Dreidel House - & Chabad Lubavitch - Come to Larchmont
by Judy Silberstein
(December 15, 2006) A large spinning dreidel is the centerpiece in the window of Larchmont’s newest – and most fleeting -- store. The Dreidel House, which will stay open only through December 25, has taken up temporary residence at 1993 Palmer Avenue, former home of Sweet and Nutty.
However, Rabbi Mendel Silberstein, who set up the Dreidel House, plans a longer stay in Larchmont. He moved three months ago to Larchmont from Brooklyn with his wife Channa to become the director of Chabad Lubavitch in Larchmont and Mamaroneck.
The Larchmont Chabad is part of Westchester County's branch, based in Scarsdale, and affiliated with the much larger organization of Hasidic Orthodox Jews that is headquartered in Brooklyn and maintains outposts all over the world. “We do Jewish outreach in a fun way, in a welcoming way,” explained Rabbi Silberstein.
Westchester isn’t the first assignment for the 28-year-old rabbi, who was ordained in Canada and studied in Jerusalem. Before his marriage he went around the world - 4 months in Russia and a month in Siberia with another month in the Ukraine. In the United States he spent two summers in Hawaii reaching out to Jews there. It was “not as hard as the Ukraine,” he laughed, “but someone had to do the job.”
What exactly does outreach entail? “What we are is Chabad,” explained the rabbi, “and, by us, every Jew from every level of observance - from none to ultra-Orthodox is welcome.” The idea is to get Jews to move one step up the “observance level” from wherever they are.
As part of a global Chanukah outreach campaign, the local Chabad will be joining centers around the world in a display of menorahs. Chanukah lights will glow “from Australia to Africa, Columbia to Hong Kong, New York City’s Ground Zero to the White House Lawn,” said Rabbi Silberstein.
Following the holidays, the rabbi hopes to work with the synagogues in Larchmont and Mamaroneck, and has already made contact with the other rabbis. However, at least for now, he will not be opening his own synagogue. He will be inviting local Jews to Sabbath dinners, holding Kabbalah classes to explore this mystic aspect of Judaism and coming up with other ideas to involve Jewish adults and children.
For the moment, though, he’s pretty busy with the Dreidel House.
The small store is dominated by the Chanukah Craft Corner, where children (and adults) can dabble in holiday art. The crafts include an assortment of wooden menorahs, mosaic dreidels, Chanukah sand art, holiday charm bracelets, dreidel shaped gelt pouches, snow globes and other activities. On Sundays at 2:00 pm, Rabbi Silberstein has plans for donut decorating.
Once a day (and twice on Sundays) there is an Olive Press Show demonstrating how the Maccabees refined olive oil for the menorah in ancient times. “At the conclusion of the presentation, each participant rolls wicks out of cotton, and the show wraps up with the lighting of the menorah,” explained Rabbi Silberstein.
There is also a holiday shop with menorahs, dreidels, Chanukah gift wrap, chocolate coins, books and music.
Rabbi Mendel Silberstein is not related to the reporter of this article.