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When in doubt, opt for love

In honour of Yud Shvat, 68th anniversary of the Rebbe's public acceptance of the leadership of Chabad. 

 Yale Butler caused a storm in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. It was the early 60’s and Yale was just twelve at the time.

A creative youngster, Yale wrote a fictional column for his school’s newspaper. The article that caused a stir fantasized about Fidel Castro calling on his brothers (people with untrimmed beards) from 770 Eastern Parkway (Lubavitch World Headquarters) to help fight off an invasion of Cuba.

Pittsburgh Jews were not impressed and Yale was sharply taken to task. But, a local Chabadnik figured that instead of berating the budding writer, he’d take him to meet the Rebbe in New York. An encounter with the Rebbe, he figured, would do far more to educate Yale than lectures or reprimands.

The Rebbe greeted Yale warmly and specifically complimented his writing talent. On the Rebbe’s desk sat a copy of the offensive article. The Rebbe did not mention it.

In time, Yale became an editor for a major Jewish newspaper, eventually using the Rebbe’s talks as the basis for his weekly Parsha column. The Rebbe became one of his subscribers, and once mentioned how he had known Yale “since he was a child”.

On Wednesday, we commemorated the 58th anniversary of the Rebbe’s leadership. His opening statement as the new Rebbe was: “Three loves are intertwined- love of G-d, love of Torah, love of the Jewish people.”

As the man who would lead a revolution of Jewish revival, love- not judgement- would be the guiding theme of his Jewish outreach campaign.

You may, at times, feel tempted to react harshly to a friend or family member, especially if they’ve stepped out of line. They might accept your criticism. They might not.

Show them love- even when you criticize- and you are guaranteed success.

That’s how the Rebbe responded to Yale Butler and tens of thousands like him. That’s how the Torah wants us to respond to those around us.

When in doubt- show love.

Grayston Sukkah success

Building bridges in the Parking Lot 

Patrons of the Grayston Shopping Centre were greeted by a unique interactive, pop-up Jewish

experience last week. In celebration of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Jewish Life Centre of

Strathavon erected a mini Sukkah in the parking lot.

Sukkot is the Biblical festival that celebrates G-d’s protection over the Children of Israel as they

meandered through the desert for forty years. Jews celebrate this festival each year for one week in

late September or early October. During that week, Jewish families eat their meals in a Sukkah, a

temporary hut with a roof made of palm leaves. Each day of the holiday, Jews perform the “Lulav”

ritual, a blessing over four plant species, that symbolizes unity and, according to Jewish tradition,

channels positive energy to all of humankind.

The Sukkah at Grayston Shopping Centre joined a decades-old worldwide network of public sukkas.

Dr Yaniv Edenburg of the Ubuntu Family Health Centre in the Grayston Centre sponsored the

project. Rabbi Ari Shishler of Chabad Strathavon’s Jewish Life Centre and his children manned the

Sukkah each day. They were inundated by Jewish shoppers who eagerly used the facility, and by

South Africans of all walks of life who used the opportunity to learn more about the Jewish

community and its faith. One passer-by excitedly shared how he had once before been stopped to

perform the Lulav ritual at a public Sukkah- exactly forty years ago, at the original “Central City

Sukkah” outside the Carlton Centre in downtown Johannesburg. His fortuitous Sukkah encounter

was featured at the time in the then Rand Daily Mail.

“We had hoped the Sukkah would raise awareness of the holiday within the Jewish community,”

Rabbi Shishler explained, “But we did not expect such overwhelmingly positive interactions with

such a wide range of people”.

Rabbi Shishler intends to make the Grayston Sukkah an annual event.

New Torah for the JLC

Hachnosas Sefer Torah Levy Rubin.pngOne of the greatest simchos for a community is to receive a new Torah. 

Thanks to the generosity of Brett & Mark Levy and Steven, Evan & Ilan Rubin and families, we will PG welcome a brand new Torah from Israel to our community on Sunday, 18th February.

One unique aspect of this Torah's journey is that a number of people battling various illnesses have had the chance to write a letter in the Torah. The donors wanted to give people the chance to bring additional brocha into their lives through the Torah, and we hope these brochos will be fulfilled. 

We'll start the event with the writing of the final letters of the Torah at the home of Dean & Sara Abro at 4pm. We'll then proceed by foot, accompanied by music, up Gayre road to the Shul. 

Upon arrival, we bring out the existing Torahs to welcome the new Torah. We continue with a Simchas Torah-style celebration, with a live band. We'll have snacks and kids' entertainment.

It is a big deal to kiss a new Torah on the day it is inducted into a Shul, so make sure to have a chance to do just that. 

