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In the Mortgage Business, People Break for Daily Prayers

By , Melville, NY

Being in the mortgage business today takes stamina. In Melville, NY, one national mortgage banking organization is finding prayer to be a source of strength.

( At 5:30 p.m., a crowd of thirty men and women gathers in the executive boardroom of Lend America’s headquarters.

A Jewish afternoon prayer service, Mincha, takes place there every weekday (at 2:30 p.m. on Fridays). Initiated by Chief Business Strategist Michael Ashley and accountant Aaron Bhatia, the services are led each day by either Rabbi Yaakov Saacks and Rabbi Avraham Lehr, both Chabad-Lubavitch representatives in Dix Hills.
“Mincha brings people together. It is very uplifting, and you feel a sense of unity,” Bhatia said.
The second of three Jewish prayer services recited each day, the Mincha service must be held within a specific time frame. Working people may find it hard to make time to pray the brief Mincha service on their own, let alone join a minyan, a quorum of ten for group prayer.

Yet Lubavitch Chai Center of Dix Hills draws a crowd not only to one, but to two separate Mincha services, one at Lend America, and the other at its center at 501 Vanderbilt Parkway.
The Mincha phenomenon is illustrative of the growth that the Chai Center has seen in Dix Hills, an upper middle class community on Long Island. Rabbi Saacks and his wife Zoey, Chabad’s representatives in Dix Hills for 14 years, recently signed on with an architect to design the center’s $1 million expansion project. If all goes according to plan, construction will begin within six months and be completed within a year.
More space is needed to accommodate center programs, said Rabbi Saacks. The Hebrew school has grown to 110 students, first through seventh graders, directed by Deena Katz-Lehr. A new Chai High for eighth and ninth graders will be opening this fall under the leadership of Rabbi Lehr, the Center’s assistant rabbi.
“Everyone know that post-bar and bat mitzvah are critical years” for Jewish involvement, said Rabbi Lehr. “We’ve put a lot of work to make Chai High an experience that is exciting to teens.”
Rabbi Lehr already has quite a following. It’s the group of post-bar mitzvah boys who flock to Rabbi Lehr that make the Center’s Mincha minyan possible.
Additional rooms in the expanded building will allow more two, three and four year olds to attend Chai Tots, the preschool directed by Zoey Saacks. The new facilities will have an indoor gym for the little ones. There will also be extra classroom space for the Friendship Circle Hebrew School for children with special needs and the volunteers who help out with the program.
The need to provide more space for the Center became a pressing matter last year when 600 people joined High Holiday services. “It was standing room only,” Rabbi Saacks recalled.
Among those gathered to pray on Rosh Hashanah were Lend America’s Mincha service regulars. For some, participating in the afternoon service was a gateway to greater involvement in Jewish activities. Five of the Lend America group join the weekly “Pray and Play” program, where morning prayer services are followed by a round of racquetball with Rabbi Saacks.
Renni Campo, a legal assistant at Lend America, doesn’t wake up early for racquetball, but she does attend the Jewish studies class taught by Rabbi Saacks on Thursday nights.
The class “gets to the spirituality of Judaism,” said Campo. “It has taken me places I didn’t think I would go.”
Campo is a Mincha service regular, too. “As a full time working mom, I never get a minute to myself. It’s always, ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy’ or ‘Honey, I need you.’ Mincha is very calming. It is the one thing I do every day that allows me to connect with G-d. Once I start reading, I find it to be an incredible spiritual journey.”


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