Outreach center, synagogue primarily serves members of the Russian-speaking Jewish community
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
Rabbi Gershon Giter and his wife came to St. Paul in 1990 to serve the spiritual and material needs of the local Russian-speaking Jewish community. As executive director of CORE Center and rabbi of its Bais Menachem Congregation, Giter soon realized that the center’s reach extended to the entire Twin Cities metro area.
“People started getting used to our existence,” Giter told the AJW.
As many of its elderly members passed away and younger members began moving out to the suburbs, the St. Paul location no longer made sense. In March, CORE Center and Bais Menachem relocated to the Quinwood Shopping Center in Maple Grove, becoming the first Jewish center in the northwestern area of the Twin Cities.
CORE Center is leasing its space, but is looking to sell the St. Paul location, which still houses office space, in order to finance the purchase of a permanent site.
“This center was really opened by a joint effort of the people who wanted to have a place that they could call their own,” Giter said. “It’s kind of a community effort.”
CORE Center (an acronym for Community, Outreach, Renewal and Education) is an educational organization that was established in the mid- to late 1990s to offer classes and activities to the local Russian-speaking Jewish community. Giter described Bais Menachem Congregation as a project of the CORE Center.
Shabbat morning services take place at 10 a.m., followed by Kiddush lunch and “lively discussion around the table”; and weekly classes take place at 6 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays. The congregation also celebrates weddings, B’nai Mitzva and holidays, conducts funerals, and offers activities for children and teens.
“We consider ourselvesÂ the place that really attracts and does work with the Russian Jews,” Giter said. “And that work starts with birth through, God forbid, the end of life.”
CORE Center has approximately 1,500 people on its mailing list and there is no membership fee.
“Every Jew who walks through these doors is welcome and treated as a member of the community,” Giter said, adding that non-Jews are also welcome. “It’s a genuinely warm, Jewish place where a Jew comes and feels at home.”
Yana Glikin first learned about CORE Center when her mother invited her to its Hanuka party about two and a half years ago. A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Glikin started her Jewish education as an adult and began taking classes at CORE Center.
“It was exactly what I was looking for,” Glikin said. “I love to have a place to come, learn Jewish thought and be surrounded by like-minded people — people whom I respect who speak Russian.”
Glikin now serves on the CORE Center board and considers herself an active member of the congregation. Among other responsibilities, she is working to start a Rosh Chodesh group for women; the first meeting will take place 7 p.m. Sunday, June 20.
CORE Center has no paid staff and all members of the board are volunteers, though everyone is expected to contribute something. Giter said that while CORE Center has no formal mission statement, it stresses that “ignorance is not a Jewish value.”
CORE Center identifies with the Chabad Lubavitch movement and follows the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who said that the love of a fellow Jew is the most essential value.
“This love does have to be expressed in action,” Giter said. “We’re trying to make Judaism attractive to people, and we’re completely convinced that if a Jew sees the real beauty of being a Jew, he will be a beautiful Jew not only from within, but also without.”
CORE Center and Bais Menachem are located in the Quinwood Shopping Center, 12688 Bass Lake Rd., Maple Grove. For information, call 651-690-2669 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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