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Interview with 4 Sudbury residents about their experiences with Chabad of Sudbury

Sunday, 14 September, 2008 - 8:14 am

Local Perspectives

In honor of our new magazine we conducted an interview with four Sudbury residents who have become regulars at our programs in order to get a feel for their encounters, outlook and feedback on their experiences with the Chabad Center of Sudbury


Read on and enjoy!


Name: Elliot Winer

Profession: Economist

Place of Residence: Sudbury, MA


Name: Masha Fridkis-Hareli
Place of Residence:
Sudbury, MA


Name: Sol Cohen

Place of Residence: Sudbury,MA


Name: Nancy Schwartz

Profession: President of Kidstravelwithjosh.com and Full Time Mom

Place of Residence: Sudbury, MA


How did you originally come in contact with Chabad of Sudbury? 


E. W. My first contact with Chabad of Sudbury was when my wife and I attended a High Holiday service nearly two years ago.

M.F.H The Freeman Family rented a house in our neighborhood before moving to their permanent residence at Old Meadow Rd, and we met on the street one day. We immediately found mutual interest and started visiting the center.

S.C. I originally met Rabbi Freeman by chance, when he first moved to Massachusetts from New York, in January, 2006.

N.S.  I have known Rabbi Fogelman of Chabad of Natick since we moved to Sudbury, 12 years ago and we have had a wonderful relationship since then.  Rabbi Fogelman introduced us to Rabbi Freeman before he even moved to Sudbury and I warned him that he might have a tough uphill battle.  Fortunately, I was totally wrong!


What do you like about Chabad of Sudbury? 


E.W. What I like most is the openness and warmth.  Rabbi Freeman has a very friendly and laid back style and makes everyone feel welcome and an important part of something special.

M.F.H. The informal atmosphere, the welcoming and the warmth of the Freeman family, and the way they make Judaism accessible to all. 

S.C. What I like most is that there is a very inclusive, friendly approach to teaching about Jewish culture, religion and heritage, without an ounce of pressure or judgment.   I feel that whether we can join in only 1-2 events a year, all events and Shabbat celebrations or anywhere in between, our contribution and participation is appreciated.  Interestingly, that no pressure approach has a 'drawing in' effect that motivates us towards greater participation.

N.S. Rabbi Freeman and his lovely wife, Shayna are the nicest people I have met in a very long time. They have no airs about them and they are warm and inviting.   They stay true to their beliefs, customs and traditions in a place which might be considered a difficult one in which to follow that lifestyle and this is one of the reasons that I respect them so.  They are bringing such goodness to Sudbury, that I feel so fortunate to live in THEIR town!


How do you find the philosophy of the Chabad Center of Sudbury? 


E.W. I really like the philosophy that you have a traditional Jewish organization yet there are no labels and everyone is regarded as family.  Their wide ranges of programs are geared to all ages and affiliations.

M.F.H The Chabad Center of Sudbury is inclusive and welcomes everyone, and teaches religion while respecting each individual as they are.

S.C. It is a wonderful means of achieving appreciation, pride in and understanding of my heritage as a Jewish person, and of learning the acts and values necessary for myself and my family to become decent human beings and to lead quality lives overall.

N.S Warm, open, comfortable, non-judgmental, fun, and oh, did I say warm?  My kids recently said, “The Freeman’s always have celebrations!”  That’s a great way to live life and I think that sums up their philosophy.


What were your fears about the Chabad Center before you came, and do these fears still exist?


E.W. My greatest fear, and one that is now laughable, was that I would be totally out of place in a strange and rigid environment and that I would perhaps be looked down upon for not being attuned to all the customs and rituals.  I could not have been more mistaken as the Chabad Center could not possibly offer a more open, accepting, and welcoming environment. 

M.F.H. We were not sure whether we will experience pressure to keep traditions or to eat only kosher food.

