West Valley View

 

December 2011 

 The lights of Chanukah will shine brightly over the Southwest Valley this holiday season.

For the first time ever, the local Jewish community will be able to participate in a public menorah-lighting celebration to take place at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at Goodyear Community Park, 3151 N. Litchfield Road.

"This menorah is the ultimate display of joy and unity," Rabbi Berel Zaklikofsky said.

"The holiday of Chanukah is a festival of historic victory and celebration for all times, highlighted by the kindling of menorahs each night of the holiday," Zaklikofsky said. "Yet it also contains a universal message for people of all faiths - that ultimately, good will triumph over evil, freedom over oppression, and light over darkness."

The New York rabbi is the director of what will soon be the first synagogue to make its home in the Southwest Valley - the Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear.

The center is expected to meet the needs of an underserved Jewish population.

"In fact, there's a very, very big void that I have heard about from quite a few people in the area," Zaklikofsky said. "There are Jewish centers in Glendale, Sun City, Phoenix and Scottsdale, but none here."

A Shalom club operates out of the PebbleCreek community in Goodyear, but since the residential area is age-restricted for active adults, individuals who are not of age cannot take part in the club.

"We're talking about a place that the Jewish population has grown so much, there hasn't been anyone to help them, to serve them," Zaklikofsky said of the region.

The rabbi believes, based off the research he's conducted, that there may be more than 3,000 Jews living in the Southwest Valley.

"The thing is so many of them don't know each other," Zaklikofsky said. "I have heard from others in the Jewish community that there is not one Jew here, and it's the most discouraging thing."

Zaklikofsky was able to make contact with local Jews through Chabad of Arizona and other Valley rabbis. He also took advantage of the phone book - looking for Jewish surnames, word of mouth, and hosted an open house at the Estrella community during one of his three visits to the state.

"As soon as I called people up and expressed interest in opening a synagogue, they were like, wow, it's an oasis, a breath of fresh air," Zaklikofsky said. "People in Goodyear, people in Avondale have told me they felt like no one was thinking of them."

So far, about 25 families have expressed interest in opening a synagogue in the area.

"It told me that this was a turning point," Zaklikofsky said. "In this area, not to have a rabbi, it was a dilemma for them. This area is ready for it. They were totally excited and really in the mood."

Serving the deserving
Zaklikofsky, who lived in Detroit for 25 years and then moved to Brooklyn in 2007 after marrying his wife, Chana, has been a rabbi for five years.

The 28-year-old, whose father is a Chabad representative in Michigan, was appointed to serve as rabbi for the Goodyear center through the head leadership of Chabad of Arizona.

"My wife and I are ready to take this post with joy and happy hearts. This is really exciting for us," Zaklikofsky said. "We're loving every second of it."

Goodyear resident DenaBeth Jaffee said she's looking forward to seeing the Southwest Valley synagogue get started.

"Chabad has arrived and we now have a place to worship," Jaffee said. "We don't have to hide to do this, as Jewish persons aren't any different from other people. We have celebrations the same as others; we want to share that."

With the public menorah-lighting and the launching of the Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear, "two miracles have been established," Jaffee said. "It's a very good feeling."

Avondale resident Richard Moskowitz is looking forward to cutting his 30-mile commute to Scottsdale once the Goodyear center opens.

"There are Jewish families out here," Moskowitz said. "Somebody's got to build the corned beef sandwich."

Zaklikofsky plans to move to the area around May of next year. He plans to operate the center out of his home, initially, until he is able to get a better feel for where the center should be built.

"We're here to be a service, to be a resource for Jewish needs. We're here to be a help for people and who really, really deserve this very badly.

"We see great potential beyond our expectations. We know that people in Arizona and Phoenix are nice people, and we're also nice people, so we're going to fit in very well with the community."

And when people go to the public menorah-lighting Dec. 5, "people can expect to be a part of the biggest milestone ever for the Southwest Valley," Zaklikofsky said. "This is a symbol of Jewish freedom."

For information on Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear, visit www.chabadaz.com or e-mail the rabbi at jewishgoodyear@gmail.com.

 

Frank Morris can be reached by e-mail at fmorris@westvalleyview.com.