Solon Chabad: Only Jewish institution in city maintains its focus on children



The primary focus of Solon Chabad is children, said Rabbi Zushe Greenberg, the synagogue’s spiritual leader.

“We are concerned with the next generation of Jewish people, and therefore we will do everything to engage as many Jewish children in Jewish activities as we can,” he said.

Greenberg said that’s always been the case for Solon Chabad, now the only Jewish congregation in Solon – just as it was when it was launched 24 years ago in the former home of Greenberg and his wife, Miriam. The shul moved to its current building at 5570 Harper Road in Solon in 2004.

“I tell parents they’re here just to bring the child,” Greenberg said with a smile. “That’s the entrance ticket.

“The parents know we’re not here to change (the children). We want the child to have a positive emotional connection to Judaism. It should be in his heart; he should love it.”

Miriam Greenberg, the synagogue’s Hebrew school director and activity coordinator, said one can hear the sound of children’s voices in the building seven days a week.

“We have kids here every day for preschool, Hebrew school, camp, services or programs,” Zushe Greenberg said. “It’s a true 24-7.”

With children and working parents in mind, Solon Chabad started a program last September for elementary school students called After Care. Miriam Greenberg described it as a camp-style, after-school program.

“A lot of families were telling us how much their children love camp,” she said. “They would say that their children didn’t like going to after-care programs after school every day, and camp is something that’s fun.

“So we created this program. (The Solon School District) will bus the students here after school, and we have camp counselors who lead them in different activities. It’s not a baby-sitting service; it’s a mini-camp, and the kids are enjoying activities.”

Miriam Greenberg said some children take part in the program because both parents work, and others participate “just because it’s fun.” Parents must pick up their children by 6 p.m.

“The best part,” she said, “is the parents will come pick up a child and say, ‘Hey, I’m early today – aren’t you excited?’ And the kids say, ‘What? I don’t want to leave.’ I’ve seen kids crying because they don’t want to leave.

“That’s my goal. I don’t want them to feel like their parents don’t have time. I want them to know it’s a wonderful place to be and to enjoy themselves.”

The After Care program has been added to Solon Chabad’s preschool as well, Miriam Greenberg said Zushe Greenberg said Solon Chabad – formally and legally known as Chabad Jewish Center of Solon – serves more than 500 families in various ways. No membership dues are required, but people can pay for membership if they choose to.

“You don’t have to belong here to join one of the programs,” he said.

Although Greenberg is an Orthodox rabbi, only about 1 percent of the 500-plus families that participate are Orthodox, Miriam Greenberg said.

“People are often very surprised to hear that,” she said. “We have the most diverse community. Labels don’t really matter. It’s about welcoming everyone.”

It all ties in with the Chabad philosophy – that “every Jew is equally important in the eyes of G‑d,” Zushe Greenberg said.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Nobody is more important than the other, and we cannot afford to lose one Jew.

“Judaism is not what you believe. Judaism is who you are.”