In a first for the central Swiss regional capital of Zug, a new study center is energizing the hamlet’s tiny Jewish community through a combination of Torah classes and a Hebrew school.

According to local residents, the Zug Learning Center – which is staffed by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries who shuttle back and forth from nearby Luzern – comes at an opportune time for a community looking to deepen its roots.

“It’s the first Jewish facility in Zug, and it gives us a home base to coalesce around, as well as an opportunity to increase the amount of activities and develop the community,” says Steven Blumgert, 36, who lives near the city with his wife and four children.

Pedro Bilar, 65, who is studying the fundamental Chasidic treatise known as the Tanya for the first time at the center, agrees.

“There’s a need,” he says, “to have a physical presence in Zug.”

A booming financial hub known for its townhouses, cafés and historic squares, Zug draws businesses and investors from around the world. The local Jewish community numbers is made up of about 100 families, as well as daily commuters from Zurich.

Rabbi Chaim Drukman, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central Switzerland, began coming to Zug five years ago, and every few weeks, he leads Shabbat services in the city. His home base of Luzern also counts about 100 local Jewish families, but unlike in Zug, many are indigenous to Switzerland.

Bilar says that the physical distance between the two towns – about a half-hour’s worth of travel – has proved difficult to bridge.

So finding a two-room location in the heart of the city and near the train station to house programming, says Drukman, “was a blessing.”

“To have some place so centrally located is wonderful,” echoes Phyliss Gregory. “It is nice for the kids to be able to walk by and say, ‘That’s where I go to Hebrew school,’ and to know that we have a permanent home.”

Rivky Druckman leads a class for Jewish women in Zug, Switzerland.
Rivky Druckman leads a class for Jewish women in Zug, Switzerland.

Everything Jewish

With a conference room, lobby area, and a view of the surrounding city and Lake Zug, the center brings Drukman’s rotating classes under one roof. It also houses the community’s Hebrew school, which moved from the city’s International School. Bar and Bat Mitzvah lessons also take place at the center.

“There is now an address for Jewish classes,” says Drukman.

Blumgart, for instance, enjoys a weekly one-on-one session with Drukman, while Gregory attends a classes taught by the rabbi and his wife, Rivky Drukman. A lunch-and-learn program later this month will focus on the teachings of the medieval sage Rabbi Moses Maimonides, known as the Rambam.

Drukman, though, stresses that much more takes place at the center; it’s a one-stop address for everything Jewish. While regularly-scheduled prayer services may come later, for now Drukman arranges a quorum of congregants if someone needs to say the mourner’s prayer known as kaddish.

“No less important are the private classes we give to whoever wants to learn individually,” he explains. “And our door is always open for people to stop by, whether to have their mezuzahs checked or to don the prayer boxes known as tefillin.”