In 2002 I began Chabad Hebrew School in a class of maybe eight students.  My mother’s intuition and desire for a deeper and more spiritual Jewish education brought us to the smallest classroom in Suffolk County. Her Lubavich friends from Crown Heights, who she loves and respects, prompted her to seek out this community. The Hebrew School classes located in a house in Commack were held in the garage. Crafts and drawings were scotch-taped to the pale white, un-insulated walls.  Snack time was a critical component of school; it lasted at least as long as the lessons.  It was here that I began to develop a solid foundation in Judaism. I remember coming home from class filled with a sense of wonder. Stories from the Torah and my experiences at Hebrew school became the focal point of dinner conversations for my entire family. Some of my favorite teachings became household anecdotes, including the last giant on earth lifting up Sarah to see that Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac (she later died of happiness). It was this same giant who held up Noah’s ark through the flood.  For me, these stories added color, richness and a dimension of mystery and wonder to traditional bible stories.  They taught me lessons about compassion and ethical dilemmas which I only now realize have helped to shape the way I approach decisions in my life. I often reflect on the morals and themes of these stories. 

 The sense of community and responsibility I developed at the Hebrew school led me to my involvement with the Friendship Circle. As part of this organization we were able to make a difference in the community by social interaction with special needs children. This past year my path led me to Israel with Cornell’s Birthright program which revitalized my deep interest and connection to the rituals, customs and mysticism of Judaism. The spiritual journey, which started so many years ago with a small group of kids in a garage, crystallized as I stood before the wall in Jerusalem.

The Hebrew School now boasts over 100 students and continues to expand into larger and more modern facilities.   In retrospect, Chabad Hebrew School has provided me with much more than a path to my Bar Mitzvah; it helped me to develop the map that I use to navigate the complexities of my life.  Even now as an involved member of the congregation, I still find myself intrigued by all Chabad has to offer culturally and academically.

Most importantly, I would like to thank you, Rabbi Mendy and Brocha, for all you have done, always in a spirit of openness and with a sense of humor. The countless hours you have dedicated have not gone unnoticed (nor have your delicious dips and salads, Brocha). The strides this congregation has made have been a testament to your hard work, generosity and open arms.