New Talmud class for men

At the Jewish Life Centre, we pride ourselves in offering a diverse and exciting range of Torah classes.

On any given week, we offer over 30 classes that range from Talmud to practical parenting to personal development.

We are now excited to welcome Rabbi Aron Grinshtein to our teaching staff. Rabbi Grinshtein is young, dynamic and has been teaching and inspiring for a decade.

Rabbi Grinshtein will join our men's afternoon learning programme. He will teach Talmud in a unique fashion- sharing the concepts, rather than wading through the text. 

Rabbo Grinshtein's new class starts on the 5th February and will run on Mondays and Thursdays at 4:30pm.

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Chai for Chabad Strathavon


“We’re not a kichel and herring Shul,” Rabbi Ari Shishler told the crowd of 300 at Chabad of Strathavon’s 18th anniversary dinner, “Our vision is to translate Judaism into the 21st Century; to provide Judaism that is relevant, meaningful and welcoming for every Jew”.

Chabad of Strathavon started as a typical shtibel in the Shishler’s garage in 1999. At the time, many felt skeptical of the Shul’s chances of growing in an area that then had a limited Jewish population.

But, with the boom of the Sandton CBD, the rabbi’s vision proved correct and Jewish families began streaming into the area to live close to the business hub. The community began to grow and, with it, the rabbi and rebbetzin’s appetite for making a difference.

By 2009, the community had far outgrown the garage. Rather than simply renovate, Rabbi Shishler built a far larger building and launched the Jewish Life Centre. His vision included a place centre of experiential learning, a social Jewish hub and a hive of children’s activities. Today, the Jewish Life  Centre hosts over 30 classes a week and boasts a buzzing function hall and one of Sandton’s most popular playgrounds.

This past Wednesday night, the community celebrated its 18th birthday with a gala dinner, held at the centre. Popular actor and comedian, Harry Sideropoulous compered the evening, tickling the crowd with hilarious, yet powerful insights into the uniqueness of our Jewish community. Chief Rabbi Goldstein and head of Chabad South Africa, Rabbi Mendel Lipskar each lauded the Chabad of Strathavon community on pioneering a modern approach to Jewish activity and education in Sandton. The evening was both a celebration of growth and community-building, as it was a rousing call to engage every Jew in Sandton in a meaningful experience of Judaism. Rabbi Shishler highlighted that the dinner, like the Shul’s High Holiday services, did not have assigned seating, because the centre aims to provide a warm and inclusive experience of Judaism.

Laibl Wolf at Strathavon

Please join us for a weekend of mindfulness and spiritual exploration with renowned mystic, Rabbi Dr Laibl Wolf. 

Booking details here. 

Laibl flyer 01.jpg

Creative Chaos!

One of the most successful branches of the Jewish Life Centre is our Women's Circle. Always creative, always exciting, the Women's Circle never fails to amaze with its slick, engaging and meaningful programmes. 

03.jpgThis month, the Women's Circle invited art counselor, Andy Cohen to run her "Creative Chaos" workshop. Andy began the evening by sharing her struggle to cope with the premature loss of her father, and how she discovered that her spontaneous art was extremely therapeutic. 

Calling on her experience, Andy has developed a fascinating workshop that helps people acknowledge that life is unpredictable and that we need to find the positive in everything.

Andy teamed the women up to produce artwork, but had a few surprises up her sleeve. By the end of the evening, each woman walked out with a personal gift that included some of her own art, as well as a meaningful life-lesson on staying positive during the tough times.  

(For more photos, click here)

Beautiful book boost for Learning Centre

Bookshelves.jpgOne of the primary goals of the Jewish Life Centre is to create Sandton's most dynamic Jewish Learning Centre. That's why we almost 30 Torah classes a week, as well as a host of one-on-one learning opportunities. 

All that learning needs a substantial library, and this week we installed the first phase of the Jewish Life Centre library. Michael Levy, an expert craftsman, hand-fashioned two magnificent bookshelves and completed installation at the begining of the week. These bookshelves, the first two of a dozen, carry almot 1000 volumes.

Now that we have somewhere to put them, we've hauled out hundreds of books we've collected and held in storage over the last couple of years. Included in the new library are two compelete sets of the Artscroll Talmud, discourses from the various Chabad Rebbes, Parsha commentators, the Shulchan Aruch and a wide range of English publications. 

All we need now is for you to come and use these valuable resources. Check our Shiur schedule or pop in to study with a partner or simply browse a Jewish book.

If you would like to sponsor books or bookshelves for our library, please contact Rabbi Shishler

Israel, Radical Islam & Antisemitism

 The war Israel cant win 01.jpgWhy is Israel villified more than any other country? 

Why does the world seem to remain blind to growing antisemitism?

