Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New rabbinical school gives young Jews a place to study in Clearwater

CLEARWATER

T  he new rabbinical school sits tucked in a Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard strip center, flanked by a lingerie-modeling store and a hookah lounge.

For Rabbi Shmuel Reich, the rabbinical school, or yeshiva, is a perfect way to teach future rabbis how to reach out to those who need them most.

"The students will be an example, a beacon of light for the whole Tampa Bay area," said Reich, who runs the Clearwater Jewish Enrichment Center and started the school.

The new school, called the Metnick Yeshiva College of Tampa Bay, has three rabbinical students from Brooklyn, N.Y., but Reich hopes to have 20 to 30 students eventually. The Hebrew word "yeshiva" means to sit — or to sit and study the Torah, the Five Books of Moses in the Hebrew Bible. Reich said it's the only rabbinical school in western Florida between Tallahassee and Naples.

The students are living in a rented apartment and studying at the Gulf-to-Bay location each day for about five hours. Their daily regimen begins at 7 a.m., when they get up and go jogging, have breakfast, pray, and then get to the yeshiva by 10. After studying, they head into the community to visit assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospitals and people in need. They have dinner and study for a couple of more hours before going to bed. The rabbinical program takes about 18 months.

Vadi Albukerk, 22, calls himself a "pioneering rabbinical student." His energy and enthusiasm are contagious as he reaches out to strangers, asks them if they're Jewish, and offers some inspiring words.

When he first arrived this winter, it was "a weather shock, a culture shock — Brooklyn to Clearwater is quite a bit different," he said. "It's a whole other world to adjust to. The lack of Judaism, the lack of Jewish pride. My first impression: We've got a lot of work to do, a lot of potential."

The intermarriage rate, for one thing, is staggering. He meets people every day who have little or no connection to their Judaism.

Rabbi Reich has been living in the area for three years and chose the location because of its high visibility. "Having a location there is a very powerful statement," he said.

Reich's brother, Rabbi Yehuda Baruch Reich, 22, is serving as the yeshiva's teacher. He was ordained in Australia and then attended a Jerusalem institute, equivalent to a master's degree program, Shmuel Reich said.

The Clearwater students recently visited a tattoo parlor owner in St. Petersburg they heard was Jewish. They visit Jewish patients at Morton Plant Hospital and Coral Oaks Nursing Home in Palm Harbor.

"I was the only Jew here for miles," said Adele Zigelbaum, 86, who lives in a local assisted living facility and recently received a visit from the rabbinical students. She was born in Poland and moved to New York in 1926, then retired to Florida. She said life can be tough if you're Jewish, or any minority.

The visit from the Orthodox yeshiva students was a first-time experience for her. "In New York, you see 'Yeshivniks,' " she said, referring to yeshiva students, but certainly not here. But if you see Scientologists and Muslims here, why not Orthodox Jews? She encourages tolerance. "There's no reason that people should hate one another."

In addition to visiting with local Jews, the rabbinical students put up menorahs at stores and nursing homes during Hanukkah; give proper Jewish divorces, which differ from legal U.S. divorces; and offer one-on-one learning.

"The whole point is having young blood. This place needs young Jews — observant, committed Jews — to infuse energy and life into this place," Shmuel Reich said.

Menachem Krasnianski, 19, dressed in the traditional garb of religious Jews — black pants, white shirt and black hat — was in a local store recently when a woman stopped him and commented on his clothes. She said her parents were religious and her father supported a yeshiva in New York. Now she goes to a Baptist church in Dunedin because that's where her friends go.

"Being part of Chabad means going around the world and having these kinds of experiences," said Krasnianski. "People come up and say they're Jewish. We walk around and fly our colors and wear our uniforms, so to speak. … It instills a sense of Jewish pride. "

The students are part of Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch, a Jewish outreach organization led by the late Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, which sends thousands of rabbis around the world to live and reach out to unaffiliated Jews.

"They're doing one-on-one work in the field on a regular basis," Reich said of his students. "They're getting training on the job, and then they have all the tools they need to be rabbis. "They're the guarantors of the future generation. There's no more powerful thing than Torah study."

New rabbinical school gives young Jews a place to study in Clearwater 02/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 7:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated

    Footballpreps

    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive

    World

    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.