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Shavuwhat: 1979 - Shavuwhoa: 2019

Friday, 14 June, 2019 - 12:11 pm

When I was growing up in New Orleans in the late 1970s, Shavuot was not exactly the most popular date on the Jewish calendar. In fact even the more established traditional congregations struggled to get a minyan, especially if it was on a weekday. Chabad House at that time was attended mostly by Tulane students. Since Shavuot was during summer break, it was tough to gather a minyan for the holiday. In 1979, if my memory serves me right, we left town altogether for Shavuot and spent the holiday with the Rebbe in New York.

Things started to shift when the Rebbe made a strong push to have everyone attend Shul to hear the Ten Commandments, even very young children and infants. As a result an effort was made to gather people and have a minyan so that the Torah could be heard.

Fast forward 40 years to 2019. This year, thank G-d, Shavuot was celebrated with a bang in all four Chabad locations, Uptown, Metairie, Biloxi and Baton Rouge. Each with a minyan and Torah reading along with a host of programs and events bursting with people.

At Chabad Uptown we started the holiday with the dinner and all night learning. Over 60 people participated. There were programs for adults and children. The discussions included Jewish perspectives on the following topics: Astrophysics, prayer, meditation and mysticism, environmental consciousness, emergency response, DNA and Jewish peoplehood, the ethical dilemma of foreclosures, history, individuality, morality, Kabbala, love and unity, anti-Semitism as well as a number of smaller breakout group discussions. At Chabad of Metairie a similar program drew strong attendance. In Biloxi for the first time the community gathered for late night Torah study with robust and eager participation.

The next morning over 100 gathered to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments. Over 30 children stood on the podium in front of the Shul and lead the congregation in a robust declaration of the Shema and other Torah passages. The adults proudly looked on as the children, our guarantors, filed out of the Shul to receive their treats after the Torah reading. Our future is indeed bright. Chabad of Metairie, Biloxi and Baton Rouge all had record crowds clamoring to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments and grab some cheesecake or a blintz, some quiche and other dairy delights.

We have come a long way my friends. Now we must seize the momentum as we grow our Jewish communities “yiddle by yiddle.”

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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