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 Burlington County Times - Sunday, March 23, 2014

A new home for Judaism

 Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014 6:30 am | Updated: 12:33 pm, Mon Mar 24, 2014.

A new home for Judaism By Sally Friedman Correspondent Burlington County Times

It’s a handsome, light tan columned building on Medford’s Main Street, the sort that echoes the past. It has a certain innate grace and dignity.

The former private residence, a Dutch Colonial at 74 S. Main, is the new home of the Chabad of Medford, a place where all Jews, no matter their level of observance, are welcome.

The Chabad movement in America, and in the rest of the world, is growing rapidly. The South Jersey region has shown a growing acceptance of the Chabad concept and its presence, first in Cherry Hill, and more recently in Medford, is a case in point.

Like other Chabads around the country, the local Chabad leaders have made extraordinary efforts to reach out to Jews of every stripe, yet there is still an information gap both within the Jewish community and outside of it.

For Medford rabbi Yitzchok Kahan, that presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

“We’re very proud to be growing, and also to have a visible presence in Medford,” said Kahan, who personally practices Jewish orthodoxy, but again, welcomes those who do not.

The rabbi arrived in South Jersey 10 years ago, and used his small home as a meeting place and quasi-synagogue as he sought connections with the Jewish community in the region.

“My wife Baily and I have felt very welcome here,” said the rabbi, who has five sons who range in age from 2 to 10. They clearly adore their boys.

As Kahan explains, the yearning, almost from the start, was to create a visible and viable Chabad Center in Medford, and late last year, the dream became reality.

Spearheading the effort as donors were Randy Lahn and Barry Tuman, both of who feel a deep commitment to the new center which has space for a small sanctuary, where men and women sit on separate sides in keeping with Orthodox tradition. Classrooms, and a kitchen are already established, and more interior work and possible expansion are planned.

“When I was growing up in Medford,” said Lahn, “I was the only Jewish student at Lenape High School, and ours was the only Jewish family in the town. That at was definitely lonely. And 50 years ago, it would have been inconceivable to see such a Jewish presence on Main Street.”

Lahn, whose elementary school was behind the current Chabad, was impressed with Kahan and his mission, and both he and his father, the late Herb Lahn, a prominent Realtor, vowed to support it.

For Tuman, a Shamong resident, the same emotional pull motivated him to become a donor of the new Chabad home.

A former president of the the Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, Tuman has long lamented the scarcity of Jewish facilities in Burlington County, and is gratified that the Chabad’s visible presence is changing that.

Now president of the Medford Chabad, which charges no dues for membership, Tuman reminds those with even moderate interest in attending, “We’re not interested in your dues. We’re interested in your spirit.”

On a recent Sunday afternoon, there was another milestone for the Chabad of Medford.

Moshe Klein, a Brooklyn rabbi and scribe, began to create the initial text of its first Torah, the holy scroll of Judaism, at a moving and celebratory gathering to commemorate the event.

At the Medford home of Paul and Pam Litwack, dozens of guests gathered, many of who created some of the first Hebrew letters in the Torah, which was donated by the Litwacks in honor of their parents.

The Torah will ultimately be completed in Israel, explained Kahan, who was proud and moved by the start of the Chabad’s first Torah. It will contain 304,805 letters when completed.

“We are adding a link to a 3,000-year-old chain of history,” he said. “This is a very, very special moment for all of us.”

For information about the Chabad of Medford, visit