Rabbi Yisroel Labkowski and his wife, Tzipora, have arrived from Brooklyn to establish the Bay Area’s newest Chabad center: Chabad of Lamorinda, which serves Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda.
Labkowski’s brother, Rabbi Dovid Labkowski, leads the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland and Piedmont.
Though they have not yet found a permanent location for their Chabad house, the Labkowskis offered High Holy Day services at the Lafayette Library. “It was a last-minute thing, but it was really nice. We had about 10-15 people the first day [of Rosh Hashanah],” Labkowski said.
The Labkowskis and their 1-year-old son, Menachem Mendel, arrived in the Bay Area last month. For now, they have rented a house in Lafayette, though they are still “looking for something a little bigger and more permanent,” the rabbi said. “Part of [the rented house] is set up already basically for a Chabad house, with a big room where we’re planning on making services there every Shabbat.”
They also plan to have a sukkah at the house and invite people for Sukkot meals. As for other programs going forward, they want to get to know the needs of the community.
“We’re open to all,” Labkowski said. “There’s no commitment at all; people can come for a dinner or a Shabbat service or just to hang out. We accept any Jew of any kind of background.”
Lamorinda has 5,000 “Jewish individuals and non-Jews in Jewish households,” according to a 2011 study by the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, making that area of Contra Costa County about 8 percent Jewish.
According to Chabad.org, there are now 47 Chabads in Northern California, including Chabad of Contra Costa in Walnut Creek. Though the new Chabad in Lafayette is only five miles away, Chabad of Contra Costa co-director Chaya Berkowitz said that isn’t a problem.
“Although Chabad of Contra Costa offers classes and events for the Jewish community in the Lamorinda area, when it comes to positivity, mitzvot and light, there is never enough,” she wrote in an email.
For information about the new Chabad, visit www.chabadoflamorinda.com or call (925) 384-7242. — david a.m. wilensky