Chabad Center marks new beginning for Lipskers


After nearly 12 years at the helm of Congregation Shomrei Habrith, Rabbi Yosef Lipsker and his wife, Chana, are ready to take on a new challenge.

Their mission is to focus on programs that serve the entire local Jewish community.

They are now leading Chabad Lubavitch of Berks County, which is operating out of the former Shomrei Habrith building on Hampden Boulevard. Chabad Lubavitch has leased the building – now known as the Chabad Center — with an option to purchase it.

But Rabbi Lipsker says people should look beyond the building and the Orthodox congregation it has long housed.

“The decline of Shomrei Habrith's aging membership made the synagogue's continued operations no longer viable,” he said. “The opportunity to acquire its structure for our Chabad Center furthers our goal of promoting and perpetuating Yiddishkeit in our local community."

Many of the activities the Lipskers have been running for years will continue and expand, including their popular holiday events and the Jewish calendar they publish.

Under the Chabad-Lubavitch banner they hope to do more and to attract people of all walks of Jewish life. They are hoping to hold many of their events in sites away from the Chabad Center to reinforce their message of inclusiveness.

“We’re open to everyone,” Lipsker said. “We’re not about telling people what to do. We’re about giving people hope. We want to let them know they’re never alone, and we are always available to them, no matter what their level of observance or their affiliation.”

The Lipskers also run a Hebrew school program, arrange life-cycle events and can help families acquire items they need for a Jewish home. The rabbi hosts a weekly radio program Thursday mornings at 10:30 on Philadelphia’s WNWR (1540-AM). It can be heard online anytime at

The Chabad Center hosts services Friday nights at 5:30 and Saturday mornings at 9:30. They are open to all in the community, Lipsker said.

The services get regular visits from Jews undergoing treatment at the Caron Foundation facility near Wernersville, where Rabbi Lipsker serves as a spiritual counselor to patients and their families. The visitors enjoy a Shabbat dinner in the Lipsker home. He described his work at Caron as one of the most fulfilling aspects of his job.

He said he is eager to stay in Berks County, where he and his wife are raising eight children.

“This is the place where I want to live and do my work,” the Brooklyn native said.

Lipsker said Chabad Lubavitch’s activities should be viewed as a supplement to the work other Jewish institutions are doing in the community and that he takes pride in having good relationships with Conservative and Reform rabbis.

“Our mission is to help the entire community,” he said. “It’s vital that we’re all on the same page.”

The Brooklyn-based Chabad movement sends emissaries to Jewish communities large and small around the world in an effort to strengthen Jewish identity and encourage mitzvot.

But Lipsker said he depends on local people to fund his activities and that he appreciates the generosity of those who have enabled him to continue his work here.

He also is grateful for the opportunity to provide round-the-clock counseling services to people in crisis, both in our area and elsewhere. Calls from such people keep the rabbi busy all the time.

The Lipskers and their Chabad colleagues recently dealt with a crisis of their own with the death of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, during the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Rabbi Lipsker said all his Chabad colleagues are like family to him, making the tragedy that much harder to take.

Yet he sees a connection between the recent events in distant India and what he and Chana are doing right here.

“Our signing of the papers to acquire the Chabad Center on the very day of the Holtzbergs' funeral shows that their life cause of helping to perpetuate Yiddishkeit continues across the world", Rabbi Lipsker said