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Blowing Into Newfoundland!

North America’s easternmost province

Bitten by the travel bug? Flying is not what it used to be–not since the pandemic. Thankfully, there’s still virtual travel. Join us each #ThursdayTravel as we take a virtual tour of one of the 5000 communities around the globe served by Chabad. Fasten your seatbelts.

Whadda y’at, me son?

If you are a come-from-away (non-Newfoundlander) the babble of Newfoundland English that assails you as you arrive in Canada’s most easterly province may sound like a foreign language. But the terms  of endearment in the language—me son, ducky, treasure, to name a few—reflect a culture that has been rated one of the top ten friendliest in the world.

With 29,000 kilometers (just over 18,000 miles) of Atlantic coastline—that’s enough to stretch across Canada four times over—you may find yourself whale-watching, hiking between abandoned fishing villages, or viewing the icebergs, like the one that sank the Titanic just 400 miles offshore.

Enjoy its distinct architectural heritage and its unique culture—a blend of the population’s English, Irish, French, and Indigenous legacy.

An eight-hour ferry ride from Nova Scotia, or two hours if you drive from Quebec across Labrador and catch the ferry from there, Newfoundland is pretty much isolated from mainland Canada to its West. Across the Island in the capital, St Johns you’ll find the Chabad Center in a two-story family home just a seven minute ride from St Johns International airport.

Newfoundland Facts:

Newfoundland’s Chabad reps: Rabbi Chanan and Tuba Chernitsky, and children, Menachem Mendel, Ahuva Gitel, Devorah Leah, and Chaya Mushka.

  • The first Jews arrived in Newfoundland in the 1770s trading for fish, seal furs and seal oil. The first known Jew in the St. John’s area, Simon Solomon—a jeweller who came to St. John’s from Devon, England in 1792—was the first postmaster of Newfoundland.
  • The Hebrew Congregation of Newfoundland was established in 1909, the province’s first Synagogue. The Jewish community of Newfoundland grew slowly from 215 in 1935 (the first census to include Jews as a separate religious denomination) to the 500 Rabbi Chanan now estimates live on the island. A couple dozen are students at Memorial University.
  • There are more varieties of English spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador than anywhere else in the world. The accents are rooted in western England and southern Ireland with some French and Indigenous influences.
  • Chabad representatives began visiting Newfoundland and sending Holiday packages in the 2010s. One year the main shipping route from Nova Scotia was blocked when ice prevented the ferries from crossing the strait. “The only matzah we had for that seder was the matzah from Rabbi Gorelik,” Frankel-Salama, a Newfoundlader, recalled in a 2016 interview with the Canadian Jewish News.
  • Chanan moved from Buenos Aires to Winnipeg with his parents at the age of fourteen. He joined the Chabad tefillin club at his High School and when they offered a free pair of tefillin to anyone who would commit to wearing them every weekday, Chanan signed up. One thing led to another and upon graduation, he enrolled in yeshiva, studying for Rabbinic ordination. 
  • When the Chernitskys visited Newfoundland ahead of their move, someone tipped them off about an Argentinian Jew who was living in St Johns. Rabbi Chernitsky made his way to the man’s office and introduced himself in Spanish. “Are you related to Laura Chernitsky?” the businessman asked. Turns out he had worked with the rabbi’s aunt at Microsoft in Argentina. How’s that for Jewish geography?
  • Newfoundland as a whole has the strongest winds of any Canadian province, with most stations recording average annual wind speeds greater than 20 km/h.s, so the Chernitskys leave a foot of space in between their sukkah walls and the roof covering so that the structure doesn’t blow away during the holiday.
  • On 9/11/2001 17,000 passengers were grounded in Newfoundland. The Town of Gander almost doubled its population as it played host to 6,500 passengers and crew. The warm hospitality of the host populace in welcoming the “plane-people,” earned Gander the moniker, “Capital of Kindness” and spawned the Broadway musical, “Come From Away.”
  • Rabbi Levi Sudak, Chabad representative to Edgware, UK was among the grounded passengers. He’d been headed to New York for a one day visit to the Ohel (resting place) of the Rebbe to pray ahead of the upcoming Rosh Hashana. Locals helped the rabbi prepare Kosher food for the 28 Kosher-observant passengers. He was featured in the musical.
  • The closest mikvah is a 2 hour plane ride to Halifax. When the coronavirus pandemic made travel difficult, Tuba had to resort to using the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The Chernitskys are winding down a $300,000 campaign to build a mikvah in St Johns. 1659 people have contributed a total of $225,661 in the last 24 days.
Rabbi Chanan and Tuba Chernitsky
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