America’s “fruit basket” is happily anticipating the arrival of new Chabad representatives Rabbi Shmuel and Esther Malka Schlanger and three month old Leah, who will be arriving in time for the High Holidays.
Nicknamed for the surrounding farms that supply the country with mass amounts of produce, Bakersfield, just under two hours from LA, boasts a sizeable Jewish community of several thousand families. Community members approached Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of West Coast Chabad, with requests for a Chabad representative, and the Schlangers were hired by Rabbi Cunin earlier this year.
Since then, they have made several trips to Bakersfield to meet the community and arrange accommodations for themselves and the Chabad House. They are delighted by the warm reception they have received.
“Chabad has a proven track record in attracting the youth of the community,” says Gail Tenzer, a Bakersfield resident. “We are confident that Rabbi and Mrs. Schlanger will have a powerful, exciting impact on our children and community.”
The Schlangers’ first activities after the holidays will focus on youth programming, for the many young families in the community. “We want to establish a firm foundation of Yiddishkeit in the city,” says Esther Malka Schlanger. “Our future depends on the children, so we need to begin with them.” The couple also plan on introducing adult education, holiday awareness activities, and a full range of programs for the entire family.
Born and raised in the Lubavitch communities of London and Crown Heights, respectively, the Rabbi and Mrs. Schlanger are both intimately familiar with the life of Chabad shluchim, having worked in Chabad houses in Connecticut, Nevada, and Cleveland, among other places.
“There’s such terrific enthusiasm in Bakersfield,” says Rabbi Schlanger. “We can’t wait to get started.”