A Second Chance

by R. Wineberg - ATLANTA, GA

October 22, 2002

Over the last few decades, a full 80% of Atlanta’s Jewish population of 100,000 migrated to the suburbs. For a while, it seemed as though Jewish life in the city’s center was a closed chapter. The JCC shut its doors and moved to the suburbs. And although the city itself was flourishing, only a single shul with 15 members remained to bear witness to the thriving Jewish community that had once existed there.

In January of 1997, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman and his wife Dina, both native Californians, were recruited by Rabbi Yossi New, director of Chabad of Georgia, to work with the remaining community in town and direct activities at a nearby campus.

Within a few short years, the Schustermans’ hands were so full with the activities of “Chabad Intown”, that Rabbi New had to recruit another couple to direct the campus programs.

The fading Jewish community had been given another lease on life.

This past August, Rabbi and Mrs. Schusterman, together with a now-thriving community of 150 families, celebrated the grand opening of Chabad Intown’s newly renovated 4500 square foot center, in Virginia Highlands, a young, new-age sort of residential area adjacent to Atlanta’s business district.

A general resurgence in the area in the last few years, and a booming economy, has attracted thousands of yuppies and their families to Virginia Highlands. Chabad is based in the neighborhood, while serving the entire city center.

“A revival was happening here and there needed to be a Jewish revival to meet it,” says Rabbi Schusterman, “We found ourselves in the right place at the right time.”

In the years since their arrival, as the community flourished and increasing numbers of people began attending programs, Chabad had successively outgrown several rented locations and was searching for a property. Finally, in December 2001, they closed on a building that had at one time been an old southern mansion and was then being used as office space.

Renovations began immediately to adapt the building to Chabad’s needs, and, now the beautiful center houses a shul, classrooms, youth room, and offices.

“We have a community that wants a Jewish experience for their kids, a deeper understanding of Judaism for themselves, and a warm family atmosphere,” says Dina Schusterman.

With a wide range of programs including holiday events, services, Hebrew school, programs for toddlers, and the Intown Jewish Academy, an expansion on Chabad’s current classes and lectures that have opened this fall, Chabad meets the community at their needs.

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