Since opening Chabad of Downtown in 2008, Rabbi Levi and Chani Druk say they have welcomed more than 10,000 guests to their center, ranging from young Jewish professionals who work in the city to other Jews in the region who simply enjoy a Jewish milieu.
One of 3,300 Lubavitch institutions around the world (and in all 50 states), Chabad of Downtown is located at 407 S. High Street in Little Italy, in an area once bustling with the sounds of immigrants from all corners of Europe.
The Druks, along with their five children, provide spiritual, educational and outreach activities to Jews living and working in the city.
Why set up a Chabad center in Little Italy, of all places?
“Following a nationwide trend of people returning to living in cities, the downtown Jewish community [in Baltimore] was growing as well,” says Rabbi Druk, who moved here with his family from Brooklyn, N.Y. “Chabad of Downtown was established to service the downtown residents, professionals, young adults and visitors with their Jewish needs.”
Chabad of Downtown is located only minutes away from the city’s leading business, cultural and medical institutions. For the festival of Sukkot this year, Chabad erected a sukkah near the National Aquarium and welcomed not only Baltimore residents but medical students from the nearby University of Maryland Medical Center. In addition, Chabad of Downtown was involved in this week’s Chanukah celebrations around the city.
Chabad of Downtown serves Jews living and working in Canton, Fells Point, Harbor East, Little Italy, Mount Vernon, Federal Hill and the downtown business district.
The Chabad organization has 43 institutions throughout the state, including community centers, service organizations and educational institutions.
“We were attracted by the development and opportunity we saw around downtown, and Chabad of Maryland was looking to bring down a [married] couple to reestablish Chabad’s presence in the downtown area,” said Rabbi Druk.
Chabad of Downtown’s first year of operation was fraught with myriad challenges, admits Rabbi Druk.
“We needed to get used to a new place and learn what people’s needs were,” he says. “[But] it was also really exciting to be able to get started and make a lot of new friends.”
The rabbi calls the last few years “fantastic, a blessing. We’ve seen a lot of growth, but there is still so much to do.”
Rabbi Druk emphasizes that Chabad is welcoming to all Jews “regardless of background or affiliation. … We believe the Torah is every Jew’s inheritance. We are just here to share with them what is theirs.”
For information about Chabad of Downtown, call 410-605-0505 or visit bmorejewish.com .
Haydee M. Rodriguez is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Photo of Chani and Rabbi Levi Druk provided by Chabad of Downtown
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