A new light
By Deb Silverthorn
Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for chochmah, wisdom; binah, comprehension; and da’at, knowledge. For the Jews of Rockwall County, it now also means connected.
The community will shine brighter at 5 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Harbor Rockwall, with the area’s first-ever menorah lighting. The event will welcome the founding of Chabad of Rockwall by Rabbi Moishy and Chana Kalmenson.
“I’m living my dream of building a home and community like my parents did,” said Chana Kalmenson. “From when I was little, and our shul was in our garage, to the beautiful building my parents lead in Plano, they set examples for me and my siblings,” said the daughter of Rabbi Menachem and Rivkie Block, founders of Chabad of Plano/Collin County, which began in 1992. “It’s now my own family’s turn.”
For the Kalmensons and their daughters Leah and Musya, the move to Rockwall grants the request of a Jewish community that, until this year, didn’t realize they had a community. Answering the call, the family now calls the eastern shore of Lake Ray Hubbard home.
The Kalmensons married in 2018 and moved to Brooklyn, New York. They returned to Chabad of Plano in the summers of 2018 and 2019 to lead Camp Gan Izzy and this year, their visit became lasting.
“Being shluchim, emissaries, is natural for us,” said Moishy Kalmenson. “I watched my father invite businessmen to lay tefillin, my mother’s passion for Jewish education and, like Chana’s parents, an absolute commitment to mitzvos, to living the Rebbe’s directive. Chana and I both know that Judaism is here for us to share,” said the New Haven, Connecticut, native and the son of Hindi and Rabbi Yosef Kalmenson. “It’s amazing how many Jews here thought they were the [only] ‘one.’ No one here is [just] ‘one’ anymore.”
The request for support came directly to Rabbi Block through Rockwallian Revi Shababo-Menasche, who moved to the waterside community in 2019 with her husband Alan and daughter Leya. At first, they made the trek to Chabad of Plano, but then began searching for a closer community by creating the Jews of Rockwall County Facebook page.
“I had 30 ‘friends’ before the weekend was over, then over 100. The conversations were dynamic. Co-workers and neighbors realized there were Jews in their ‘space,’” said Shababo-Menasche. “I called Rabbi Block and told him I had many minyans and we needed leadership. In Chana and Rabbi Moishy, he delivered!”
Rabbi Block brought Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky, the first Chabad shaliach to come to Dallas in 1983, to meet with Rockwall’s Jewish core.
“To have the chalutzim, the pioneers of Rockwall’s Jewish community reach out, and for Rabbi Moishy and Chana to settle, is a match from heaven,” said Dubrawsky. “This is promising, and it brings great nachas to those of us who have been here for so long. We look forward to sharing in every bit of the joy.”
Watching their children serve as emissaries, the leaders of Chabad communities in Frisco, Legacy West, Allen, McKinney and now Rockwall, has the Plano Blocks kvelling.
“Rockwall’s landmark is its lighthouse. Moishy and Chana’s Chabad House will be its Jewish spiritual lighthouse,” said Menachem Block. “I hadn’t heard from Revi for months, but time was the catalyst for everything coming together. Rockwall has had many Jews, but no Jewish address.”
The Kalmensons are meeting families, hanging mezuzahs, delivering challahs and scheduling one-to-one learning. In October, their Sukkah-Mobile welcomed many who had never before shaken a lulav and etrog. They are also making plans to host Shabbat and holiday services and meals, with social distancing observed.
“Before I met Rabbi, it was 55 years since I’d put on tefillin. Now, it’s mine again,” said Gary Freedman, a Rockwall resident of more than 30 years. “Rabbi Block, Rabbi Moishy and Chana awakened the Jew in me, in many of us. I’m committed to whatever it takes to have a place to celebrate our Judaism, to be educated and to worship.”
For programs and information, visit JewishRockwall.com or Chabad of Rockwall County on Facebook.