Few rabbis in the history of the Jewish religion have had the far-reaching influence and lasting spiritual leadership as that of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. Some 25 years after his death, the movement continues to grow.
Evidence of the continued influence of Schneerson, known by his followers as the Rebbe, can be found in the page one story by Bill Motchan in last week’s issue of the St. Louis Jewish Light, headlined, “Chabad launching chapter serving St. Charles.”
Over 300 people gathered at the Chabad-sponsored menorah lighting on the iconic Old Main Street in St. Charles, when the announcement was made for plans for a Chabad Center of St. Charles County. The news was warmly welcomed not only by the large and diverse crowd that attended, but also by St. Charles City Mayor Dan Borgmeyer and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who presented a proclamation to local Chabad leadership.
“The Jewish community is growing and is healthy in St. Charles,” Borgmeyer told the gathering. “We’re very pleased to have your numbers, we’re very pleased to have your faith and we look forward to the Jewish community building and growing in St. Charles County.”
People not familiar with the population mix in St. Charles County are often surprised to learn that there are 5,800 Jews residing in the fastest-growing county in the St. Louis area -- about 10 percent of the total local Jewish population of 60,000.
For many years, there was an active synagogue serving the Jews of St. Charles County, B’nai Torah, which later ceased operations. Since then, both the Jewish and general populations of St. Charles County have increased.
Rabbi Chaim A. Landa and his wife, Bassy, will be the co-directors of the new Chabad Center. Landa is the son of Rabbi Yosef Landa, the founding director of Chabad of Greater St. Louis. The new Chabad Center in St. Charles County is the fifth chapter in the region.
The other four are the Morris & Ann Lazaroff Chabad Center in University City, Chabad on Campus, Chabad of Chesterfield and, most recently, Chabad of the Central West End.
The astounding local and regional growth of Chabad is a testament to the leadership skills of its local directors under the overall stewardship of Rabbi Yosef Landa as well as to the lasting and continued expansion of the influence of the late Rabbi Schneerson.
Schneerson’s goal was to get as many Jews as possible to perform mitzvah, such as putting on tefillin, studying the Torah and other sacred texts and spreading the joys of Yiddishkeit worldwide.
Chabad can also boast of a number of local, national and worldwide achievements:
• Since 2007, Chabad of Greater St. Louis has facilitated the “Roving Rabbis” program, which included organizing last August’s St. Charles County Jewish Festival and the Dec. 22 Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony.
• Chabad has sponsored Menorah lighting ceremonies at the White House under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump and at other landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Kremlin.
• Chabad established a Jewish Girl’s Day School that ranked at or near the top in scholastic achievement in Morocco, an Arab country.
• When Jewish children who were exposed to the disfiguring and carcinogenic aftereffects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union, Chabad rescued hundreds of them for treatment in Israel.
We warmly applaud Chabad for its new Chapter in St. Charles County and its many other accomplishments through the years and hope that it grows from strength to strength in the years ahead.