S.C. I honestly didn't know much about Chabad at all before meeting Rabbi Freeman and his family.  If anything, perhaps like many people, I may have considered Chabad an 'extreme" religious group or philosophy.  But overall, I didn't have much understanding or experience with Chabad, or strong notions in any direction.

N.S. I feared that I would be judged by my lack of religious and Hebrew knowledge. No, I don’t feel the insecurity I (unnecessarilary) felt early on. That’s what I have learned is so wonderful about the Chabad movement.  All they want is for me to be a happy Jew-whatever that means to me.  Because once I am happy and comfortable in my Judaism, I will feel more confident and comfortable in dealing with my children when it comes to Jewish issues and in living a life with lots of Torah sprinkled into my behavior.  I think little by little, this is Chabad’s goal.


Can you share an interesting personal experience with Chabad? (Anecdote, or special moment etc.) 


E.W. The inauguration of the new Chabad Center this past January was certainly a special moment as many friends and supporters came together to celebrate the new center and see the idea come to fruition.

M.F.H. We were thrilled when our youngest daughter won the costume contest at Purim party last year, and her picture appeared in the local newspaper.

S.C. I was initially reluctant to come up to the Bimah for an Aliyah during the Chabad services because I do not speak or read Hebrew.  Then I realized that there is a "cheat sheet" with English phonetic spellings of the Hebrew...that typifies Chabad for me - a profound method of learning about and practicing Judaism, but also quite practical.

N.S. My son became a Bar Mitzvah last December and we had a big Saturday night celebration.  The Chabad Rabbi of Natick was my son’s tutor, and we have become loyal members of Chabad of Sudbury’s programs, while we are members at a local Conservative synagogue, which has a female Rabbi.  My son had all three Rabbis come up to help him light a candle during his candle lighting ceremony.  That was a wonderful moment for our family.  We feel so fortunate to have these three religious leaders involved with our family, we truly feel blessed. And the Hasidic dancing which followed was fantastic!


Where do you feel we could make more of a difference? 


E.W. I think a more comprehensive outreach to the community will give more individuals a better understanding of what the Chabad Center is all about and how it makes a positive impact on many area individuals and families. 

M.F.H. Young generation is our future, and the future of Jewish faith. For secular people who live in the US and want to keep Jewish traditions, it is hard to stay connected. I think that there is a need for creating more programs and activities for children of the middle and the high schools in the area.

S.C. With people like myself who didn't have rich, wonderful experiences with Hebrew school and Judaism growing up.  

N.S. Unfortunately, membership at the local temples/synagogues can be quite an expense for some.  Perhaps reaching out to the “empty-nesters” might be a nice thing to work on, so that they don’t feel left out of the beauty of organized Judaism.


What have been your favorite programs?


E.W. There have been many but a few that stand out are the interesting and thoughtful Adult Education Courses and the lovely Community Shabbat Dinners put on by the Rabbi and his wife Shayna.

M.F.H. I really enjoy the women's nights where we learn about holidays while doing a fun activity and tasting delicious treats made by Mrs. Shayna Freeman. I am looking forward to the next meeting in the fall.

S.C. The Matzah bakery, Purim, and other events that involve the kids tend to be my favorite, partly because I feel I can expose my daughter to Jewish events in a light, easy, fun and overall positive way.

N.S.  My family has enjoyed every program we have attended, but I personally have come to enjoy your Shabbat dinners.  They are so enjoyable, with a slight bit of learning, in the warmest setting, your home.


What is your message to the community?


E.W. Try it, you'll like it.

M.F.H. Try Chabad and you will have a truly spiritual and enriching experience

S.C. Go Red Sox (and come to Chabad).

N.S. Healthy, happy New Year to you and your family!  We are so fortunate to have Chabad of Sudbury here in our town and in our area-try to attend their events, lectures, programs and I guarantee you will be richer from the experience.


Comments on: Interview with 4 Sudbury residents about their experiences with Chabad of Sudbury

Sarah Aidel Plotke wrote...

Wow! really inspiring interviews!! Keep up the good work!
Sarah Aidel