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West Valley City Journal

Jewish community celebrates 25 years of education and support

Jun 18, 2018 01:59PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Attendees perform a traditional Jewish dance at the 25th anniversary gala honoring Chabad Lubavitch of Utah. (Chabad Lubavitch of Utah)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected] 

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Salt Lake City center of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, a gala was thrown at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center on May 31. 

“The Jewish Community has evolved and grown by leaps and bounds, predominantly thanks to Chabad,” said Rabbi Avremi Zippel, whose parents opened the center in 1992. 

Chabad Lubavitch is the world’s largest Jewish outreach movement that began in the White Russia area (now known as the eastern part of present day Belarus) more than 250 years ago by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. After World War II, global Judaism was down, and Holocaust survivors didn’t know where to go. Chabad was brought to the United States in the 1940’s, and in the 1950’s, leadership began sending out emissary couples around the world to help organize and define Jewish centers of community in places that were struggling or where none previously existed. 

To celebrate the 90th birthday of Rabbi Menachem, Mendel Schneerson, the one who began the emissary program, a new area would be opened where no one had begun a center before, Salt Lake City. It was Zippel’s parents, Rabbi Benny and Sharonne Zippel, with their baby son, who would leave their home in Brooklyn, New York, and open the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah in Sugar House in 1992. 

“This is the greatest opportunity they had ever dreamed of, and so not knowing anyone or having any sort of financial support, they pick themselves up and moved here,” said Zippel. “My first birthday party was the first-ever event in an official capacity.” 

Chabad, an acronym for the three intellectual faculties of chochmh, meaning wisdom, binah, meaning comprehension and da’at, meaning knowledge, is paired with Lubavitch, the town in which the movement was headquartered for more than century and means “City of Brotherly Love.” 

The movement operates not only as a Synagogue for worshippers to pray in, but it focuses on the education of Jewish culture and heritage. Though it’s run by observant Rabbis and Jews, the clientele is not necessarily observant but able to come and be part of the Jewish community as a whole because, Zippel said, every Jew is an entire world of culture and history unto themselves. 

They offer family and young adult programs as well as an event center for holidays and festivities. They created a program called Project Heart, which helps at-risk Jewish youth, teens and young adults in need at the any of the treatment centers in Utah. 

“Chabad spent a significant amount of time providing spiritual counseling and guidance to young people and their families who find themselves in Utah,” said Zippel. “Literally from every corner of the globe, they're here seeking treatment.” 

In 2014, shortly after he and his wife were married, they were called on to continue the project in Salt Lake, carrying on his parent’s work. They were the guests of honor at the 25th anniversary gala.  

The night was a focus on friends and music featuring Benny Friedman and food catered by Cuisine Unlimited. The evening also included recognition for Robert and Sue Prottas with the Partner Award, Scott and Jesselie Anderson for the Benefactor Award, and Adam and Dganit Slovik for the Activist Award because of their generous philanthropy and assistance to the community. 

“The Sloviks have been tremendous activists on behalf of Judaism, the people of Israel and the land of Israel,” said Zippel.

Zippel was determined that the evening not be focused on donations or calls to action but merely celebrating and having a great time together. 

“We want you to be a part of it; we want you to be able to celebrate in our joy and be a part of the celebration,” said Zippel. “It’s about being there in person and watching everything we've done and understanding why.”