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Jewish organization opens new location in Cumming
Chabad of Forsyth to offer educational programs to children, teens and adults
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Rabbi Levi Mentz is executive director of Chabad of Forsyth in Cumming. The Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitch established the new center in South Forsyth earlier this year. The center offers a full network of Jewish life, including Jewish education for all ages, congregational prayer, social services and support for life cycle events.

Chabad of Forsyth

Address: 600 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 100, Cumming

Contact: Rabbi Levi Levi at rabbi@jewishforsyth.org

Phone: 404-954-2092

Website: www.jewishforsyth.org

The Jewish community in North Georgia now has another place it can call home.

Chabad-Lubavitch, the largest Jewish organization in the world, opened up a location in March on Peachtree Parkway in Cumming to serve the region’s growing Jewish population.

“The function, the goal of Chabad is there should never be a Jew that’s alone and that wherever there are Jewish people, they deserve to have the infrastructure of community,” Rabbi Levi Mentz said.

Chabad-Lubavitch is a movement in the mainstream Jewish tradition, with its roots based in the Chassidic movement, according to the organization’s website. Members follow the teachings of Baal Shem Tov, a Jew of 18th-century Eastern Europe, who taught them to look deep into their hearts, find the divine spark and reveal it with unconditional love.

Those who practice Chabad-Lubavitch believe in caring for the spiritual and material needs of all Jews. Members reach out to the community through classes, lectures and workshops on Jewish topics; religious services; Shabbat meals; and special events as needed in that community.

Today 4,000 full-time emissary families are dedicated to the welfare of the Jewish people worldwide, the website said. Mentz is one of those emissaries, serving as rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel and executive director at Chabad of Forsyth.

He said this region has never had a full-time Jewish presence. But a congregation known as Shalom b’Harim meets once a month at Dahlonega Presbyterian Church at 150 Warwick St. near downtown Dahlonega.

“All of a sudden Chabad was getting phone calls from Jewish people saying they want Chabad,” he said. “We want something that’s meaningful and to create this community environment for us and our families and that’s when we got into the picture.”

Levi Mentz moved from the Los Angeles-area to North Georgia with his wife, Chaish, and their two children, Sholom, 2, and Chana, 10 months, to serve the area. Chabad of Forsyth serves the Lake Lanier communities from Dahlonega to north of metro Atlanta.

Levi said he and his wife have always known they wanted to dedicate their lives to impacting others.

“That was not even a question, we just didn’t know where that would take us,” he said.

That path took them to North Georgia. Chais is originally from Sandy Springs, but Levi had never been to North Georgia.

“I had never been to this area, never even heard about it,” he said. “So we came down here and checked it out. Right away when we met the people, we fell in love with the area, the community.”

Now, only five short months since the North Georgia location opened, Levi said they have a thriving religious home in Cumming. Services are offered every Friday night and during the day Saturday at 600 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 100, in Cumming.

“Every service is followed by food,” Levi said. “So there’s always something after services Friday night and there’s always something after services Saturday day.”

Sunday is Juda, an educational program for preschoolers through high schoolers. It is maxed out with the number of participants.

“Our facility is jammed on Sunday mornings, and it’s amazing,” Levi said.

Inspiring and teaching young people is an integral part of the Chabad of Forsyth. Levi’s wife is the director of Juda.

In August 2017, Chaish will be the director of a new Jewish Montessori preschool run by Chabad of Forsyth.

“I like to say that she’s the educator,” Levi said. “She loves teaching. She loves education. She’s very passionate about it. And what she brings to the community is really priceless, really amazing.”

The preschool, which will be called CMCH North, will teach traditional Jewish values to students.

Levi said he hopes Chabad of Forsyth and the Jewish community in North Georgia will add meaning and fulfillment to everyone’s life.

“What we do is revolutionary,” he said. “You don’t have to be a member to join. There’s no dues, no fees.”

Educating adults is another important role to Levi. Classes are often offered for adults, with a class teaching participants to read Hebrew in five sessions starting in November. The $100 class starts Nov. 15 with curriculum from the Jewish Learning institute.

“You come Nov. 15 (and) you leave five weeks later,” Levi said. “You open up any Bible, you open up any prayer book, you go to Israel and want to order a falafel, you can do it. You can be able to read Hebrew in five weeks.”

The rabbi also hopes to continue seeing growth in the North Georgia Jewish community, so it will thrive throughout the rest of the country.

“We are very passionate about community,” Levi said. “Our tagline is ‘Building community every day,’ and that’s what we do. The heart and soul of everything we do is about community and bringing people together.”

Chabad of Forsyth and Congregation Beth Israel plans to bring its community together for the Jewish high holidays. Services and celebrations for Rosh Hashanah on Oct. 2-4 and Yom Kippur on Oct. 11-12 are planned. They include a children’s mini service.

Levi says he’s looking forward to celebrating and bringing in the new year with everyone.

“There’s nothing more powerful than community,” he said. “It adds so much meaning especially when you have a community that values similar values, study, education, spirituality, prayer, celebration of our holidays.

“That’s a great thing and it does wonders to children, it does wonders to adults, it does wonders for families. It adds a lot of meaning.”

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