There’s a new Jewish center on the North Shore, and you can guess its denomination. It is the newest Chabad to be set up by the regional hub – Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore – established 31 years ago in Swampscott and headed by Rabbi Yossi Lipsker.
Rabbi Mendel Barber, 28, and his wife Fraidy, 27, moved here from Crown Heights in Brooklyn in September, and established Chabad of Beverly-Salem. They’ve already welcomed 40 guests into their Cabot Street home in Beverly for
Rosh Hashanah and more than a dozen for Shabbat services.
The couple is “down-to-earth and filled with energy,” said Lipsker. “The community will love them.”
When living in Crown Heights, Rabbi Barber had been teaching Talmud in a local yeshiva. Fraidy worked with Chabad on Campus, an international community activist organization. They are focused on reaching out to the unaffiliated and to college students at Salem State, Endicott, and Montserrat.
Speaking of his mission, Rabbi Barber said, “We’re a Jewish outreach program. But the better way of explaining Chabad is that it’s the one-stop shop for everything Jewish. If there’s a Chabad in the city, there’s no life-cycle event that won’t be commemorated. We don’t just welcome people, we’re here for them. Although we dress and look and are religious, this [Chabad] is for them. This is the reason we’re here.”
Barber has served as an assistant rabbi in Peru, Belgium, Poland, Hawaii, and in the continental states. He studied in Baltimore and Los Angeles. Most recently, Barber was the principal in the largest Chabad school in Brooklyn.
He’s delighted to now have his own shul. “I’ve been looking forward to this my whole life,” he said.
Fraidy Barber grew up in Pittsburgh. The couple has met with the presidents of Salem State, Endicott, and Montserrat and all of the leaders are receptive about Chabad reaching out to Jewish students.
Lipsker thinks there are hundreds of Jewish students among the three schools.
“In our world, being a resource for hundreds of Jewish college kids is literally life-changing. Each of those kids, when they pass through a Shabbat table at Mendel and Fraidy’s house and interact with Mendel when he sets up a table at Salem State, that’ll change their lives,” said Lipsker.
Regarding how services will be conducted, Barber said, “If I’m the only religious person in the room, I want to cater to the Jews who have no place to go. The unaffiliated is the reason we came here – to cater to them, so they have a place for the High Holidays and for everything Jewish.”
Salem’s only temple, Temple Shalom, closed its doors in 2014 and merged with Beverly’s Temple B’nai Abraham, which is headed by Rabbi Alison Adler. Lipsker is proud of the joint Beverly menorah lighting with Temple B’nai Abraham, and called it “a cherished relationship.” He envisions the Barbers continuing that bond.
Fraidy Barber is enjoying her new home, particularly its proximity to the ocean, where a group walked a mile for Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur’s three gatherings included Kol Nidre and a break-the-fast meal. For Sukkot, the Barbers hosted “Sushi in the Sukkah” at their Beverly home.
Asked what she misses about Crown Heights, Fraidy said family and kosher food. “If I was too lazy to make a meal, I would walk downstairs to a restaurant or order kosher pizza by phone. But we’re very happy to be here. The amount of space and the air quality . . . make up for a lot,” she said.
The Barbers have a son and two daughters ranging in age from three years to five months.
There are now five Chabad centers established by Rabbi Yossi Lipsker. They include: Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore, 1992; Chabad of Peabody Jewish Center with Rabbi Nechemia and Raizel Schusterman, 2003; Tobin Bridge Chabad of Everett with Rabbi Sruli and Chaya Baron, 2017; Chabad of Cape Ann in Gloucester with Rabbi Avremi and Rivky Raichik, 2021; and Chabad of Beverly-Salem, 2023.