As members of all faiths gather in Sochi this week for the 2014 Winter Olympics, many will be looking for a spiritual home during the games. For the Jewish spectators and athletes, that home can take the form of Rabbi Ari Edelkopf’s Sochi Chabad house.
On a normal Shabbat, the house sees up to 40 guests, but for the Olympics, the house’s staff is preparing close to 7,000 kosher meals, Edelkopf said. According to Edelkopf’s Jewish Sochi website, Chabad is running six Jewish information centers, to provide visitors with Jewish literature and books, as well as videos and a general guide for Jews visiting the city.
“Our goal is to create a home-like space to welcome and spiritually service the many Jewish visitors,” said the U.S.-born Edelkopf.
Chabad has reserved two locations that will be convenient gathering places for many visitors —one at the Krasnaya Polyana Marriot and one just outside the Olympic Park, he said. Sochi Chabad’s permanent home at the Jewish Community Center will also serve as a gathering place.
Twelve rabbinic interns will be in town, leading services and study sessions in a variety of languages. Their topics will range from the weekly Torah portion to in-depth Talmud study, according to Edelkopf.
Israel is sending a 10-member delegation to the Olympics. Edelkopf said that he has contacted some of the Jewish athletes and will be hosting the Israeli delegation. Chabad will host a reception for all Jewish athletes, as well as a memorial prayer to honor the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, in which 11 Israeli Olympians were kidnapped and murdered.
Visitors can sign up for Shabbat lunch and dinner at any of the three locations. In addition to three daily minyanim, each location will also host candlelightings and kabbalat Shabbat services, as well as services on Shabbat mornings.
“We have a united and warm community and we are very much looking forward to greeting and hosting Jews from all over the world,” Edelkopf said.