September 1 was the grand opening of the Sonoma County’s newest synagogue in East Santa Rosa, the Joseph Weingarten Chabad Jewish Center. Based in New York, Brooklyn, the Chabad center is a branch of the largest network of Jewish educational organizations around the world.
Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky, who oversees the county’s Hasidic movement wants Sonoma State students interested in Jewish practice to get involved.
“I want students from Sonoma State to know that even though they may not be familiar with the community they have an open door here, we want Jewish students and of course any other student that would like to know more not to hesitate to contact us,” said Rabbi Wolvovsky.
Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky and his wife, Altie Wolvovsky, arrived in the county more than 15 years ago to lead the local orthodox branch of Judaism, and fortunately found a permanent location for their community through donations.
Monroe Wingate and his wife, Peggy, who previously lived in Sonoma County, donated the building and financial gifts were provided from the larger community totaling more than $175,000 helped to remodel the center.
According to the Press Democrat, Monroe Wingate recalled his father, Joseph Weingarten, whom the center was named after, as a moral compass and peacemaker in his community.
“My dad was the kindest, most honest man I think I’ve ever known...[H]e loved this town, so this is fitting,” said Wingate.
The Joseph Weingarten Chabad Jewish Center has since been a religious, social and humanitarian ally in the community.
“The first objective we have is to make sure that every Jew that lives in Sonoma County or goes to Sonoma State knows that they have a home and at any point they can walk in and feel comfortable to connect to their own roots, to learn more about where their own people come from, what their own people grew up on, what we’ve been through and what we are experiencing right now in a new beautiful exciting way.” said Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky, “We want to be there for people at every stage in life.”
His wife Altie Wolvovsky oversees the Hebrew school for children ages five to 12 years of age. Her goals are to engage the children in the studies where they use all of their senses to learn and gain Jewish pride.
“One of the goals of our Hebrew school is that the children have Jewish pride that carries with them throughout their life,” said Altie Wolvovsky.
Altie’s favorite time of the week is celebrating Shabbat, which starts Friday before sunset. They light the Shabbat candles and have a beautiful Shabbat dinner of a 3 to a 4-course meal.
“Because I love hosting I invite between 15 and 20 guests every week. We discuss the Torah portion, Jewish themes and get to socialize with good friends,” said Altie.
Occasionally, she hosts community dinners, where public invitations are sent and RSVP is required. Community dinners attract between 50 to 100 people and volunteers come to help cook.
“We make some traditional foods such as Challah bread, chicken soup with matzoh balls and lots of other yummy dishes,” said Altie, “A couple of times a year we do a student dinner where we invite as many Jewish students as we can from Sonoma State or the junior college but students should know they can come anytime they want.”