Rabbi Sholom and Blumah Wineberg don’t need to look that far back to remember a time when Chabad Houses didn’t pop up every month. When they moved to Kansas City, Mo., in 1970, theirs was just the eighth regional Chabad-Lubavitch center in the entire United States.

Since then, the number of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries has grown exponentially, and 40 years after the Winebergs’ arrival, Kansas City is no exception. Today, the city and its environs are home to three Chabad Houses – in Overland Park, Kan., downtown Kansas City, and near the campus of Kansas University; and a regional headquarters for Kansas and Missouri that once ran programs from a small two-bedroom apartment now sits on an 11-acre campus complete with a Jewish ritual bath, preschool, synagogue, commercial kitchen and food pantry.

Locals can’t help but be awed by the growth.

“Being involved with Chabad has really been wonderful for my family,” says Sorale Parkhurst, who moved to the region from Atlanta, Ga., 10 years ago. “I feel like they have embraced me as their family, and we’re not the only ones who feel this way. This is extended to everyone; it’s an amazing thing.”

Because they live too far away from the Chabad center, Parkhurst and her family have spent every Shabbat with the Winebergs. She, in turn, has given back to the community by helping run the Chabad House of Kansas City’s Yachad food pantry, which serves more than 200 people a month and delivers meals to almost 100 people.

“Many programs and celebrations that were new when we moved here have now become mainstream,” offers Blumah Wineberg. Local supermarkets now carry kosher milk, for instance, and “many families have become more connected on many different levels. That’s what makes our time here worthwhile.”

When they first moved to Missouri, the Winebergs used to travel more than two hours every week to S. Louis to teach classes and host Shabbat meals for college students. But while their main focus at the time was the university, programs under their umbrella now encompass nearly every aspect of Jewish life in the area.

Mark Fogel, a 46-year-old police detective and retired army reservist, learned how to don the Jewish prayer boxes known as tefillin at the Winebergs’ Chabad House. Since meeting the couple in 2003, he’s taken on wearing the ritual fringes known as tzitzit and eating only kosher meat.

“My lifestyle has really changed since meeting the Winebergs,” says Fogel, who still attends classes at the center. “A spark was lit years ago, and Chabad fueled the flame. I have been able to learn all of the things that I wish I’d known, and a lot of the things I do now in my life are because of the Winebergs. They are very warm people who bring out the most in me. They make me feel like family.”

Rabbi Mendy Wineberg poses with one of his Jewish scouts. The troop is just one of many projects run by the Chabad House Center of Kansas City, the regional Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters of Kansas and Missouri founded by Wineberg’s parents, Rabbi Sholom and Blumah Wineberg, 40 years ago.
Rabbi Mendy Wineberg poses with one of his Jewish scouts. The troop is just one of many projects run by the Chabad House Center of Kansas City, the regional Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters of Kansas and Missouri founded by Wineberg’s parents, Rabbi Sholom and Blumah Wineberg, 40 years ago.

Life-Changing

Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, director of Chabad activities on New York’s Long Island, similarly credits meeting the Winebergs with changing his life.

“It was through Chabad in Kansas City that I first got in touch with Judaism and it made such a positive impression on me as a 20-year-old,” says Teldon. “I thank them for making that connection for me.”

For Leonard Singer, who met the Winebergs 20 years ago, the Chabad House has been a place for growth because of its “love and light” mentality.

“Chabad has contributed to this community by being an open door for people to grow and expand their Judaism,” he explains. “There has been an influx of people in the community going to them over the years. They have been a steady stream of activity and learning for me.”

Cheryl Choikhit, a mother of 20-year-old twin girls, recalls her first encounter; she met the Winebergs through a Chanukah art contest that her daughters won. Now, the whole family regularly participates in Shabbat dinners at the center, holiday celebrations and other programs.

“They taught us so many things that we never knew before,” says Choikhit, whose daughters are now involved with the Chabad House serving Kansas University. “They’ve taught us so much about living Jewishly and how to look at things from a different perspective. They make you want to give because they give so much.”

To mark its 40th anniversary, the Chabad House Center of Kansas City welcomed a new Torah scroll to its synagogue and will be holding a gala dinner on Oct. 17 honoring community members and longtime lay leaders Stanley Brand and Neil Sosland.

“This is a celebration of our past and a look to the future,” Rabbi Mendy Wineberg, the Winebergs’ oldest son, says of the gala. “Everyone in this community knows that there’s always a place for them at Chabad, no matter what they need, spiritually as well as physically.

“We hope to expand even more in the future,” he continues. “An anniversary is not a time to stop and pat ourselves on the back; it’s a time to look forward to the future.”