Rabbi at Cheder Chabad of Baltimore Aims to Grow Student Body and Yeshivah Presence

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Cheder Chabad of Baltimore, a local yeshivah, has recently welcomed a new member into its ranks. Rabbi Elchonon Chaikin will serve as the school’s new director of development, where he will be involved with community engagement, fundraising and outreach to Cheder Chabad-affiliated parents, families and supporters — locally, nationally and even internationally.

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The yeshivah started in 2007 out of a Park Heights basement with a class of 12 preschool-aged students. Since then, it has grown to accommodate 400 students across its preschool and kindergarten through eighth-grade girls division; and kindergarten through eighth-grade boys division.

Staff at Cheder Chabad aim to help their students develop a love of G-d and Torah, using a curriculum that incorporates Jewish teachings alongside traditional preschool, elementary-school and middle-school level education. Children as young as 6 months old can engage in faith-based education, setting them on the path of Jewish learning early on.

It’s the perfect position for the 29-year-old Park Heights resident, who has been involved in Jewish education since he was young. Born and raised in Cleveland, he attended school at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland and went on to study in places like Chicago, Miami, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Israel. Fittingly, he noted that his favorite subject in school was Jewish history.

“I was born into a Chabad family and was raised in that environment, where giving to others and sharing the knowledge and inspiration I had — and growing my observance and my commitment to Judaism — were all considered values and virtues,” said Chaikin, noting that entering the field of education was always in the cards for him. “It was of utmost importance to share knowledge with and inspire those around me, and make education available. By extension, that would inspire the next person, and each one of us would work hard. Each and every one of us works hard to inspire all those people in our circle of influence.”

After graduating, Chaikin became a counselor and mentor to students attending his former high school. Following a break during which he got married, he studied at a Kollel in Brooklyn and earned his degree in rabbinical studies at Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitz. He received rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Gavriel Vinner.

Soon after, he and his wife, Mussie, served as directors of the Sinai Initiative at Chabad of Greater Dayton in Ohio, where he ran programming for teens and young professionals for more than four years. That work served as a predecessor for his current responsibilities at Cheder Chabad of Baltimore.

‘A hidden gem in our community’

“I was looking for a change of focus in the education field,” he explained. “Someone suggested I look into finding opportunities and putting myself out there more.” When Cheder Chabad reached out to him in early 2022, he gladly accepted.

“Our school teaches its students that beyond their education, they have a responsibility to their fellow Jews,” said the rabbi. “Besides being proud and observant Jews, they should spread their commitment and dedication and pride to the Jews around them.”

Outside of his work at Cheder Chabad of Baltimore, Chaikin is a member of Congregation Ohel Levi Yitzchok Lubavitch, a department of Chabad of Park Heights, as well as the Tz’eiri Anash Shul.

Ultimately, his duty at Cheder Chabad is to grow the school in its student body and programming — and that is just what he aims to do during his time working on the yeshivah’s staff.

“I want to grow the school physically, but also make it so that Cheder Chabad becomes a household name,” he noted, “through its education, what it provides for the community, and through its students and faculty.”

“I think Cheder Chabad is a hidden gem in our community. Strong Jewish education is the only guarantee for Judaism in the next generation,” said Chaikin. “And I’m willing to put my money down and say that the more we invest in Jewish education for both children and adults, the more robust, dedicated and committed Jews we will have in our community.”

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