“If we do not help a man in trouble, it is as if we caused the trouble.”
Although this was said first in the late 1700s by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the founder of the chasidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, it could have been said in mid-September, 2013, by Rabbi Pesach Scheiner, co-director of Chabad of Boulder: “Why are you doing all this work to help people you don’t even know recover from the flood?”
Rabbi Scheiner and his wife and co-director Chany Scheiner completed their preparations for Yom Kippur as the water rose around their house with its attached Orthodox shul. Then they mobilized their relief efforts.
“We just did what needed to be done — what anyone would have done.” That’s what they both say when asked about their relief efforts. However, closer inspection reveals that they did more.
Members of their team made chicken soup (the traditional Jewish cure for fainting, flood and famine), baked challah and cooked other fortifying foods, while others went door-to-door delivering them.
“Boulder’s Jewish community is very proud,” said Mendy Scheiner, 23, the Scheiner’s eldest child and newly appointed director of development.
“Traditional relief services help those who come to them and ask,” he says. “We knew that there were a lot of people who needed help, but were reluctant to ask for it.
“By going to people’s homes to deliver food, we were able to do two things at once: deliver the food, which was helpful in an immediate way by feeding people and letting them know they were not alone; and look around and assess the situation and offer whatever help was needed.”
“We don’t want to imply that we were the only ones helping,” said Rabbi Scheiner. “Many organizations provided enormous amounts of help to more people than we ever could ever have reached. It was wonderful to see so many different groups and organizations, both religious and secular, working together to help members of our shared community through this difficult time.”
Amid the chaos of their relief efforts, they began to discuss long-term responses. Several years ago, Chabad purchased a piece of land at the corner of Jay Road and 28th St. in north Boulder, on which they planned to build a Jewish educational center.
They decided that the center they’d been dreaming of needed to become a reality now, in the aftermath of the flood, as a statement of spiritual resilience and triumph over adversity. Not only did they need to begin right away, it needed to open on the first anniversary of the floods: Sept. 9, 2014.
Even as they were still handing out checks to families in need of immediate assistance, and while their own floors had not yet been replaced or the interior walls of their synagogue repaired, they began fundraising efforts.
Now the dream is about to become a reality.
Groundbreaking for the Jewish education center is scheduled for this Sunday, March 2, 2 p.m., at 2810 Jay Rd. (the corner of Jay and 28th).
Plans include speakers, live music by Yossi Cohen, jugglers and kosher food. Everyone is invited.
Plans for the new center include a synagogue, a commercial kosher kitchen and event hall, a children’s museum and library, and a theater.
“THE kosher facility is going to be a knockout!” said Ira Leibtag, founder of Cholaca Inc., purveyors of the super-food option, pure liquid cacao. A long-time Boulder resident, Leibtag says the new facility “will be a unique and special place — a real game-changer for the Jewish community here.”
Jeffrey Reiss, a pioneer in the cable television industry, packed up his family and moved from Boulder to Denver in 1998 because, he “had young children then and there was no Jewish day school for them to attend.”
But things are nothing like they were 22 years ago when Rabbi Scheiner and Chany arrived as a young married couple. Chany Scheiner remembers, “When my husband and I walked the streets, I felt that there were many stares, as the people we passed had never met a religious Jew and for sure not a chasidic Jew.”
Things have changed since then.
“I am not Oorthodox,” said Reiss. “I am not traditionally observant. However, when I met the Scheiners, they welcomed me and my family and, as I got to know them, I discovered that everything they did had greater depth and meaning to me than what I did elsewhere in the Jewish community.
Rick Ackerman, a long-time Boulder resident, commodities trader and teditor and publisher of Rick’s Picks, said, “It all comes from Rabbi Scheiner.”
He remembered the first planning meeting he attended, many years ago, describing it as “a gathering of all the big movers and shakers in the area, the top developers in town, a group that could have built anything.
“This has been Rabbi Scheiner’s dream for a long, long time, so it’s exciting to see it finally moving forward.”
Despite the flood, the directors of Chabad of Boulder who have been working to broaden and deepen Judaism in Boulder will have a new location from which to work.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News