When Chabad decides to open new centers, Chabad opens new centers.
There are no planning committees and no market research divisions. Of the seven West Coast Chabad centers scheduled to open this week, five do not even have office space yet. Still, they open.
Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, leader of West Coast Chabad, calls it "a leap of faith."
Cunin made the announcement June 30, less than a week after returning from a visit to New York for the seventh yahrtzeit of Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. West Coast Chabad, the division of Brooklyn-based Chabad Lubavitch, which serves California and Nevada, already runs 93 Chabad centers and 28 schools or social service operations.
The creation of a new Chabad center involves two related projects -- finding the site and bringing in the staff. Of the seven projects announced this week, two have sites in which to begin programming, and the other five have shluchim (emissaries), and the rabbi and rebbitzen team to run the centers. No center has both yet.
Los Angeles will host three of the new centers, in Beverlywood, Larchmont Village and Pacific Palisades. The Beverlywood and Larchmont Village centers will be housed in nearby Chabad-owned properties to start, then move to their own sites as programs and communities develop. In the Palisades, a full-time teaching rabbi and rebbitzen have arrived to start the Yeshiva of the Westside, (which had no official space at press time). Other new programs announced this week are Chabad centers in San Mateo, Davis and Stockton, and an on-campus outreach program at UC Berkeley. Shluchim are currently searching for temporary space to begin offering services in those areas.
With no official planning system, Cunin picks new locations by poring over lists of donations from the annual Chabad telethon, held in late August. When donations arrive from zip codes not served by a Chabad center, Chabad builds one.
"We used to think of Stockton as a place where you find rabbits," said Cunin, but telethon records showed many donations flowing in from the area. "We get donations from non-Jews, sure, but most of the telethon support comes from unaffiliated Jews, the kind of Jews we serve with Chabad centers," Cunin says.
"What's really exciting about the new centers is so much uncharted territory, like in Larchmont Village where these young, yuppie Jewish people are living," he added.
All seven centers will be fully operational by Rosh Hashana, Cunin said.
For more information, call West Coast Chabad at (310) 208-7511.