New Shluchim Moving to Small Montana Town



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    New Shluchim Moving to Small Montana Town

    The centre will be the fourth Chabad center to open in Montana; the other three are in Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell. “I’ve been keeping an eye on Billings for 15 years,” said Rabbi Chaim Bruk, Senior Shliach to the western state. “It became clear that the need was strong.” The town with a population slightly over 100,000 will be served by Rabbi Shaul and Mrs.  Mushky Shkedi Full Story

    Longvoew News-Journal

    The Jewish movement known as Chabad Lubavitch has announced plans to open a center in Billings where adherents can gather and worship.

    It will be the fourth Chabad center to open in Montana; the other three are in Bozeman, Missoula and Kalispell.

    “I’ve been keeping an eye on Billings for 15 years,” said Rabbi Chaim Bruk. “It became clear that the need was strong.”

    Chabad Lubavitch, based in Brooklyn, New York, is a branch of Hasidism, which is part of the Orthodox Judaism movement. Billings is also the longtime home to Congregation Beth Aaron, a Reformed Judaism movement that meets at the Beth Aaron Temple on Broadwater Avenue.

    Bruk has lived in Bozeman since 2007, where he and his wife Chavie opened the first Chabad center in Montana. Bruk pointed out that Chabad has had a rabbinical presence in Montana since 1957, but nothing permanent existed until the Bozeman center opened.

    The Billings center will open this summer, led by Rabbi Shaul Shkedi. He and his wife, Mushky, along with their infant daughter Zelda Rochel, will move to Billings to take on the new duties.

    Bruk sees the Billings center as something that augments a Jewish life and culture that already exist in Billings. He said they’re not there to compete with Congregation Beth Aaron, explaining that it’s not about numbers or synagogues.

    “Around the state we need things that are permanent,” Bruk said. And so in that sense Chabad will add to what’s already in Billings.

    “The goal is about creating opportunity for Jewish life,” he said. “That’s what really creates vibrancy.”

    Bruk acknowledged that rural settings, particularly the Rocky Mountain West, can seem like a strange place to find Jewish people or nurture Jewish life. But he said a large chunk of the country’s Jewish population either lives in a rural area or has lived there in the past.

    “We know they can live in rural places,” he said.

    And in some ways it’s more accommodating to living a traditional Jewish life away from large urban areas and significant Jewish populations, he said.

    A Jew in these small rural communities stands out a little bit, he said. And as a result, they tend to lean into their beliefs, they find a vitality with it, he said.

    It can also increase a community’s diversity, which helps increase understanding and tolerance on all sides, he said.

    Famously, Billings gave birth to the Not In Our Town movement in 1993, after a paving stone, thrown by high-schoolers through the bedroom window of 5-year-old Eric Schnitzer, startled and then moved the Billings community to action.

    Eric’s window had been decorated with stickers depicting the Star of David and the menorah.

    Billings has grown both in diversity and population over the last three decades and Bruk sees that growth as a reflection of the community’s bright future — for its Jewish members and their neighbors.

    “You don’t solve the problem of ignorance with hatred,” he said. “You solve it with education.”

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