Rabbi Aims To Build Off-Island Jewish Center


labkowskiKaren Seidman of The Montreal Gazette reports: If you build it, they will come. That is the thinking behind a new Jewish community centre being established in St. Lazare – a first for the off-island community.

OK, so the community centre is the living room of Rabbi Nochom Labkowski’s home – but that’s just the starting point.

Labkowski, a Chabad rabbi, has faced far bigger challenges in his career than building a Jewish community centre in the Hudson/St. Lazare area.

“In 2007, I went to the Ivory Coast and there was really nothing there, Jew wise,” said Labkowski. “The closest kosher store was a six-hour flight away. It was very isolated.”

Labkowski has already identified about 80 Jewish families in the area, but believes there are far more who may want to participate in the various activities he is planning.

His mission to help the off-island Jewish community become more structured and cohesive came about last fall, after he was asked by two families to hold services for the high holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). More than 30 people attended the service at the Auberge du Rigaud, and Labkowski realized there was a community waiting to be born.

So he decided to move there with his wife, Malki, so he could really devote his time to creating a community centre that would offer activities, Hebrew lessons for children and Sabbath services.

His presence there has been a real boon to the off-island Jewish community.

“I’ve been living here eight years and there’s been nothing for the Jewish community,” said Hudson resident Nancy Kohen. “We always have to go to the West Island or Côte St. Luc to find activities for the kids.”

She’s hoping the rabbi’s presence will actually encourage more Jews to move to the area.

“This is really good for the community,” she said. “My husband always said there are enough Jews out here to get something going, so now it is finally happening.”

The WPurim Party will be held Feb. 28 at noon at the St. Lazare Community Centre, 1301 du Bois St.

{The Montreal Gazette/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}