One Dunwoody resident has helped the Chabad Israeli Center build a new Hebrew library while honoring his family.
The center, which has been in Brookhaven since 2016, serves as a community center for Hebrew speakers and those who have relocated to the area from Israel. On Sunday, Aug. 28, it held a grand opening for the new Hebrew Library, which will feature books for readers of all ages, all in the Hebrew language.
“We really want it to be a place where the community can come read in their language. We want it to be a place for Hebrew education, classes and conferences,” said Rabbi Menachem Gurary, founder of the Chabad Israeli Center. “A place where people can come to learn about and feel connected to Judaism and the Land of Israel.”
Rabbi Gurary said that previously, the center had a makeshift area that served as a library. Now, it hopes to hire a librarian and have an official library system, all thanks to donors Michael and Eti Alon.
“It has been a dream of ours to build this Hebrew Library, and we are grateful to the Alon family and all those who have helped make it a reality,” Rabbi Gurary said.
“He’s been a member of the community since we’ve been in Brookhaven, he is very active in the synagogue and really wanted to give back in a nice, permanent way.”
Alon said he decided to support the library in honor of his family, particularly his eldest brother, Rabbi Yerachmiel Carmi, and his mother, Faige Tziporah Chorowsky. He said it was their idea for him to move from Israel to the United States.
“I always think of my brother and my mother,” said Alon, regarding where he finds himself today. “I’m almost 85, and I’m very lucky.”
Alon, who is the youngest of seven and the last alive among his siblings, grew up in a poor neighborhood in Israel, he said. His father left when he was young, and his mother worked hard to provide for him and his brothers and sisters.
“My mother worked as a maid,” he said. “In those days, there were no vacuum cleaners, washing machines, or many other assistants to help you clean the house. It was really difficult, hard labor work.”
After joining th e Israeli Army for about 2.5 years at the age of 17, Alon decided to leave Israel. He said that his brother was living in New Brunswick, Canada, at the time, and helped arrange for Alon to get a visa to join him.
After multiple plane trips, Alon arrived in New Brunswick in 1959. He did not know how to read, speak, or write in English, and by his own account, had very few applicable skills.
Several weeks later, Alon’s brother drove him to New York and helped him enroll in school. Later, Alon was able to graduate with a license to teach Hebrew. Years later, after he met his now-wife, Etti Alon, back home in Israel, his brother married the two in a ceremony in the U.S.
“If not for my brother, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Alon said of his journey to America all those years ago. “I had no skills, no training, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”
Alon attributes all of his success to his brother, who passed away a few years ago. Alon said that when he died, he wanted to do something to honor his brother. When he heard about the new library, he thought that sounded like the perfect opportunity.
“It’s a very important part of the community,” Alon said of the library. “That’s exactly what I want to do.”