Awhile ago, the fast-growing Dublin/Pleasanton area grew by two more: when Brooklyn transplants Rabbi Raleigh Resnick and his wife, Fruma, opened the first Chabad House in eastern Alameda County.
Chabad of the Tri-Valley has already had an impact on the local Jewish community, with Torah study classes, minyans, a women’s circle, Shabbat and holiday celebrations well under way, all led by the Resnicks.
“We spend our time meeting people,” says the rabbi. “There’s always a new family joining us for Shabbat.”
No definitive demographic study exists but Resnick, 24, estimates there could be as many as 10,000 Jews in the Tri-Valley area around Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore.
“How many secularized or intermarried?” wonders Resnick. “It could be a large percentage. There are a lot of people not being served.”
Moving from the crowded Brooklyn streets to the rolling hills of the Tri-Valley was a big decision for the young couple. The two came together from Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, the world headquarters for the Chabad movement.
“We agonized over this decision [to move] for a long time,” says the rabbi. “It’s a difficult leap of faith, almost like getting married. It’s not like a steppingstone to a bigger community. This is where you are for life.”
Resnick’s mother was a producer with NBC News. His father was the personal physician of the late Chabad Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Both were observant but not part of the movement. Their son, however, was drawn to Chabad.
“I had the honor of meeting the rebbe,” says the younger Resnick. “Every step of the way, the rebbe was intimately involved in my life. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. My father always wanted me to be a doctor, but this was something I loved.”
Resnick’s wife, Fruma, grew up in the Crown Heights Chabad community. The couple were paired in a shiduch (a traditional Jewish match) and married in March 2004.
In November, Resnick was one of the guest speakers at the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim in New York. He delivered a d’var Torah (Torah lesson) to over 4,000 attendees.
Fruma Resnick is an accomplished Jewish community activist, having served as program director for a Jewish girl’s school and having written a Chabad resource book titled “The Youth and Teen Club Guide,” a collection of teen activity ideas from Chabad centers around the world. Resnick predicts his wife will implement some of those ideas in the years to come.
These have been busy months for the Resnicks. Topping their recent agenda was the public menorah lighting at Pleasanton’s Stoneridge Mall on Dec. 25. “Chanukah is one time a year when a Jewish person with kids feels a little out of place,” says Resnick. “Even if they’re totally uninvolved, this is a time when a lot of people who might never set foot in a synagogue will come.”
The couple also has long-range plans to build a school and perhaps even a senior center. But first, they need to find the Jews. “It’s a lot of cold phone calls and ads in local papers,” says the rabbi who can be reached at (925) 846-0700.
But the effort is well worth it, especially when he can bring another Jew back into the fold. “We have two people who never saw a pair of tefillin in their lives and are now actively involved,” he says. “People are coming. It’s fun to see.”