When Rabbi Raleigh Resnick (pictured above) blows the Shofar Friday night during Yom Kippur services, he and the community Chabad he leads will be more than celebrating the closing of the Jewish high holidays.
These joyous holidays that started last Sept. 20 with Rosh Hashanah services, marking the Jewish new year of 5778, are being held in the Chabad’s new center for Jewish life at 3370 Hopyard Road, the building that once housed the Masonic Lodge of Pleasanton.
I first met Rabbi Resnick 12 years ago at a 1st Wednesday street party on Main Street. Fresh from the more orthodox neighborhoods of New York City, he stood out in the summer crowd in his traditional dark suit and black hat. Yet his robust, joyful personality and determination to become an involved part of our Pleasanton community cemented friendships along the street. We’ve been close friends ever since.
Inspired by the teachings of their faith, Resnick and his wife Fruma came here to launch the Chabad of the Tri-Valley, which today serves as a unique center of Jewish life and education in the region. They’ve been on a mission to provide a spiritual home for every Jew, whether reform, conservative, orthodox or unaffiliated, seeking out especially the thousands of Jews in the area who have never set foot in a synagogue despite their heritage.
They’ve also helped grow the numbers in Pleasanton. When I met the rabbi and his wife, there was just the two of them. Today, they have seven children: Malka, 9; Yaakov, 8; Shimi, 7; Mendel, 5; Mushka, 3; Riva, 2, and Rachmiel, almost 6 months old.
Before coming here, Resnick has served Jewish communities in Sydney, Tokyo and
Bangkok. His charisma, combined with is musical talent, has helped to propel Chabad and the Tri-Valley’s Jewish community into a highly visible presence with events ranging from holiday parades at Chanukah (Hanukkah), which this year will be held on Dec. 17, to public services in the Stoneridge Shopping Center, community luncheons and speakers and women’s defense classes.
The Chabad will host a talk by Dr. Jacob Eisenbach, a retired dentist and holocaust survivor, on Nov. 8, which is open to the public. Resnick has even hooked-up with Livermore Valley winemaker Mitchell Katz to turn out some of the valley’s esteemed vintages that quickly sold out.
“When we moved here, the Chabad we started in Pleasanton was only the third in the region,” Resnick said. “Now there are 10. We are an independent non-profit organization financed entirely by contributions from those who benefit, admire and respect our work. Our support is generated by the community and remains here.”
Last week, Resnick joined volunteers and a construction crew to complete renovations on the former Masonic Lodge building, and then led the Chabad’s first service there at the start of Rosh Hashanah. That concluded last Friday after several services during the day. Yom Kippur services, which will end the week-long Jewish High Holidays, will be held at 6:35 p.m. Friday, with a “Break Fast” at 7:45 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 30).
Unlike more traditional synagogues and reform Jewish congregations, which have members and often charge for high holy week services, Resnick’s Chabad is more of an assembly of Jews regardless of background or affiliation. Although there’s a charge for luncheons and special events ($15 to hear Eisenbach, for instance), Chabad services and youth programs are free and open to all, Resnick points out.
Although the new Jewish center has been packed for religious services during High Holy Week, those attending also had to stay in the main hall. The large side yard is off limits because the Pleasanton City Council imposed tough new restrictions last year on how Masons could use their lodge due to community complaints about noise and parties held outside the building.
Those restrictions remain in place although the members of the community’s homeowners’ association and others have indicated that they have no problems with the Chabad using the yard again for their more subdued religious gatherings.
Adam Weinstein, Pleasanton planning manager and deputy director of Community Development, said the Planning Commission could consider a request from Rabbi Resnick to modify or even eliminate the limited use restriction for the building’s side yard.
The restrictions were imposed on the property last year at the request of Michael and Darlene Miller, whose Bryce Canyon Court home backs onto the property, and their attorney Stuart Flashman. It’s believed the Millers continue to oppose any modification by the city commission even though the Masons have left.
The Chabad has a full-color, 20-page program guide, which is available online at www.JewishTriValley.com/