Chabad of the Conejo
Chabad at 40
Celebrating Four Decades of Service to The Conejo Valley Jewish Community
The year was 1979. A shingle was put up in a modest 1,000 square-foot executive suite within a sprawling office complex in Westlake Village, proclaiming Chabad's presence as an open and accessible source of Jewish education and inspiration in the Conejo Valley. At the time, the very notion of traditional Judaism gaining a foothold in one of Southern California's most suburban of areas seemed ludicrous on its face. But driven as they were by the spirit of love and concern for a fellow Jew espoused by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the pioneers of Chabad of the Conejo remained patient, but resolute.
Month by month, child by child, student by student, family by family, the daring experiment began to yield tangible results. From a Hebrew School to a summer camp, outreach activities to holiday programs, adult education classes to synagogue services, curiosity turned into intrigue; sparks of connection were ignited into flames of enthusiastic participation and committed involvement. To the surprise of many (other than the Chabad emissaries), Jewish community life did indeed take root in dynamic and burgeoning fashion.
The initial center in Westlake gave birth to another in Oak Park, followed by another in Agoura Hills - the latter becoming the organization’s new central headquarters and future site of its exquisitely-constructed Center for Jewish Life. Additional centers would subsequently be opened in regional areas, such as Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, Newbury Park, Moorpark, Simi Valley and North Ranch, to be staffed by 12 teams of Rabbis and Rebbetzins.
Chabad's Conejo Jewish Academy - with its full slate of classes, courses, lectures, films, workshops, scholar-in-residence programs, study groups, book clubs and lunch-and-learns - would gain a reputation as one the premiere adult education programs of its kind in the country. Thriving congregations, public festivals and “Mitzvah Projects” would capture the imagination of the masses. Schools and youth programs for children of all ages would instill the future torchbearers of the Jewish community with a profound sense of pride in their heritage and a deep love for, and sense of connection to, the Land of Israel.
A Friendship Circle program for children with special needs, a Sunshine Club program for seniors, a chaplaincy program for hospital patients and prison inmates, among a full range of social service programs to help the troubled and the needy, would make Chabad a haven of compassion that Jew and gentile alike could turn to when the chips were down and the struggles were great.
The sages of the Talmud describe a 40th Year as one that ushers in a new era of "understanding" (Avot 5:25). As Chabad of the Conejo marks this new milestone amidst heightened communal appreciation for its mission, there is great cause for celebration. As such, a musical extravaganza, headlined by the sensational, high-energy Kol Esperanza trio, and a comedic performance by funnyman Mark Schiff, will be held on Thursday evening, June 12, 2019, at the Conejo's most spectacular theatrical venue, the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Paying tribute to the Honorees of Chabad Galas from the past four decades, the celebration - open exclusively to friends and supporters of Chabad - will offer a nostalgic trip down memory-lane, while engendering a new "understanding" of where this dynamic community is headed in the decades to come.