By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
L’dor v’dor (from generation to generation) is defined in the moment by the return of Eli Block to Plano. Not the young boy, son of Rivkie and Rabbi Menachem Block, but Rabbi Eli Block — author and editor, husband and father.
Carrying the torch — or the shammash — Rabbi Block, also director of the newly formed Chabad at Legacy West, will lead Legacy West’s Inaugural Menorah Lighting, Drinks and Dreidels at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Renaissance Hotel.
“Hanukkah is the holiday of lights and it’s an ideal time to bring the light of Torah, of Hashem, to our community,” said Rabbi Block — following in the footsteps of his father and grandfathers to teach, lead and provide outreach. “This first menorah lighting will share the beauty of the holiday all around.”
The menorah lighting will feature greetings from Plano Mayor Harry Larosiliere and community and enterprising leader, Sandra Moon. At 7 p.m., participants in their 20s and 30s are invited to Drinks and Dreidels with an open bar, sushi chef and Hanukkah fare served in the Whiskey Moon room.
With the arrival in Plano of major corporations including Chase, FedEx Office, JP Morgan, Liberty Mutual and Toyota and an estimated 20,000 employees, Chabad at Legacy West will meet the Jewish needs of this growing business community.
Chabad at Legacy West will also focus on young, single or married Jews through social, communal and spiritual programming. In November, a group gathered at the The Ginger Man for drinks, sushi and a contemporary look at the week’s Torah portion.
“We’re about connecting Jews and we’re excited to welcome the newcomers and also our own generation who are returning. It’s great to be back with my friends and family and running into people from my childhood as we’re starting the next phase of life,” said Rabbi Block. “I’ve watched my parents help Plano grow, and Sara and I are honored to join them to bring the light of Torah, of Jewish life and learning to Legacy West and the area.”
In addition to those who came before him, the Block family tree branches are already rooted in the Metroplex. Sister Mushkie and her husband Rabbi Mendy Kesselman are the directors of Chabad of Frisco with programs, services and education opportunities. As for the other siblings, Shalom is a rabbi, Chanale a teacher and Shmuli, Nechama, Basi and Devora are still in school.
“We moved to Dallas when Eli was 18 months old and he’d look out the window of our Miami Drive home, waiting for people. We couldn’t be more proud that he’s inspired by his upbringing to carry on the teachings, becoming an emissary of the Rebbe,” said Rabbi Menachem Block, who set the bar — celebrating almost 26 years as the leader of Chabad of Plano/Collin County. “Rivkie and I are grateful to Hashem to watch and support Eli and Sara as they move forward.”
After his childhood at Akiba Academy, Rabbi Block moved through the Chabad yeshiva system learning and earning smicha (ordination), training and working in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Canada and France. Since 2013, he has been working for Kehot Publication Society, the publishing arm of Chabad-Lubavitch.
Earlier this summer, Kehot published Rabbi Block’s Of Tears and Laughter, through which he adapted and translated the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s analysis of two Talmudic stories concerning the aftermath of the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash. He also provided contributing commentary to a recently released edition of Tehillim and is now working on a volume of essays based on the writings of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson. Rabbi Block’s books are available at store.kehotonline.com.
“With this work comes a lot of responsibility but it’s a challenge to relish, allowing me to indulge my love of study and reading,” said Rabbi Block. “The challenge is not to just translate the work, but the prospect of reforming something of the language and archaic text, making it relatable to a new audience.”
Rabbi Block says the path is in his blood. His great-grandfather Zvi Yair Steinmetz, z”l, was a Hebrew poet and Chasidic scholar, his grandmother Rochel Yaffee wrote children’s books including Rambam: The Story of Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, and cousin Rabbi Yanki Tauber is an editor at Chabad.org and author of the Inside Time series.
Rabbi Block and his wife, the former Sara Abelsky, are parents of a toddler, Chana. In addition to joining her husband in directing Chabad at Legacy West, Sara, who is a New York native and the daughter of Moshe, z”l, and Rochel, also follows her parents’ example as Jewish educators. Previously working for the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, she has a master’s in education from Brooklyn College and is teaching Judaic studies at Yavneh Academy.
“As a newcomer, I couldn’t feel more welcome. Everyone is friendly and patient and — coming from New York — I miss the rushed craziness a ‘little.’ I can identify with everyone moving in,” Sara said. “Eli and I come with determination and dedication, and the amazing examples our parents set. We promise to provide an engaging platform, meaningful activities, and soulful opportunities for people to meet, learn and find — or enhance — their Jewish lives.”
Legacy West’s Menorah Lighting, Drinks and Dreidels will be at The Renaissance Hotel at 6007 Legacy Drive in Plano. For more information about Chabad at Legacy West and event programming, call 214-620-4083 or visit their Facebook page @ChabadLW.