First ‘Aleph House’ to be established in S. Carolina
On April 5th, two weeks before Passover the orthodox Jewish community of Columbia, South Carolina signed the deed on the first ‘Aleph House’. The Aleph House will function as a Chabad center as well as provide basic needs for Jewish soldiers during their time at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.
Founded by Rabbi Lipskar in 1981 on instruction of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Aleph continues to grow as an institution which has touched countless Jewish lives. Among other things, Aleph is one of two orthodox Jewish endorsing agencies for Military chaplains, providing resources for Jewish soldiers both in the United States and for soldiers on deployment. Aleph regularly enables thousands of Jewish soldiers to celebrate the Jewish holidays by sending prayer books, food and other items to Jewish chaplains. In 2008 Aleph sent a Torah scroll to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, so that Yom Kippur services could be conducted.
The city of Columbia is well known for it’s large Army base, Fort Jackson. Fort Jackson is not only the largest Initial Entry Taining Center in the U.S. Army, training 50 percent of all soldiers, but also home to AFCC, the Chaplain Training School which each Chaplain candidate must pass through before being accepted into the Army. In 2010 the Naval and Airforce Chaplaincy schools also relocated to Fort Jackson.
“With such a large proportion of soldiers passing through Fort Jackson, Columbia is a prime location for establishing the first Aleph House,” says Aleph endorsed Rabbi Major Soussan, who currently teaches at the Chaplain School at Fort Jackson. “Soldiers will have a place to spend Shabbat and other Festivals during their time here.”
In addition to functioning as a facility to host and nurture Jewish soldiers, the Aleph House will serve as the home of the first ever orthodox synagogue in Columbia. When Rabbi Hesh Epstein and his wife Chavi came to Columbia over twenty years ago, they established the first orthodox community in Columbia. With the expansion of the weekly minyan , the growing community began renting facilities at a local country club to conduct Shabbat services.
“We are delighted to have outgrown our old facilities and finally have a permanent address for our synagogue,” says Rabbi Epstein.
The Aleph House in Columbia is the first of its kind and promises to be a center where Jewish soldiers can celebrate Shabbat, partake in holiday events and reconnect to the Jewish community during their military service.