BRATTLEBORO -- Rabbi Avremy Raskin has studied in Chicago, New York and Israel, and he spent a year teaching in Russia.
But the Vermont native found his way back to his home state this summer. And he's hoping to establish a thriving Chabad Center in Brattleboro, where the Raskin family has found a welcome change of pace.
"People are very welcoming and friendly," Raskin said. "The pace is much slower -- more peaceful and relaxing."
Raskin, his wife, Chaya, and their infant daughter, Esther, arrived in Brattleboro from Brooklyn in early July. While Chaya Raskin is a New York native, Vermont is familiar ground for the rabbi.
In fact, his family established roots in the state nearly a century ago. Raskin's great-grandfather emigrated to New York after studying in Russia and, in 1914, took a job in Barre.
"There was a small Jewish community there in Barre and Montpelier," Raskin said, noting that his grandfather was born in Vermont in 1919 and had many "horse-and-buggy stories" from those days.
Though the family left Vermont in 1940, Raskin's parents returned in 1984 to establish a Jewish center in Burlington. Raskin was born there in 1987.
And he has followed his parents' path into Chabad-Lubavitch, a 250-year-old movement in Orthodox Judaism that has spread around the globe.
"There are thousands of Chabad emissaries all over the world," Raskin said, noting that he has a sister in Brazil and a
The Raskins intend to make Brattleboro, where Raskin also had spent a few summers as a student, the latest addition to that Chabad community. Raskin said his intent is to enrich the town's existing Jewish community.
"We're here to try to add something to the experience," he said. "Every Jew can add something -- every person."
He explains Chabad this way: "The basic principle is, unconditional love for every single Jew. We are here for every Jew."
The word Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for wisdom, understanding and knowledge. And the Raskins, who introduced themselves to the community with a barbecue in early August, are looking to spread those qualities from their home and Chabad Center at 275 Western Ave.
For example, a Talmud class scheduled for 7 p.m. each Tuesday got started this week. A woman's circle focused on baking traditional challah is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 10.
Also, there is a Jewish story hour scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at Brooks Memorial Library.
"We're going to have those throughout the year," Chaya Raskin said. "We want to start a teen program."
There are plans in the works for other events.
More information on the Raskins and the Brattleboro Chabad Center is available at www.ChabadSouthernVT.com.
For now, the Raskins are focusing on meeting as many people as possible. They have guests for dinner each week, and they're also hoping to reach out to students at local colleges and to tourists who travel to Vermont in the fall and winter.
"People are excited and very positive," Raskin said. "They're looking to help."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.