Decatur’s New Torah Lights the Way

Decatur’s New Torah Lights the Way

Belgian-born Rabbi Avremi Slavaticki is adding a new component to Jewish life in Decatur, home to many Jews; but it has not always been so welcoming.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

A Torah was dedicated to the Lubin family and three fallen soldiers // All Photos by Zoe Allison Gangemi 
A Torah was dedicated to the Lubin family and three fallen soldiers // All Photos by Zoe Allison Gangemi 

On Sunday, March 10, approximately 200 Jews of all ages danced and marched in the streets of Decatur to celebrate the dedication of a new Sefer Torah being welcomed into its home at the Chabad’s Decatur Jewish Center.

Rabbi Avremi Slavaticki stated, “It’s hard to describe the intense feelings of pride and joy experienced by the participants in this celebration! Witnessing the writing of the final letters in the Torah, dancing in the street, bringing it to its new home in the Decatur Jewish Center – it was a powerful testament to our community’s endurance and our bright future.”

Approximately 200 people attended the celebration.

Note that a Sefer (“Book”) Torah is a handwritten scroll of the Five Books of Moses, the first of which is the Hebrew Bible.

The event was topped off with a falafel bar catered by Israel Rosh (Kosher Kreations) and a lavish dessert buffet prepared in house. There was a magic show for the children, who then joined the crowd in dancing and parading with flags.

The ceremony included a tribute to the three fallen soldiers for whom the Torah was dedicated, as well as to Rose Ida Lubin, whose mother, Robin, owns the building that the Decatur Jewish Center leases.

Danielle Botstein and Liat Oren enjoyed bringing their children.

Currently, Decatur has a population of 25,000 and boasts a walkable downtown and diverse artsy culture with easy access to the city and “kosher life” in Toco Hills. However, Decatur was not always Jewish-friendly. When Rabbi Avremi and wife, Bracha, were scouting Decatur for a potential move, they came across the book, “Saturday School,” by Tom Keating, and were shocked to learn that less than 100 years ago, the city had changed their entire school system (by adding Saturday Shabbos as a required school day) with one goal: to keep the Jews out.

The Slavaticki’s knew then that this was the city they would choose as their new center to further nurture Jewish life. He was born in Antwerp, Belgium, while Bracha hails from New Orleans. The two of them developed a passion for working in the Jewish community while serving as counselors, teachers, and program coordinators through their teen and young adult years.

Elaborating on their role in Decatur, Slavaticki said, “It’s more important than ever for the Jewish community in Decatur to band together … the winds of antisemitism are blowing, and we need to strengthen one another and stay positive.”

Melvin Konner and his grandchild filled in a letter.

Thankfully, the new Decatur Jewish Center provides a safe space to do just that. It’s a place for Jews to learn, socialize, pray, and discuss community activism. Their tagline, “Jewish Done Joyfully,” expresses their hope for the space.

Currently, the center is offering services, bar and bat mitzvah lessons, women’s get-togethers, holiday programming, and a variety of classes. A new program, Decatur Jewish Makers, which highlights local talent, will begin with an art workshop led by Ariel Czesler, an Argentinian native turned Decatur
artist (March 27).

A youthful Sunday celebrant, Matthew Colon, a Decatur-area high schooler, came to the Decatur Jewish Center for the first time on March 10, and said, “After Oct. 7, it is very important for the Jewish community to come together. The Decatur Chabad felt very inclusive for the entire community of Decatur including all Jewish residents [in varying] denominations.”

The Slavaticki family aims to make a safe and enriching “home base” for Jews in Decatur.

Dr. Jessica Alter echoed Colon’s sentiments, “It was so special to celebrate the arrival of a new Sefer Torah. The party was wonderful and welcoming to all. We loved how fun they made it for the kids as well. It was important to us for our children to be there. For them to witness the hard work, love, dedication, and attention to detail it takes to continue tell our story, the story of the Jewish people from one generation to another. The Sefer Torah is at the core of our strength as a people. We look forward to uniting with the community in many more simchas.”

Rolene Jaffe (no relation to this writer) summarized, “Everyone was so excited, the moment was so special! It was just what we needed. May we go from strength to strength as a community.”

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