GLOUCESTER – Rabbi Avremi Raichik and his wife, Rivky, are settling into their new home in Gloucester with their three small children while they go about opening a satellite of Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore on Cape Ann just in time for Hanukkah.
Their aim is to grow the Chabad to serve Rockport, Gloucester, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Chabad of Cape Ann joins Temple Ahavat Achim of Gloucester as a second center of Jewish life on the rocky coast.
Chabad of Cape Ann is the fifth educational and outreach center of Chabad of the North Shore in Swampscott, which is kicking off its 30th year.
“The entire Chabad of the North Shore team is thrilled to welcome Rabbi Avremi and Rivky Raichik and their three children Chaya, Mendel, and baby Leah,” said Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, director of Chabad of the North Shore, in a statement.
Both the rabbi and his wife are 27 and have been married for more than five years.
“I would love to see a strong communal network connecting all the towns and cities on Cape Ann. I would love to create a space where families can augment their Jewish practice with robust educational offerings, as well as a focus on music and the arts,” Rabbi Raichik said in a statement.
Raichik received his rabbinic education in Jerusalem and Brooklyn, and was ordained at the Central Chabad Yeshiva in New York. He later supported Chabad centers in Ukraine, Lithuania, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and India, and in cities across the United States.
He grew up in the heart of the Jewish community in Los Angeles. His family and that of Chabad of Peabody’s Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman, a native of Long Beach, Calif., were close.
Long Beach is where Rabbi Schusterman’s father, Rabbi Gershon Schusterman, ran a Chabad center for almost four decades.
“I wish him truly only the best,” said Schusterman about Raichik’s opening of the new Chabad. Schusterman said his father was part of a second or third round of Chabad rabbis to come to California in the 1960s. Schusterman said his father and Rabbi Raichik’s late grandfather were close.
Raichik’s grandfather was the first Chabad emissary on the West Coast, Rabbi Menachem Shmuel Dovid Raichik, a Holocaust survivor who came to California in 1949.
The elder Rabbi Raichik grew up in Poland before World War II and attended a Chabad yeshiva there, his grandson said. He was the only Holocaust survivor of his family. He was able to avoid the Nazi death camps by escaping to Lithuania, where he was one of hundreds of Jewish refugees saved by Japanese Imperial Consul Chiune Sugihara.
Sugihara issued transit visas to refugees holding bogus visas to Curacao and other Dutch holdings in America, allowing them to cross Russia into Japan, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The elder Raichik wound up in Warsaw during the bombing in 1939, and later managed to escape to Lithuania by crossing the border with Russia, his grandson said. He helped other refugees escape as well.
With transit visas issued by Sugihara, the refugees were able to cross Russia to the Far East via the Trans-Siberian Railway and gain entry into Japan. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the refugees were sent to Shanghai, China, where they remained for the duration of the war and where they established a yeshiva. The elder Rabbi Raichik later came to the U.S.
“Being a Chabad rabbi is kind of in the genes,” the younger Rabbi Raichik said. “I’m a third generation Chabad rabbi.”
Rabbi Raichik’s father, Yankee Raichik, works as a Jewish chaplain for the California Department of Corrections. The younger rabbi is the third oldest of eight children.
He said his older brother works as a rabbi at Ohio University and his sister and her husband are Chabad rabbis at Michigan State University.
“We are trying that path,” he said.
Rivky Raichik was born, raised, and went to school in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, home to Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters and a sizeable population of Orthodox Jews. She completed teaching training at Beth Rivkah Seminary and has run camps and Hebrew schools around the country. Rivky is teaching at Aleph Academy preschool in Swampscott, located at Chabad of the North Shore on Burrill Street.
She said her parents and grandparents were all born in Israel, her family having immigrated from Russia and Poland before World War II. Her mother came to America as a young girl with her family, and her maternal grandparents live in Crown Heights, while her father’s family lives in Israel. She has a brother who is a Chabad rabbi in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
The couple met in Brooklyn after Raichik finished his rabbinical ordination. Before he got married, as a rabbinical student, the rabbi said he would travel to Jewish communities that lacked a permanent Chabad center or rabbi.
He said one of his most memorable experiences was working at the Chabad center in Mumbai, India, several years after the 2008 terrorist attacks in which a Chabad rabbi and his wife were killed.
“Rabbinical students would go and run the Chabad for a few months,” Rabbi Raichik said. With a friend, he spent a summer in Mumbai, where the memory of the attack was still fresh within the community years later.
Rabbi Raichik said Lipsker wants to establish a full-time presence on Cape Ann and expand Chabad of the North Shore’s reach.
“He planted the seeds here,” Raichik said. “For quite a few years, he did a menorah lighting every year in Rockport, which there will be again this year.” Raichik is hoping to hold a public lighting in Gloucester this coming Hanukkah, which begins at sundown on Nov. 28.
Raichik said Chabad is not looking to open a center right away on Cape Ann. The focus will be on informal, one-on-one study sessions on Judaism. Shabbat dinners and Mommy and Me programs also are planned.
“There is a large demand for people who are interested in studying more about their heritage and learning more about Judaism,” the rabbi said. With Hanukkah coming up, they plan to create as much awareness of the holiday as possible, focusing on the universal message of spreading light in the darkness.
Rabbi Raichik can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 323-369-6325. You can also learn more at chabadcapeann.com.