Ahead of Shabbat in the Heights, this May 5—7, hundreds of shluchim and their community members are gearing up for a community trip to Chabad’s hometown. Traveling to Crown Heights from around the world, they hope to get a firsthand taste of the full spiritual beauty of the Rebbe’s neighborhood, leadership, and teachings.
It will be Rabbi Chaim Hanoka’s 7th year making the trip. Before Shabbat in the Heights, he brought friends and supporters to New York from Pasadena, California, on his own community Shabbaton. “For my community members, Crown Heights has a mystique,” he says. “They’d heard about the Rebbe’s shul and the Ohel, but experiencing it for themselves was a whole different ball game.”
Still, the logistical difficulties of creating an entire program from scratch proved tedious. “I’m not a tour guide by nature,” Rabbi Hanoka laughs. The logistics also troubled Rabbi Yanky Majesky, who had twice brought his own community to Crown Heights from Chabad-Lubavitch of North Orlando.
Both shluchim were delighted when, in 2016, the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) launched Shabbat in the Heights.
“JLI puts the entire program together from soup to nuts,” Rabbi Hanoka says. He signed his community up, and they’ve been back every year since. Many came back year after year. “It’s an amazing opportunity,” he says, “you can sit back and enjoy the experience with your community.”
For Rabbi Majesky, Shabbat in the Heights greatly simplified “bringing people to the source.” “It’s a service that makes it much easier and better,” he says. “You join a large group from multiple communities and get access to a great lineup of speakers.”
Running Friday through Sunday, Shabbat in the Heights gives shluchim a chance to show their community the full depth and beauty of Jewish life in the Rebbe’s neighborhood through warm meals in private homes, visits to 770 and the Ohel, and eye-opening learning sessions with leading speakers.
Rabbi Hanoka says he sees the impact firsthand. “Everyone reacts differently,” he says, “some people bought tefillin and mezuzos, some began keeping Shabbos more fully, and everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable time.” “I’ve never seen someone have a negative experience,” he adds.
Three weeks after meeting Rabbi Hanoka, Pasadena businessman Michael asked to join Shabbat in the Heights. He surprised himself by agreeing to disconnect from his cell phone and active business life for Shabbos. It was his first time experiencing Shabbos like that. “We didn’t have much of a relationship before that,” Rabbi Hanoka says, “but we became very close over the Shabbaton.”
“Seeing what makes Chabad tick and experiencing Shabbos makes a big impression,” Rabbi Hanoka says, “even walking down Kingston Avenue is a cultural experience for many; undoubtedly, it’s a great spiritual experience for all.”
Shabbat in the Heights 2023 begins on May 5, 14 Iyar. Registration is now open. JLI provides accommodations for all participants registered before March 20.
Register your community today at https://shabbatintheheights.com/