Even before Batsheva and Yehuda Glick married in 2007, they wanted to serve as Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, or shluchim.
Batsheva, from an emissary family in Capetown, South Africa, said it was in her blood. “It is what my family has been doing for generations. In fact, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—dispatched my great-grandparents to Morocco in 1950, even before he officially accepted the mantle of leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch.”
But the couple, in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., had a hard time finding a post. While Batsheva, 27, worked as a secretary at a local women’s school, Yehuda, 30, bought and sold old Hebrew books, and ran a small baby-blanket business to support their three young daughters.
“It was painful seeing our friends move while we stayed behind,” said Yehuda, who grew up in Crown Heights, “but we stayed resolute. We knew this was the life we wanted.”
“At one point, we thought we hit upon something in Maryland, so we called Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Maryland,” recalled Batsheva. “He dissuaded us, saying there were not enough Jews in the area to warrant a full-time Chabad presence. We were disappointed, but continued to look.”
But that initial interaction planted a seed. Later on, when Kaplan determined that Germantown, Md., was ripe for a Chabad center, he remembered them. “Their perseverance gave me the confidence to believe that they would succeed,” he said, “and their steadfast commitment to doing the work that the Rebbe charged us to do is meritorious.”
In the spring of 2012, the Glicks decided to cast their lot with the 5,000 Jewish people living in Germantown, a rapidly growing suburb about an hour north of Washington, D.C., named for the language spoken by some of its first residents back in the 1800s.
While Germantown had no Jewish places of worship, a number of local families and individuals belonged to congregations in nearby Gaithersburg. Many were eager to see the Glicks establish a permanent Jewish presence in town.
The couple then set out raising funds for their new center, soliciting donations from family, friends and others.
Yehuda, who had studied at the Yeshivah Gedolah of Greater Miami, Fla., from 1998 to 2000, went back to visit some old friends. “Like most yeshivah students,” he explained, “I used to have a ‘route’ of businesses that I would visit every Friday. Together with a friend, I would help people don tefillin and say the Shema prayer. We would also share a Torah thought and make sure that everyone was aware of the upcoming Jewish holidays. With time, I became very friendly with many of my ‘clients’ and even came back to see them after transferring to New Jersey to study at the Rabbinical College of America.
“I asked the fellows if they would be able to contribute to our fledgling center. As we were talking, one of the guys reminded me of a former worker of his, a man not much older than myself. The employee had moved to Latin America and gone on to found a successful communications company. The former boss put us in touch, and we decided to meet.
“In addition to committing to a substantial donation, he gave me a perspective that really got things rolling, telling us that we were needed, and have to do whatever it takes to get to Germantown and start making a difference as soon as possible.”
Building Their Base From Baltimore
In the spring of 2013, the Glicks decided to relocate to Baltimore. “We did not have the money to open up in Germantown yet, but were anxious to be nearby, so we could begin our activities and get to know our community,” said Batsheva. They also started beefing up their online presence, launching their website, JewishGermantown.com, where locals can get to know them and their plans.
Once there, they began shuttling back and forth to introduce themselves, as well as to distribute home-baked challah and holiday foods to community members. One recipient was Dr. Roy Brooks.
“I got a call one day from a rabbi asking if he could bring over some honey cake for Rosh Hashanah,” said Brooks, an OBGYN at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. “He came with his family, and we got to know each other. We now study Torah together every two weeks. And when the Glicks hosted their Chanukah and Purim celebrations, they used my house to get ready.”
'Attendance at Events Has Been Growing'
Brooks noted that attendance at events has been growing. The Chanukah party, in a rented space, was small, but when 50 people attended the Purim event, he was impressed.
After more than a year of raising money, and driving to and fro, the Glicks look forward to settling down in Germantown for good.
“We are so looking forward to this," said Batsheva. "Yehuda calculates that we already know enough people to book ourselves solid with Friday-night guests for the first two months. I can’t wait to host people at my Shabbat table.”
The Glicks are looking forward to celebrating Jewish holidays and events with an ever-increasing number of Germantown's growing Jewish population of 5,000.
With the High Holidays around the corner, Yehuda is focusing on services.
“We have already spoken to few dozen people, so I am pretty confident that we will have a minyan. For many people, this will be their first time experiencing Chabad, and we really want to make sure that it will be meaningful and welcoming—something they'll want to come back to.”