By Mica Soffer – Publisher, COLlive
Photos by Yossi Percia / COLlive
Chabad Shluchim in Long Island’s Five Towns Rabbi Zalman and Chanie Wolowik inaugurated the state-of-the-art Levi Yitzchok Library Sunday, a living memorial to their 9 year-old son who passed away nearly 2 years ago.
The sparkling new storefront center in Cedarhurst, New York, decorated in vibrant colors and boasting spacious rooms and play areas for preteens, teens and young children, was filled with kids sprawled on couches or leaning against their parents, happily reading Jewish books.
The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony, attended by a crowd of friends and community members of the Chabad of the Five Towns which the Wolowiks direct, took place the day after 20 Kislev, Levi Wolowik’s birthday.
The opening was an emotional milestone for his mother, Chanie Wolowik, who was seeing the results of 18 months of work to bring the Jewish book library for children to fruition.
“During the shiva, people asked me what I was going to do in memory of Levi,” Mrs. Wolowik told COLlive.com “Since he loved to read and write, we decided on a library, and one that the entire community could benefit from.”
“Seeing the children running around today, enjoying themselves, is an amazing feeling,” she says. “It’s incredible seeing the results of our many months of hard work.”
Once the Wolowiks began working on the project, funded by sponsorships from family and friends who wanted to do something in Levi’s memory, they discovered that they were not duplicating anything in their area, or anywhere else for that matter.
DIRECTOR VIA NEWSPAPER
Lisa Hawk, the library’s director, never met Levi Wolowik, but his short life has touched hers forever. She became involved with the library after reading an article in the newapaper about the plan following the tragedy, and reached out to them asking to be a part of it.
Hawk says creating a Jewish library had been her dream for a long time.
“My kids love reading, and Jewish books are expensive. The public library does not have an extensive collection of Jewish books, and the other books are a problem because you don’t know if the books are ok for your children to read, each one has to be screened. My dream was to create a place where kids could have access to only Jewish books.”
Hawk, who designed the library along with Chanie Wolowik and interior designer Janice Davis, said the library will carry a full selection of Jewish books from publishers from around the world.
“We’ve reached out to publishers from Australia, England and throughout the US,” she says. “We also have a selection of Hebrew books to make learning to read Hebrew more exciting and interesting, rather than only learning from a Siddur or Tehillim.”
PRAGUE’S SHUL IN CEDARHURST
The library is open to anyone who wants to enjoy reading a Jewish book on site, however in order to check books out, membership is required.
The membership fees are $54 per family of 6 per year, and members also receive discounts on family and educational programming to be held at the library throughout the year.
“We will have slew of programs, which will be unique to our library,” Hawk says. “We are working especially hard to make sure the programs we offer are not offered anywhere else.
A writing center offers children in the community an opportunity to interact with each other in order to work together. A child that enjoys writing can advertise on the board for another child who enjoys drawing to team up and create a book together.
A puppet theater modeled after the Jubilee Synagogue in Prague and a toddlers’ play center offer different forms of creative expression. Five sleek Apple computer stations loaded with Jewish content provide a safe place for children to do research, and a movie theater provides Jewish and educational programming.
The Wolowiks’ hope is that the library will help future generations enjoy learning as much as Levi did. “We wanted to establish something concrete to carry on Levi’s name,” Chanie said. “This library will surely do so.”