A Real Shul
The Center for Jewish Life
CJL was established in Buffalo by Rabbi Laizer Labkovski, who came to the city
with his wife and children, now numbering 12, in 1995, as an emissary of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson. The Rebbe headed the Lubavitcher movement in
Judaism, a movement founded in Lubavitch, Russia.
principal and most important contribution to Jewish life by this movement is
willingness to accept all Jews, whatever their background, whatever their
belief. Even German Jews are welcome. Unlike our usual congregations, the CJL
has no officers, no chairman of the board, no trustees, no president, vice
presidents, secretaries, treasurers, or executive directors. This avoids the
unfortunate condition of almost all of our congregations which promote an
oligarchy (Greek for rule of the few) who have no real interest in Judaism but
need to hold an office. These
oligarchs seldom participate in Sabbath or Holy Day events but are solely
interested in holding an office. Almost none of these synagogue politicians are
ever seen at any religious events, and drop out as soon as they have been
president. This makes most of our Jewish congregations alternative status
systems, thereby gratifying the needs of those who must be president or trustee
or chairman no matter what the organization represents so long as they, the
oligarchs, can hold an office.
is of course evident that in any stratified group, those who are important are ipso facto in a position to shun anyone not to their liking.
Shunning implies that some members are treated like skunks at a picnic, as no
one talks to them. No one greets them. They are ignored, humiliated, insulted,
demeaned, and discarded. THIS NEVER
HAPPENS AT THE CJL. Here everyone is treated in a friendly manner. All may come,
no matter their finances or their occupations.
Friendship and acceptance are enjoyed by all who attend the many events
provided by Rabbi Labkovski, who never ignores anyone, who talks to all who seek
the company of other Jews, and all who follow the greatest commandment, “You
shall walk humbly with your God and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Labkovski is a true role model who, by his acts, teaches all of us what Judaism
really means. He holds two degrees from the Lubavitcher Yeshiva and is a
lecturer, teacher, consultant, and organizer of numerous activities. The rabbi
is responsible for creating a Kosher Meals on Wheels, which feeds the poor and
those who are unable to leave their homes because of illness or old age. Rabbi
Labkovski has organized a volunteer group of drivers who drive food to those who
need it and who cheer up those who would otherwise have no visitors. The rabbi
also visits Jews who are hospitalized and actually drove all the way from
Williamsville to Rochester to visit Dr. Balderman, who was then undergoing a
major operation at a Rochester hospital. Dr. Balderman was a cancer patient. At
intervals, Rabbi Labkovski invites all Jews to attend Friday night dinners at
minimal cost. These dinners allow the participants to meet one another and to
enjoy the welcoming and friendly association with other Jews. You are welcome
because you want to be there. You don’t need a Cadillac to be admitted. Rabbi
Labkovski has also created the Chabad Hebrew School, The Jewish Heritage Day
School, and a school for children aged six months to three years. He also
created a Passover matzo bakery and much more.
view of our high (74%) intermarriage rate and the abandonment of Judaism by so
many American Jews, the Center for Jewish Life acts as a wall, as a defense
against the utter dissolution of American Judaism. That is the reason for the
ever increasing participation of Jews in the work of the CJL. This
is the reason why in 1990 Conservatives were 43% of all affiliated Jews but now
have declined to 15%.
Let us imagine any Jewish community which follows the teachings of the Rebbe Schneerson and whose followers act like Rabbi Labkovski. When that day comes, the Moshiach cannot be far, as all Jews will be brethren, as it is written, as it is said, “Kol Yisroel Chaveyrim.”
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).