Three decades ago, a young Chicago-based rabbi, seeking to offer more Jewish services in the suburbs ringing his Midwestern metropolis, began a small Torah class with a group of young families in Northbrook. As interest grew, so did the class, and eventually the teacher, Chabad-Lubavitch of Illinois director Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, made way for his son and daughter-in-law, Rabbi Meir and Miriam Moscowitz, to set up a full-time Jewish center at the location.

Later this fall, a festive banquet attended by some 250 guests and entertained by comedian Reuven Russel will mark the 10 years following the establishment of the center, known today as Chabad of Northbrook, and its diverse Jewish community.

“It’s hard to believe that it has already been 10 years,” says Moscowitz, whose Chabad House has outgrown three locations since its founding and draws hundreds of people for its weekly programs. “We’ve grown so much in such a short period of time; it’s really amazing and a testament to our community.”

Over the six years that he’s been involved, Marty Fairstain – whose son recently celebrated his bar mitzvah at the center – has seen the local community grow in both numbers and their connection to Judaism. The anniversary, he says, is an important milestone.

“It’s great to celebrate such an achievement,” relates Fairstain, a local businessman who plans on attending the Nov. 1 banquet. “It brings stability and security to know that [the Chabad House] is there and hasn’t changed” its focus.

Children participate in a holiday program at Chabad of Northbrook.
Children participate in a holiday program at Chabad of Northbrook.

While its philosophy and welcoming attitude to Jews of all backgrounds has remained the same, Chabad of Northbrook has, over the years, expanded its offerings from classes and prayer services to today include a Hebrew school, holiday programs, nursing and senior home visitations, a women’s group and an extensive adult education curriculum. In addition, Meir Moscowitz was recently appointed the sole Jewish chaplain at the Northbrook Police Department.

In addition to the center’s activities, social worker Susan Sack, 60, values the family-like environment that it provides.

“I discovered that Rabbi Meir’s grandfather was my eighth-grade science teacher,” states Sack. “To my delight, he invited us both to Shabbat dinner one week so that we could reunite. In general, this atmosphere and the classes really enforce Jewish values and help me to take pride in being Jewish in a real, substantial way.”

In-depth thematic courses under the rubric of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute continue to attract new learners such as Sack, who has enrolled in four over the past year. Eric Rubinstein, who first came to the Chabad House almost five years ago, has enrolled in 15 consecutive Rohr JLI offerings.

“The educational classes really tie loose ends together and help me to understand more about Judaism,” says Rubinstein, who works in real estate and fundraising. “The classes and the anniversary provide a sense of continuity and purpose. [It’s] a good opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and think about how to move forward to the future.”