In anticipation of an era of growth and increased involvement with the greater Tidewater Jewish community, B’nai Israel installed Rabbi Sender Haber as its new spiritual leader earlier this month.
Rabbi Haber arrived in Tidewater more than 10 years ago as one of the original four members of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel. In that capacity, he was involved in community-wide programming, teaching, and outreach, inspiring many to expand their Jewish identity and increase their love of Torah and commitment to its observance.
The leader of B’nai Israel’s daily Daf Yomi program for more than five years, Rabbi Haber meets each morning at 6 am, seven days a week with a group of dedicated adult students of Talmud. When this worldwide movement celebrated another completion of the seven and one half year cycle of Talmud study with a Siyum attended by hundreds of thousands of Jews on Aug. 1 in New York, the Norfolk Daf Yomi group was one of only five groups recognized as exemplary of dedicated Talmud study.
Since 2003, Rabbi Haber has been a teacher of Jewish studies at Toras Chaim Day School, teaching with a focus on Gemara, Halacha, and Chumash. He will continue to teach there part-time. He has also taught at Yeshivas Aish Kodesh, and has served as assistant rabbi of B’nai Israel for the past six years. Plus, he serves as the unofficial rabbi of the “Lost Tribe,” Tidewater’s Jewish Motorcycle group. While handling all of these responsibilities, he continues to participate in numerous Chavrusos (oneon- one learning).
Rabbi Haber received his rabbinic ordination (Yoreh Yoreh) from Rabbi Sender Rosenbloom and Rabbi Mordechai Freidlander of the Jerusalem Beth Din. Torah Umesorah Association for Jewish Day Schools awarded him a teaching certificate in 2004 and 2009. In addition, he has spent more than a decade studying Talmud, Jewish Law, and ethics in some of the world’s most prestigious Yeshivos including Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, N.J. and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Haber and his wife Chamie have been married for 12 years and have three children, Minna, Moshe, and Ely.
Chamie Haber is a preschool teacher, having taught at Hebrew Academy for six years and more recently at Toras Chaim. She has also been a popular mentor for adults and teens, teaching classes and spearheading learning and fundraising programs, including being the driving force behind the weekly Women’s Learning Program at B’nai Israel for more than five years. Vivacious and outgoing, she has endless energy to devote to her family and the community, and says she looks forward to increasing her role at the B’nai Israel.
Rabbi Haber says he sees B’nai Israel as “a place where people can come to daven to Hashem and connect to each other and grow in their Torah Judaism. Our wider Jewish community has many valuable resources, and I believe we can all gain by working together.”
Perhaps Rabbi Haber’s strongest demonstration of Jewish values is love for every single Jew, regardless of their affiliation, level of knowledge or observance, age, or the circumstances under which he meets them. Rabbi Haber is frequently found at the Simon Family JCC and Federation events.
“My wife and I have been part of the Norfolk community for most of our adult lives. All of our children were born here. In many ways, our family is a product of the Norfolk community. The mission statement of B’nai Israel is to be ‘The Orthodox Synagogue for all Jews of Hampton Roads.’ Every person who walks into our Shul should feel respected and valued. Everyone has something to add and something to share,” says Rabbi Haber.
by Michael S. Weissman, Ph.D.