Taking leaps of faith is in Rabbi Mendy Rosenblum’s job description.
Rosenblum, director of Chabad of the South Hills, believes in the growth of the South Hills Jewish community and isn’t afraid to take a calculated risk or two.
Take a planned mikvah he announced late last year, for example. The rabbi told the Chronicle at the time that the typical procedure of establishing the ritual bath is to do research, identify potential property, explore obstacles and create a budget. He decided instead to announce the project and then work out the details.
Rosenblum has decided to build on his faith once again. Confident in the growth of the Jewish community, the rabbi recently announced that his son, Rabbi Levi Rosenblum, and his wife, Hindy, have joined the Chabad of the South Hills team. The pair will direct all children, teen/youth and family programs.
“There’s 100% growth potential,” the elder Rosenblum said, noting that it’s important to meet youths and young families where and how they are engaged today — which doesn’t necessarily mean weekly at shul.
He called the decision “bold but responsible” and said he believed it is vital to Chabad’s continued growth and existence.
“Synagogues are graying, Hebrew schools are getting smaller,” he said. “Younger people aren’t engaging the same way. We’ve got to pay attention to the trends.”
Rosenblum said he believes young people have an easier time connecting with their contemporaries.
“There are many ways to reach them, but young people, who understand and know the mentality of other young people and who are going through the same stages, are the right people,” he said.
The younger Rosenblums will be building on the success of their cousin Mussie Rosenblum, who has done a lot of work with young families in the South Hills, the rabbi noted, adding that she will continue to lead the Hebrew school and some of the programming.
Rosenblum said that his son and daughter-in-law have already begun developing new programs.
“They’re thinking out of the box and reaching people in different ways,” he said. “You’ve got to figure out how to reach people who are not engaging in Judaism.”
He pointed to a new initiative launched by the pair: For the last several weeks, the two have gone to the Green Tree Farmers Market and sold challah.
Levi Rosenblum is excited about his new role. He recently moved back to Pittsburgh after spending a year in New York following his marriage. The couple have a son, Efraim, and will live in the South Hills.
The pair said they will focus on creating youth programs, helping at day camp and running other programs at Chabad.
The hope, Hindy Rosenblum said, is that through new and informal opportunities, they’ll not only get to know the Jewish community that might not be coming to shul regularly but also build relationships.
“We want them to not just be a number but actually know them and know what’s going on in their lives,” she said. “That takes time.”
They will be doing old-fashioned relationship building, as well.
“We plan on going out before Rosh Hashanah,” Levi Rosenblum said, “knock on some doors and give out some challah — introduce ourselves and meet some people.”
As for working with his father, Levi Rosenblum said the experience has been “amazing.” His wife agreed.
“It’s been great working with him,” she said. “He gives us space. He says, ‘You want to do this program, go ahead and run with it and make it a success.’”
Mendy Rosenblum said that when he decided to create the new position, he didn’t do it with his son in mind; rather, he wanted to find the most qualified person. That said, he’s excited to have the opportunity to work with Levi.
“He grew up in this community. He grew up in a Chabad house setting,” Mendy Rosenblum said. “He was a great candidate. He’s married to someone outstanding who’s grown up in a similar community. It’s a natural fit. They’re very qualified. They happen to be my children but, as the community will see, they’re very qualified for this work.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.