It’s been five years since Rabbi Shmuel Perlstein and his wife, Golda, moved to Gainesville, in Prince William County, to establish the Chabad Center for Jewish Life. Since then the rabbi has held programs in their home, in the homes of community members and in nearby clubhouses and at a public school.
Perlstein said it’s time to find a permanent space, but that finding an affordable site has been a challenge.
For now, the de-centralized Chabad center has offered religious school classes, delivery of holiday items and communal menorah lightings. There are also classes for adults and a monthly Shabbat service, promoted as the “community Shabbat lunch.” “I want people to feel welcome to come and just engage in community, even if you’re not ready for religious services or anything like that,” Perlstein said. “At the end of the day, all we have is each other.”
In the beginning, attendance at these events grew, Perlstein said.
“And then we got hit with COVID.” And while the pandemic put a hold on any large, in-person events, it “also forced us to make sure we’re reaching out to every person individually, and foster a little bit more those individual connections. Which, at the end of the day, that’s the goal that we’re here to do, and that’s what real community is.”
On June 12, congregants gathered for dinner to celebrate the Chabad Center’s fifth anniversary.
Attendance is up this year, Perlstein said. The center’s first event, for Shavuot, attracted fewer than 10 people. This year, more than 50 participated. Around 100 attendees came to the first menorah lighting. More recently, that number has risen to 300.