By Bridget Clerkin/The Times of Trenton
At the dawn of a new year, many people see a chance to make new promises to themselves, to symbolize a new start.
For anyone hoping to get more in touch with their Jewish faith following the religion’s new year holiday of Rosh Hashanah next week, there’s a new service in town to help accomplish that goal.
Rabbi Yaakov Chaiton and his wife, Chana, have recently moved to Hamilton to promote the Chabad movement to the area.
Dedicated to helping Jews of all denominations broaden and enrich their knowledge of the religion and its various traditions, the Chabad movement has facilities in nine other areas of Mercer County, but the couple say they’re offering the first Jewish presence in Hamilton and Robbinsville.
“Robbinsville is fairly new, but in Robbinsville and Hamilton, the Jewish presence was never available,” Yaakov said. “Our goal and our work is to bring more meaning to people in their Jewish life.”
And they hope to start doing that by offering Rosh Hashanah services on Sept. 25 and 26, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at 63 Aspen Court in Hamilton.
While there is not yet a formal community center for the Hamilton Chabad presence, the couple will hold the ceremonies at their home, at an open house event called the “Sounds and Tastes of the Jewish New Year.”
The event will include the traditional sounding of the shofar – a ram’s horn – which heralds the new year, along with the serving of holiday food, such as honey-dipped apples, which signify asking God for a sweet new year, Yaakov said.
And while eventually opening a community center is their future goal, running the services out of their home is very much in line with the Chabad movement, promoting strong ties between both family and community, he said.
“Every person is a close friend of the rabbi and the rabbi’s family. There’s a true feeling of a community and connection,” Yaakov said. “The entire family is involved, in a positive way. Everyone is doing their part to make it work.”
That includes the rabbi’s wife, Chana, who helps him plan everything, she said.
“He’s the face of the organization, the rabbi, the spiritual leader, but there’s nothing I’m not involved in,” she said. “It’s a very family-oriented association.”
Together, they hope that involvement translates to an overall stronger Jewish presence in the community.
The couple have plans to hold Torah study classes and Jewish cooking courses, as well as offering Jewish services for patients at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton and residents of nearby senior communities. Yaakov said he has also been in touch with the local Shop Rite franchise to ask about getting more Kosher food items on the shelves.
“Whatever people are mentioning to us, whatever we feel, whatever we hear there’s a need for, we’re trying to help make that happen,” he said. “There’s been a lot of interest in the community, and as we meet new people, different needs arise, so we create the programs according to areas we’re fulfilling.”
And, according to Chana, those needs are not limited to certain branches of Judaism.
“We don’t label. There’s no such thing as a labeled Jew to us,” she said. “A Jew’s a Jew, and that’s what matters. We want this to be a place where people can say ‘I feel good about my Jewishness. I can feel proud of it, and be comfortable in my own skin with it.’”