Novato rabbi offers spiritual services to all

By Nicole Baptisa | May 23 2012

When Rabbi Menachem Landa and his wife, Adina, moved to Novato recently, they came with the intention of giving the town a Jewish community center. Now the Landas have opened the Chabad Jewish Center of Novato — in their home.

The couple are throwing open their doors and hosting a Shavuot celebration May 27 at 10 a.m. at 10 Westwood Drive.

Shavuot commemorates the day the Jewish people received the Torah 3,324 years ago.

“We just had 52 girls from L.A. visit on Sunday and there was plenty of room in the backyard,” Landa said. “We plan to rent a facility by the summer.”

Chabad, based on a 250-year-old philosophy, is a form of Jewish spiritual teaching. The word is a Hebrew acronym for wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The Chabad-Lubavitch organization, in its own words, is “dedicated to the welfare of the Jewish people worldwide.” The Novato center is one of 4,500 Chabad centers around the world.

“It ranges from prayer services and adult education to joyous holiday celebrations, Shabbat dinners, youth clubs, crisis counseling and much more,” Landa said. “The Novato community seemed like the perfect place for a Chabad. People may see themselves as unaffiliated, reform, conservative or orthodox. At Chabad, we see you as Jewish. No labels. No differences. Chabad is a home for every Jew.”

“We look forward to offering a stimulating, kid-friendly Jewish education, designed to inspire Jewish pride and awareness,” Adina Landa said.

Chabad emerged after the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of approximately 6 million European Jews during World War II. The Landas follow the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a spiritual leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement who spearheaded a worldwide reconstruction of post-Holocaust Jewish religious life and inspired a reawakening of Jewish awareness and observance, Landa said.

“Among the things the movement did was establish educational and outreach centers that provide social-service programs and humanitarian aid to all people, regardless of religious affiliation or background,” Landa said.

The Landas offer everything from counseling to teaching. Landa introduced himself to the community by walking door-to-door, often speaking with neighbors about a variety of topics.

“What a wonderful couple to have in our midst in Novato,” said Novato resident Peter Hass. “I urge you all to get to know them. You will be smitten by their charm and enthusiasm.”

Hass met Landa after answering his front door and encountering a man with a long dark beard and a smile.

“He introduced himself as Menachem and handed me a little package, which he said was a present for Purim.” Hass said. “He explained that this was a Jewish custom, or mitzvah, of bringing and exchanging presents during Purim. I was flabbergasted.”

Opening the box, Hass saw hamantash, a Jewish pastry. The two spent the next few minutes talking about the Landas’ move to Novato.

“I was really pleased with his friendliness, sincerity and commitment,” Hass said. “He has a passion and a vision. My wife and I have also had the pleasure of meeting his wife. She is very much like him — very warm, personable and kind.”

Landa was born in Vancouver and grew up in Montreal, where he graduated from high school. He studied in both Los Angeles and Brooklyn and taught high school and college students in Miami and Los Angeles until he completed his rabbinical degree. It was his goal to reach out to as many Jews he could, to help them and show them the beauty of the Jewish heritage, he said.

Adina was born in San Diego. After graduating from high school she attended Bais Chana Teachers Seminary in Tzfat, Israel.

“All are welcome,” Landa said. “The center will serve as a source for everything Jewish in a warm and friendly environment. “We’re here to serve the Jewish community in any way possible.”

The center will soon offer weekly services and programs targeted to adults and youth, Landa said. Sunday’s celebration will include the reading of the 10 Commandments at 11:30 a.m., followed by a “dairy buffet.” All are welcome.

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