How did Radical Islam become so big so quickly?

Explore ancient spiritual secrets that pinpoint the spiritual nature of the frightening times we are living through. Discover spiritual tools we should use to overcome these challenges.

Rabbi Ari Shishler, Chabad of Strathavon Jewish Life Centre, Wednesday 18th February, 8PM.

R50 per couple.

Book here

Welcome to our new teachers

This year, we are very pleased to welcome some new talent to our teaching staff.

Braun.jpgRabbi Kevin Braun has already been teaching at Strathavon for a year, but is now starting a new Chumash Shiur for men.
Rabbi Braun studied at Ohr Somayach locally and in Israel and taught for ten years at Yeshiva Maharsha school.
He is a pilot and is involved in business.
Rabbi Braun has a knack for discovering Jewish lessons in everyday life.


Youngworth.jpgBrigitte Youngworth was born in Rhodesia to a non-religious Jewish family. They lived in the Belgian Congo and moved to South Africa in 1975. She matriculated at King David VP and studied a BA(English) at the University of Cape Town. She sought spiritual fulfilment in many different religions and philosophies, believing that she would not find it in Judaism. All that changed when she was exposed to Chabad Chassidus, where she discovered the great positivity, warmth and spiritual depth of Judaism. Today she and her husband, Robert have five children and are both ba’alei teshuva. She teaches mikvah lessons to Jewish brides, has written several children’s books and talks on ChaiFM radio on Friday mornings with Mashi Lipskar.
Brigitte will be teaching "Connected Living" for young married women. 


2015 learning programme launches

General learning promo 2015.JPGOur new and improved learning programmes launches in February PG. It includes some very exciting new classes and series' and you will surely gain a fortune from participating.

As the year progresses, we look forward to PG adding more innovative and meaningful elements to our already dynamic learning programme, so watch this space for details.

Here's a great opportunity: If you have some time in the afternoons, we'll PG have some young guys available to study with you on Mondays to Thursdays.

We're also launching our new Hebrew course, so watch out for that one too!

Tuesday nights are our women's learning night, with a new shiur by Brigitte Youngworth and our Night Sem, which begins its third year.

Thursday evenings are "Yeshivah night" at Strathavon. If you have ever wanted to study Talmud, join Rabbi Finkelstein on Thursday nights for as he and his team begin their fourth tractate!

Rabbi Kevin Braun is launching a new men's shiur in Chumash- from the beginning and Rabbi Shishler's popular Tanya is back too!  

Je Suis Juif

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Please join us as we pay tribute to the memories of those who lost their lives last week in Paris.

The best response to terrorism is to stand strong and proudly Jewish, to add more light in tha face of darkness.

The programme on Friday night begins with Mincha & Tehillim at 6:00 p.m. We will also light candles in memory of the victims.

We will have a special tribute, followed by Shabbos davening and a beautiful kiddush.

May our public dedication to our Judaism neutralise those who would wish to harm our people. 

Tanya series' with Rabbi Shishler

Tanya Jan 2015.JPG

Tanya offers spiritual tools to succeed in tackling life's challenges.

Rabbi Shishler's Tanya classes are extremely popular, attracting dozens of people each week.  

This year, Rabbi Shishler is offering four Thursday night Tanya courses that will cover powerful and meaningful life-insights.


Tanya May 2015a.JPG 

Tanya July 2015.jpg 

Tanya October 2015.JPG 

Rosh Hashanah was spectacular!

Yes, we all know that more people come to Shul over Rosh Hashanah than during the rest of the year. But, this year was amazing! Not only were we bursting at the seams, quite literally, on the first day of Yom Tov, but we also had a whopper crowd on the second day! 

It was heartwarming to see so many new people at Shul, and even more heartwarming to have a number of people approach me after Yom Tov to become members of the Shul.

We had a great energy in Shul as well, people were engaged throughout. 

This year, we saw great team-effort that made a significant difference to the smooth running of the services. Our security team was highly professional, our children's service was age-appropriate and good old fun and it was special to have our own members lead the services and make the announcements during Shul.

Please G-d, Yom Kippur should be as meaningful and even fuller. Most importantly, Hashem should bless us all with a great year ahead! 

Five start catering this Shabbos

Another fun development at Shul, this Shabbos: We had the chefs from the five-star Moloko hotel try their hand for the first time at making kosher foot (you know, kichel and herring etc.) 

The Rebbitzen supervised them in our kitchen and Candice Kessler ran the whole process. The result: A delicious and expertly presented kiddush!

We're still going to fine tune the formula to have their help as often as possible, but we're headed in a great direction, BH.

Special thanks to Marc Wachsberger for making the Moloko staff available to us.

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