The Israeli community of Montgomery County is thrilled about the arrival, Monday, July 15, of new Chabad-Lubavitch representatives, Rabbi and Mrs. Shlomo Baitch. The young couple will establish a local Chabad-Lubavitch center in this sizable Israeli community of more than 5,000 families, which until now, was served by Chabad rabbinical students on a temporary basis.
Rabbi Baitch, a native of Israel, was recruited by Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, director of Chabad activities in the state of Maryland, after he conducted services and programs for the community during the various holidays throughout the past year. “The Israeli community is very excited about Chabad coming here,” says Rabbi Kaplan, pointing out that, “unlike many American Jews, who appreciate the risks of intermarriage as a result of living in a largely non-Jewish society, Israelis growing up in secular homes in Israel have never really been made aware of this issue.” Rabbi Kaplan sees this as one of the primary objectives of Chabad’s activities. “In a country where intermarriage has reached an all-time high, we must, and we can, prevent this through creating a vibrant Jewish community and a strong sense of Jewish identity.”
The Baitches are developing plans for a Hebrew School, a program especially attractive to Israeli parents who feel a widening gap as their children’s public school education leaves them without even the basic knowledge of Judaism and Jewish culture. Holiday programs and events for children, educational classes for adults and plans to establish a shul in the area, will create a whole new dynamic in this community.
Situated in the Greater Washington area, many of Montgomery County’s Jewish residents are in diplomatic service at the Israeli embassy, and others are researchers with the National Institute of Health in Washington D.C. The growing number of high tech companies in the area is another draw for Israelis interested in business. Many who come at first expecting to stay only temporarily, end up residing here permanently.
“Our goal is to strengthen Jewish self-awareness,” says Rabbi Baitch in his native Hebrew, which will serve him well in dealing with the community. The young couple is brimming with enthusiasm about the challenge ahead of them. “Our thanks go out to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarksy of Lubavitch World Headquarters and Rabbi Efraim Mintz of the Merkos Shluchim Office for their help in making this shlichus possible,” says Rabbi Beitch.