A few months ago, Mussi and Mendel Weinfeld were young newlyweds in New York City. Now the Hasidic couple have left snowy winters and their close Jewish community behind to open a new Chabad center in south San Jose.
They got married in April 2018, and “since then, it’s been an exciting journey,” Mendel Weinfeld said.
“The Chabad House–Almaden Valley” (its official name) launched in January to increase Chabad’s number of South Bay locations to eight, or 10 if Santa Cruz and Morgan Hill are included, according to Chabad.org. More information about the newest center, located in a residential neighborhood near Almaden Lake Park, can be found at chabadalmaden.com.
The Weinfelds, who are in their early 20s and don’t have children yet, are new to both Chabad outreach work and to California.
“Me and my wife were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York,” Weinfeld said. “In Crown Heights.”
Before they left New York, they raised close to $200,000 through two fundraising efforts. In San Jose, they are under the mentorship of Chabad of San Jose’s Rabbi Aaron Meir Cunin, who himself was 22 when he began in 2001.
“We’re working hand in hand with him,” Weinfeld said. “He’s the main Chabad here in the area.” Other Chabads are in Los Gatos, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Mountain View.
According to a Chabad spokesman, Almaden Valley is one of 43 Chabad centers that are being opened across California and Nevada in memory of Rabbi Tzemach Cunin, a Chabad emissary who died at 43 last year. He was the son of Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, director of Chabad activities on the West Coast and was the uncle of San Jose’s Meir Cunin.
Currently, there are 136 Chabad centers in California, according to chabad.org.
Following in the footsteps of most Chabad startups, the Weinfelds are holding events in their home for now, as well as renting facilities when needed.
“Actually, our garage we turned into a synagogue,” Weinfeld said. “We’re doing construction now.”
They had a kid-friendly hamantaschen bake on March 1 and are holding regular Shabbat dinners; the last one had 25 guests, Weinfeld said. They also have been hosting two members of Chabad’s Roving Rabbis program, which sends rabbinical students to various locations to get the message out — all part of the Chabad mission to which the Weinfelds have dedicated themselves.
“The way to combat anti-Semitism is for us to go out there and be the light,” Weinfeld said.