Gilbert's fast-growing Jewish community gets new rabbi - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Gilbert's fast-growing Jewish community gets new rabbi

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:08 am | Updated: 9:41 am, Tue Sep 11, 2012.

Just in time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there is a closer place to celebrate the High Holidays for those in the Gilbert Jewish community.

“People say that Gilbert is fast-growing, but it’s already grown,” Rabbi Shimi Ash said. “There’s an estimated 3,000 Jewish people in Gilbert.”

So while Jewish people could always travel to nearby cities for religious services, Ash said that such a large number of people warrants its own center.

“Gilbert needs its own Jewish center and rabbi,” he said.

Ash and his wife, Chavie, and their 14-month-old son, Mendel, moved about two months ago from New York to establish the Chabad Jewish Center, Ash said. The center serves not only as a place to gather for worship, but also as a place to cultivate a Jewish community.

“We’re really trying to react to the needs of the community,” Chavie Ash said. “It’s really important to meet the needs of the community.”

Programming includes holiday programs, cultural and social events, torah classes and mommy-and-me programs.

Many of the programs are run in tandem between the couple. While Shimi has an extensive religious background, Chavie brings an additional skill set with an early childhood development background.

“All Jews are welcome regardless of background, regardless of commitment and regardless of financial standing,” he said. “More than that, everyone is welcome.”

“We want them to feel this is their home,” Chavie added. “We’re a center already. Things are already active and programs are ongoing.”

While this new branch of the Jewish community is still young, the Ashes have opened up their home until a center can be built.

“We don’t want to wait for a building to build a community,” Shimi said.

Instead, the Ashes see the need for a community now, regardless of where that community meets.

Services are conducted in both English and in traditional Hebrew, Shimi said.

“No matter how much or how little you know, there’s always something to learn, always something to study,” he said.

The services are meant to be both informative and interactive, while still keeping with the traditional service and prayers, he said.

“If it’s in a person’s heart, if it speaks to them, they’ll come,” Shimi said.

“We’re trying to make it relevant to everyone,” Chavie added.

Part of that means explaining old traditions and getting children involved at a young age, they said.

Perhaps one of their most important programs is the weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner.

“All of the food is kosher and homemade. My wife is a very good cook,” Shimi added with a smile.

For more information on the center, its programs and upcoming events, visit www.jewishgilbert.com. All services are held at 1154 S. Portland Ave., Gilbert. For more information or to RSVP to High Holiday services, call (480) 269-6680 or email info@jewishgilbert.com.

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