Coming home to help youth
By Deborah Moon Seldner
article created on:
"The youth is our next generation. We want to keep them excited and enthusiastic about Judaism," said Simi Mishulovin, who has returned to Portland with her husband Rabbi Chayim Mishulovin to serve as joint youth directors for Chabad of Oregon.
Rabbi Mishulovin said he feels like an automatic celebrity in Portland.
"Are you Simi's husband?" he said he has been asked often since he and his wife, the former Simi Wilhelm, moved to Portland April 12. He said many people recognize him from his pictures in the Oregonian and the Jewish Review, both of which featured the couple's Jan. 13, 2004, Orthodox wedding.
The Mishulovins turned down opportunities in larger Jewish communities, including New York and Chicago, to return to Simi's hometown to enrich Chabad youth programming in the greater Portland area.
Ever since she was a teenager, she said she has been drawn to the spirit she sees in all teenagers. As youth director she said she hopes to help teens channel that spirit: "It's brought out in different ways--some use it in positive ways, but they all have such spirit. If we can channel that to make them happier people-- ."
Growing up as the oldest daughter of Chabad of Oregon Director Rabbi Moshe and Devora Wilhelm, Simi was a visible member of Portland's Jewish community for nearly two decades.
"I am excited to be back," said Simi Mishulovin. "I have a new level of respect about this community and the needs and advantages of it. I am extremely excited to be able to contribute to it."
Like most Chabad couples, the Mishulovins spent their first year of marriage in New York.
"It's the strongest Jewish community in the country," said Rabbi Mishulovin. "At the beginning of a couple's life together it's important to
base it on a strong foundation."
Simi Mishulovin spent the year running extracurricular programs for a Jewish girls high school in Crown Heights. She also served as a personal mentor for the girls.
She was offered positions at two of the most prestigious girls seminaries in Crown Heights, but said she was glad the Chabad offices made it possible for her to bring her new family to Portland. The couple has a 4-month-old son Shmuel.
"I'm not at all surprised to hear she was recruited by the biggest New York girls seminaries," said Melton Adult Mini-School Director Bonnie Goldberg, who taught at Portland's Maimonides Jewish Day School with Simi for a few years. "She is dedicated and committed to the whole person--both their academic understanding and their personal relationship to that understanding."
"She makes Jewish studies fun, not just rote," said Goldberg.
Rabbi Mishulovin had been asked to return to Chicago to head a large Jewish day camp there, but he said he was pleased to come to Portland instead.
He said he had heard a lot about Portland from Simi's brother Motti during the years the two studied together in a Los Angeles yeshiva. He said he knew when he first went out with Simi that her parents hoped she might return to help continue building Chabad programs in Oregon.
"I was looking around thinking this is a nice place and if I marry her, I'm definitely moving here," he said. Noting that first impression has held, he added, "People here are very receptive and excited."
The couple said they have plenty of ideas for expanding and invigorating youth programs here. Next fall they are planning after-school youth clubs for children and teens as well as afternoon Hebrew school where "kids would really enjoy their studies with hands-on activities and exciting classes."
For now, they are focused on ensuring Camp Gan Israel provides the best possible experience for campers ages 5 to 11 and for Mini Izzie campers ages 2 to 4. Rabbi Mishulovin has worked in camp programming in Montreal, Russia and Chicago.
"We've added new programs within the camp because we believe children should associate fun with Judaism," said Simi Mishulovin. "We've created a good, proper blend of fun and Jewish enrichment for our children's summer experience."
For more information on Camp Gan Israel or other Chabad youth programs, contact the Mishulovins at 503-757-2028.