Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Rabbi brings message of faith to Flower Valley

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A new Jewish center has set down roots in the Flower Valley community of Rockville.

"Every Jew should have the opportunity to connect to their Jewish heritage," said Rabbi Yitzchok Gurary, who runs the Chabad Torah Center of Rockville with his wife, Rivkah.

The center is part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which is a branch of Hasidism, and offers services on how to keep kosher, Kabbalah and Torah classes, hospital visits and the blessing of mezuzahs, the small cases containing tiny parchment scrolls that are attached to a doorpost as a reminder of God's presence.

Most of the programs are being run out of the couple's home, which is located at 15108 Sunflower Court, but Gurary said in an e-mail message to The Gazette that they plan to buy or erect a building.

"[It's] still in the plans, and we are actually actively looking for sponsors," he wrote.

The center also plans to hold services for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year celebrated this year in September, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement in October, at the Legacy Hotel and Meeting Centre on Rockville Pike. Weekly Shabbat services are planned after the High Holidays.

So far, Gurary said, the center has drawn about 20 participants and is growing, and people have been "very welcoming and nice."

The Gurarys have been involved in community outreach from Europe to Australia, but this is the first time Gurary and his wife have led a Chabad center, he said. Gurary, 24, received his rabbinical degree from the West Coast Rabbinical Seminary in Los Angeles.

Gurary and his wife moved to Rockville in April from Brooklyn, N.Y., where they were part of a Chabad community. They have two young children.

He said the grand rabbi, Menachem M. Schneersohn, sends emissaries around the globe, "and we were chosen to service [the] Rockville area."

According to www.Chabad.org, there are Chabad-Lubavitch centers in Silver Spring, Potomac, Bethesda, Gaithersburg and Germantown, and one on Rollins Avenue in Rockville.

Gurary said the Chabad Torah Center of Rockville has yet to partner with any other synagogues or chabads in the area for services or activities.

Michael Grossman, executive director of Tikvat Israel in Rockville, said it was "great and wonderful" that a center had been established nearby, but said he had not heard of the Flower Valley center.