of Chabad of the Valley Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon. “In 1988 the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke about the importance of every Chabad center acquiring its own facility,” said Rabbi Gordon, who is also the spiritual leader of Chabad of Encino, CA. The Rebbe said, “Permanence brings growth.”
The new Chabad of Chatsworth center is in a former six-bedroom, five-bathroom home. Nearly 2,500 square feet in size, it could swallow the old Chabad space more than twice. Community members spent hours sprucing up the place. Shiuki Nachmani headed up construction and demolition, and Erez Solomivitch took care of the electrical work. “With their help, our community has a new place that we can all be proud of,” said Rabbi Spritzer.
Though decorative finishing touches are still on the way, Chabad representative Necha Spritzer has already created separate spaces for youth groups, which double as Hebrew school classrooms. There’s a playroom for tiny tots and a junior congregation room for older children. Richman said her daughter, Jessica, 11, enjoyed having a space of her own at the synagogue. “It is nice for them because you want them to be able to enjoy and not have to ‘shush’ them,” said Richman. At the youth group, Jessica “felt very special and we did, too.”
Last night, Richman joined thirty women from the community to experience “Jewish Meditation and Art,” Chabad’s Jewish Women’s Circle’s first event in the new home. Neria Cohen, an artist from New York City, led the women through Jewish guided imagery exercises to inspire them before painting canvases of their own. The meditative mind voyage was also a way for women to begin feeling comfortable in the new space. “For women to feel comfortable, you have to do more,” said Necha. “They are more particular than men.”
The Spritzers had an eye on the new property since their very first Shabbat in Chatsworth. “We walked by and the home had a look to it, like it was meant for use as something special,” said Rabbi Spritzer. Located in the heart of Chatsworth, the home is one of the few residential spaces along the business strip. In fact, Chatsworth’s annual holiday parade passes right by the Chabad house’s front lawn. Last year, a five-foot-tall dreidel took center stage on Chabad of Chatsworth’s float. A woman approached Rabbi Spritzer on the street telling him, “After thirty years, this is the first time I am proud to be Jewish and living in Chatsworth.”