Rabbi Shneur Wineberg has all the characteristics of a man of faith; an unstinting devotion to people and a sunny outlook on life. He, together with his wife Shaina, have launched an admirable initiative - to set up a Chabad in Notting Hill, a project focused on community building and reaching out across faiths and communities in the name of kindness and harmony.
Originally from South Africa, Rabbi Shneur and Shaina came to North Kensington focused on revitalising an area whose Jewish community had fallen quiet. “Years ago”, he says, “Notting Hill had a vibrant Jewish community but over the years it kind of petered out. What we’re finding being here is that a lot of people are coming together. People who were sure they were the only Jews in town are saying ‘oh, I didn’t know my neighbour’s Jewish’; people can’t believe there’s a community that can be brought together.”
Together they’ve set about energising that community: “We both grew up with parents who dedicated their lives to the community, and we decided that we want to have that same outlook and mission in our own lives. We want to be there for people.”
The Chabad they’ve created is focused on giving people the opportunity to connect with each other and engage with their culture in a warm and welcoming setting. As Rabbi Shneur puts it: “We want everyone in our community to have the opportunity to experience the beauty of our heritage and culture in a way that it will enrich their personal lives.”
Events are the meat and drink of the Chabad, from music to food and community. And then there’s Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of light (this year from 10 December to 18 December). “Hanukkah is all about bringing more light into the world. The traditional way that Hanukkah is celebrated is by lighting the menorah,” he explains, “Each night we add another candle starting from one up to eight on the eighth nigh. Progressively adding in light. I think today more than ever with there being so many challenges out there, the message of adding light and bringing light to our surroundings is ever more important.”
The menorah is the nine-branched candelabra that can be seen quite frequently around London in proximity to Hanukkah. Locally, it’s located on Westbourne Grove. “Aside from private menorahs lit at home, you’ll find large Hanukkah menorahs all over the world, from the White House to Trafalgar Square to the Brandenburg Gate. The menorah’s message is a universal one. It reminds us to shine a light and do our part to make the world a better place. That’s really the mission that my wife and I have set out to do, to shine a light for the community here in our small way,” the Rabbi adds.
The Chabad is a mission to increase understanding and communication across all faiths and communities and in one of the world’s most diverse communities this is certainly a welcome undertaking. Happy Hanukkah to everyone!