By Deb Silverthorn
Chabad emissaries around the world live according to the principle that each Jew is family and, for Dini and Rabbi Shmuly Druk, that family has expanded. The couple, who have been living in Carrollton since 2018, now make their home in Richardson, running Chabad of Richardson and UTD, where their goal is for the general and student communities to enjoy an environment that makes being Jewish meaningful and fun.
Readying for Rosh Hashanah, a Challah Bake for ladies of all ages will be hosted starting at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, and a Shofar Factory for children will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18 — both events at the Druks’ home in East Richardson. Rabbi and Dini lead weekly classes at their home, and soon on the campus they will offer Sinai Scholars Society studies of classic Jewish texts, social programming and national networking opportunities.
Rabbi Druk, the fourth of 11 children of Rabbi Shimon and Zira Druk, was born in Montreal, Canada, and raised in Detroit, Michigan. From the age of 13, he traveled the world, studying in Israel and Argentina and Japan.
“For generations Jews were hunted and punished, our own families included, for being Jews,” said Rabbi Druk. “Instead, we look for Jews only to spread the joy and nachas of our tradition. We’re dedicated to being Jewish, living Jewish and encouraging other Jews to do the same.”
Dini is the second of seven children of Rabbi Yitzchok and Miri Morosow. She was born in Israel and raised in Crown Heights, New York. With her parents she’d visit the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of blessed memory, every week.
“The Rebbe inspired my life and purpose and I’ve always wanted to find Jewish people and reach them, to help them feel their Jewish connection whatever that is,” said Dini who, after attending seminary in Israel, returned to the U.S. and studied education. She founded the Cheder Chabad of Yonkers before she was 25. “I’ve always known this would, in some way, be my life.”
The Druks are parents of Meir, Mussia, Mendel, Yisrolik, Elchanan and Chana.
Since the pandemic, the Druks drove the streets of Richardson scouting for mezuzot, trying to find Jewish homes, where they left challahs as their calling card.
“At one home we left a challah on the doorstep and got a call a few hours later,” said Dini. “It was from a young man who had lost his mother and, in a moment when he wanted to connect, he was making her matzo ball soup recipe so he couldn’t answer the door. He’s come to us a number of times and we connect together. ‘Together’ — that’s what us Jews do well.”
Ofer Turjeman, a UTD senior from Austin and president of the student board that includes Leora Hagi, Gali Leyman and Naomi Zilber, was thrilled to find Chabad on campus. Students are invited to Shabbat and holiday meals at the Druk home and the couple brings holidays and Jewish spirit to campus in the form of a Sukkah Mobile, Hanukkah displays, classes and more.
“Rabbi and Dini take everyone in with open arms and a kind embrace,” said Turjeman, one of a number of students who have spent Shabbat at the Druks’ home enjoying 25 hours of unplugged peace and then taking that practice to their own homes.
“They teach, they answer every question and never make you feel silly for asking anything,” said Turjeman, who teaches Sunday school and provides Hebrew tutoring at Congregation Shearith Israel. He met the Druks at last fall’s Sukkah Mobile. “I missed holidays and Shabbat dinners and they are a home away from home.”
Chabad at UTD, an official organization of the university since January 2021, is open to any area college student. It is hosting an online fundraiser supporting their programs and events.
“We’re thrilled to have Chabad at UTD and so looking forward to the presence of programming and sharing of more Jewish exposure and life on campus. I’m honored to serve as the faculty adviser,” said Karen Prager, UTD professor of interdisciplinary studies. “Chabad everywhere brings engagement and for our students and faculty I just know this is a good thing.”
David Patterson, UTD’s Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies and Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Professor of Literature and History, has enjoyed many Shabbat meals and other occasions at the Druks’ home. He says the couple’s influence and support to the university’s students is immeasurable.
“Chabad’s reputation for outreach and connection is amazing and the Druks are wonderful people,” said Patterson. “We’re living in a time of increased antisemitism, and strength of faith is so important. For Shabbat, the holidays or any time, the study and conversations that come with Rabbi and Dini are open, welcoming and a reason to rejoice.”
For the Jewish community of Richardson, the Druks’ home is open for learning, spiritual growth, services and always a good meal.
Miriam Honig, her husband Ron and son Nathan McCoy, of Coppell, first met the Druk family four years ago, connecting through a group of Jewish friends. Despite the Druks’ move, nearly 20 miles east, they still share Shabbat and other occasions.
“The Druks appreciate whatever and however anyone practices and they share whatever they have in a most nonjudgmental way. What they have to offer is important for adults and kids and for the students — I’m excited at all of the opportunities they’ll have,” said Honig. “Chabad is social, it’s learning, it’s spiritual — Rabbi and Dini really make it possible for it to be whatever someone is looking for.”
Harriet Cohen, a member of Temple Emanu-El who also studies and enjoys virtual Jewish learning and services around the country, also engages with the Druks.
“Wherever I can find an impact on my spiritual growth, that’s where I am, and meeting the Druks, and studying with Dini, has been transformative,” said Cohen, who attends the weekly virtual Tanya class for women and Shabbat lunches and discussions. “Our studies are life-changing and Dini is an engaging, warm, knowledgeable educator.”
Cohen added, “It’s also inspiring to watch the Jewish students who spend Shabbat in their home — they come week after week. Dini and Rabbi are Jewish pied pipers, helping them discover their Jewish identities in a loving and nonjudgmental environment.”
The Druks want only to add to any Jew’s experiences, not to pull anyone from whatever affiliation they may have. Their Chabad House is a center for prayer and study where they want to provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of Jewish heritage in any way a person wants to take that in.
“Rabbi and Dini are committed people focused on bringing every, single Jew — no matter where or what their Jewish background is — closer to Hashem,” said Chabad of Dallas’ Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky. He and his wife Baila came to North Texas 37 years ago as the first local Chabad shluchim, emissaries. “The growth that comes from the Druks, and the many other shluchim now here, was never beyond our imagination — the sky and above is the limit — and we still have so much to do.”
For more information about Chabad of Richardson and UTD programming and events, or to register, visit jewishrichardson.org. To make a donation to support Chabad UTD efforts, visit jewishrichardson.org/UTD.