|Chabad Hong Kong & Kowloon|
Chabad Hong Kong first opened its doors in 1987 following the appointment of Rabbi Mordechai and Goldie Avtzon as shluchim by the Rebbe himself. Driven by the Rebbe's vision, this dynamic couple left the comfort of their home community to set out for Asia to service the needs of Jews in Hong Kong and beyond.
Rabbi Mordechai and Goldie initially oversaw the entire L.I.F.E. (Lubavitch in the Far East) network, which spans eight Asian countries. In each of these countries, active centres are thriving thanks to the spark the Avtzon's brought east with them back in the 1980s. Today many countries within the LIFE network have Head Shluchim of their own.
The Avtzonâ€™s also head Chabad China, the most rapidly growing branch on the LIFE tree which now boasts nine centers throughout China alone. (For a comprehensive look at the LIFE network, refer to Jewish Times Asia, November 2006.)
Day to day though, the Avtzons, like the schluchim throughout Asia, are busy running their own Chabad House, Chabad Hong Kong. Chabad Hong Kong provides daily minyanim, Shabbat services and large-scale holiday and festival worship services and special programming. Every Friday night, the Avtzons host many guests at their Shabbat table in their home.
These dinner guests are local residents, tourists, business travelers and students. Visitors are encouraged to contact Chabad and take part in these meals. Both Rabbi Avtzon and Goldie take the time to really interact with their guests and make them feel at home. It is their warmth and openness that have attracted so many of Hong Kongâ€™s visitors and permanent residents to Chabad.
For the community at large, irrespective of individual religious affi liation, the Avtzons have been involved in a number of central programmes In 1990, the Avtzonâ€™s joined together with other community leaders to found Carmel School, Asiaâ€™s first and only Jewish Day School. Rabbi Avtzon still sits on the schoolâ€™s board and has watched it grow from its infancy to a leading academic institution educating a student body of over 250 students, ages Pre-K through Grade Eight.
They also run Chabadâ€™s Camp Gan Israel of Hong Kong, which just celebrated its 14th season. The camp attracted over 95 children to its three week programme where children had fun while discovering more about their Jewish heritage and Jewish values.
As Goldie Avtzon explains, â€œChildren often think that Jewish observance is restricted to the synagogue, school and a particular Jewish event. Our goal is to bring Jewish observance into â€œme timeâ€ too.â€ Other dynamic programme geared for children include: Helping Hands, Chabadâ€™s Youth Zone, Friendship Circle and Bar and Bat Mitzvah clubs.
Helping Hands is a chesed programme designed for children ages 7-11. The programme allows participants the opportunity to engage in projects that help others, thereby increasing participantsâ€™ awareness of key Jewish values.
While their childrenâ€™s programming provides social and educational programming, Chabad Hong Kong stresses, education as a lifelong, ongoing experience. They provide a wide array of learning opportunities, including one-on-one learning, for all levels and interests.
On Tuesdays, Goldie runs Lunch nâ€™ Learn: Food for the Body Food for the Soul. This group engages in in-depth discussions and lively debates on an endless number of interesting topics and themes. She also recently initiated a Cup-of-Torah programme, a learning opportunity geared for busy moms while their children are in school. AURA also provides women with unique inspiration and social activities.
All of Chabad Hong Kongâ€™s programming is characterised by warmth and inclusiveness, drawing on participation from permanent Hong Kong residents of diverse backgrounds. They are currently in the final stages of completing a renovation project at their Chabad House, but a make-over and the rapid expansion of the L.I.F.E. community will not change them at all in the ways that count.
Kowloon is part of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). It is located just north of Hong Kong island, separated by Victoria Harbour.
Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare of this densely population urban area was named in respect for Hong Kongâ€™s Jewish Governor, Sir Matthew Nathan, who held the position in the early 1900s.
Traffic between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon flows steadily, with access by way of the MTR; the Star Ferry; or by bus, taxi or private coach via tunnel crossings. There are throngs of business people who use Kowloon as their hub, based on the location of their business or because of easy access to mainland China directly from Kowloon.
Chabad recognised the growing need to have a Chabad house located within Kowloon in order to allow visitors to easily find such resource in Kowloon rather than having to cross over into Hong Kong.
Chabad Kowloon was first established in 2005 as a branch of Chabad of Hong Kong. Although its main objective was initially to cater to overseas visitors, both tourists and businesses people, Chabad Kowloon has truly begun to take on a LIFE of its own. In July 2007, Rabbi Shlomi Tabib and his wife Racheli, originally from Bat Yam Israel, were appointed by Rabbi Avtzon and arrived to permanently lead this growing Jewish community. They now also enlist the service of two assistant rabbis in order to fully serve this communityâ€™s needs.
The facility is located in the heart of Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui right in the middle of the busiest neighbourhood for tourism, businesses, shopping and nightlife.
Rabbi Shlomi had worked for Chabad in Western Europe, mainly in Germany and Belgium, prior to his posting as the shluchim for Kowloon. While in Europe he was based within close proximity to the diamond district, making it easy for him to now relate to the throng of Jewish diamond dealers and jewellers that frequent the Hong Kong region for business.
Rabbi Shlomi reported that they have a growing core of families residing in Kowloon that frequent their shul as well as over fifty additional overseas visitors for each Shabbat. While most of these visitors are from Europe, they have seen Jews from around the world come through their shul and these visitors represent both tourists and business people.
They have larger groups for major holidays and festivals. For Pesach they held their first sedar for over seventy people and their succah on top of their building shows just how well they have adapted to the their urban lifestyle.
The couple also provide Shabbat meals as well as weekday daytime meals, though they do not provide a full menu service. They also do not charge for the meals and instead rely on donations.
They run a very popular lunch and learn programme on Wednesdays that also appeals to Jewish residents from across the Harbour on the Hong Kong side whose places of business is in Kowloon.
Racheli Tabib, when not busy catering to the needs of their many guests, serves also as a teaching assistant at the Jewish Community Centreâ€™s preschool in Hong Kongâ€™s mid-levels.
Chabad of Hong Kong
Chabad of Kowloon
(Issue September 2008)Â