By COLlive reporter
Photos by Borsht
Close to 1000 people gathered Sunday despite a gloomy weather forecast to inagurate the David and Eda Schottenstein Chabad Community Center in Montreal.
Many were seen wiping tears of joy over the building that will house a synagogue, lecture rooms and a social hall serving the estimated 20,000 Jews of Russian origin living in Quebec.
“Everyone is very excited about this, even those who are not so religious,” said Mark Groysberg of the United Community of Russian-Speaking Jews of Quebec.
But the people in the crowd who were the most amazed by this milestone develpment were none other than Shluchim Rabbi Yisroel Sirota and his wife Chana, the directors of the center – and it was not only because of the sunny skies, despite the forecast.
For almost 40 years, the Sirotas have been using a series of rented premises for their Jewish Russian Community Center which they founded with the blessing of the Rebbe upon immigrating in 1973 from Tashkent, Uzbekistan to Canada.
In addition to educating Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants in Jewish history and trying to kindle a spirituality that had been repressed under Communism, the Sirotas saw to their practical needs, providing material aid and helping them get an education or employment, the Canadian Jewish News noted.
They did not see a permenent center or building of their own as a posibility.
“I was sitting in their living-room one day, and asked them why they don’t have a building,” recalls David Schottenstein, their son-in-law and lead sponsor of the new center.
“They said it wasn’t even an option,” Schottenstein told COLlive.com about the Sirotas. “They never dreamed of having a building. They don’t fundraise and both have day jobs to make a living. Everything that they do for the community is out of pure dedication and love.”
At the time Schottenstein was in the first stages of developing his Ohio-based custom clothing business, Astor & Black. When Massachusetts-based private investors Castanea Partners announced it was making a major investment in Astor, Schottenstein decided to donate to his in-laws’ cause.
3 days after David and Eda Schottenstein made their initial donation of $250,000, the Sirotas got a phone call from Toronto. A person who was helped by them and has since moved, said he took his his security firm public and wanted to donate $90,000 worth of stock to them.
The same week, the Sirotas got another exciting call from another friend of theirs. “I found a video clip of me walking by the Rebbe in 1992,” Elisheva Kushner told them.
“The Rebbe gave me a dollar with a blessing and added a blessing to you that you should have your own building,” Kushner said. “Then, the Rebbe gave me another dollar for you and said ‘it will be in good time. Bracha v’hatzlacha.'”
The new center is located in what was Congregation Anshei Ozeroff at 5380 Bourret Avenue, the same space they have been renting for years, until their contract has ended.
At Sunday’s event, the crowd walked a new Torah in song and dance to the new center. Among the guests were Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and Rabbi YY Jacobson, leader of Congregation Beis Shmuel in Crown Heights and dean of TheYeshiva.net.
“It’s one thing when I say they should have a building, it’s another when the Rebbe says it,” concluded Schottenstein, who donated another $500,000 and got family and friends to give as well (including his parents – Tuvia and Lea Schottenstein, the Wolfson family and the Rohr family).