Destin area Jewish community welcomes new rabbi

Pam Griffin
"Since the rabbi and his family are here, we feel a new life force in our Judaism,” said Jacob Kakun (left), an active member of the Jewish community.

Chabad, a worldwide Jewish organization, recently opened a new branch on the Emerald Coast.

Rabbi Yeshayahu (Shaya) Tenenboim, 31, who arrived from south Florida with his family just before the Jewish holiday season, told The Log that he serves as a rabbi, but his main position is a Chabad rabbi, who will care and help everyone, not only synagogue members.

“At this point I’m a rabbi in the local synagogue, Beth Israel of Destin,” he said. “But based on the needs of the community we’ll probably open in addition a general center that offers much more than synagogue.”

The local Jewish community is very excited and grateful for this “burst of new energy” the Tenenboims have brought with them and look forward to years of growth and enjoyment “basking in the richness of their heritage.”

“We got the right people, in the right time,” said Shimon Fadida, a long time leading community member.

Tenenboim and his wife, Mrs. Rochel, are excited about this new chapter in their lives and look forward to creating a warm and welcoming Chabad House, where “every Jew will find their individual and collective assistance with all their spiritual needs.”

Chabad, according to Tenenboim, is “a movement that gives a deep understanding to Judaism. It’s very well known as an ‘outreach’ organization that helps Jews in their spiritual needs, but not only. We carry a universal message, and help anyone who needs, but as a Jewish organization we ‘bother’ mainly Jewish people.”

On the website, Chabad-Lubavitch is described as a chassidic movement founded by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi in the latter part of the 18th century that emphasizes the importance of “Chabad,” an acronym for “Chochmoh, Binah, Da’at” (wisdom, understanding and knowledge); the concept of studying and understanding God and His relationship with the world.

“This is just the beginning of the philosophy part,” Tenenboim said by email. “The movement is known mainly for its worldwide loving kindness activities.”

This outreach can include adult education, holiday celebrations, preschools, day schools, synagogues and visitations to old age homes, prisons, hospitals, army bases and more.

Adults and children from as far away as Pensacola and other cities attended the inaugural event Sept. 22, “Falafel in the Hut,” for Sukkot, a weeklong Jewish holiday when it’s customary to have all the festive meals in the Sukkah (hut).

The holiday celebration introduced the Tenenboims to the community as the representative of chabad on the Emerald Coast.

With the only Sukkah in town, the Tenenboims invited members of the Jewish community to their home for a taste of Falafel, a typical Israeli food, and songs, music and lots of talk.

For many, it was the first time they had ever seen a Sukkah, and for others, they were reminded of their own childhood.

 “This Falafel takes me 30 years back to my childhood in Israel,” said Danny Amar of Destin.

Parents were pleased when they saw their children learning about the holiday and enjoying a special program led by Mrs. Rochel.

“Our next celebration will be much larger, God willing, a Chanukah celebration/Menorah lighting in the beginning of December,” said Teneboim in an email.

Beit Israel Orthodox Synagogue of Destin, 1219 Airport Road, # 316, has prayer at sundown Fridays and 9 a.m. Saturdays. Call Shimon Fadida, 259-5590 or email Rabbi Tenenboim at for more information.