The Chabad of the Upper East Side has created an amazing community center on East 77th street where Jewish people of all ages can find support and spiritual guidance. Under the leadership of Rabbi Ben Krasnianski, the Chabad has developed dozens of community programs that follow their philosophy of "Love every Jew; educate every Jew; reach out to help every Jew."
They are a part of the worldwide organization Chabad-Lubavitch, coming to the Upper East Side in 1993. In addition to their popular preschool and Hebrew schools, Rabbi Krasnianski has helped developed some unique programs with the hope to share their mission of spreading love and acceptance.
"Due to no fault of their own, most Jews haven't been given the opportunity to have a Jewish education, or relate to their heritage in any meaningful way," Rabbi Krasnianski said. "We have made our Chabad a place where everyone can feel at home."
One of their most inspiring programs is The Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization that provides social and recreational programs for Jewish children, teens, and young adults with special needs. They pair local teenagers with special needs children for support through weekly home visits, a Miracle Sports League, Holiday celebrations, and day camps.
"New York State offers many different programs helping special need families and their children," explained Rabbi Krasnianski. "What these programs don't offer is friendships." The focus of this organization is their belief that every child should be given the chance to be a productive member of the community, servicing up to 100 special needs children and families of the Upper East Side.
This spring, Rabbi Krasnianski and the UES Chabad will hold their second annual Friendship Circle Walk. Last year they gathered 1,000 people to walk a mile around the neighborhood together in an effort to raise awareness and acceptance for children with special needs.
Knowledge is the major focus for Rabbi Krasnianski in his work. In addition to The Freindship Circle, and offering traditional Jewish services at the Chabad offers educational programs to college students and adult. They have partnered with Hunter College forming a network of Jewish students who meet to discuss the Torah.
Chabad Young Professionals of the Upper East Side is another network for Jewish East Siders in their 20s and 30s. The program holds different social events and meetings each month, extending a warm welcome to all members of the Jewish community.
It is important to Rabbi Krasnianski that the Chabad reach out to the younger generations because they represent the future of the Jewish religion. . "When you look at a child, you're looking at the future. They are like seeds, and our role is to be the gardener," he explained. "The smallest scratch in a seed will end up with a crooked tree. Here at Chabad we look at education as something very sacred."
Rabbi Krasnianski is an extremely accepting man, and is runs the Chabad with an open door police, welcoming anyone is search of spiritual guidance. Their mission reads, "We open our arms and hearts to all, regardless of education or affiliation," and the Rabbi has shown the Upper East Side community the importance of those words through his work over the past 30 years.
To get involved with the Chabad, or any of the programs mentioned you can visit their website at www.chabaduppereastside.com.