Three months after a new Chabad center was announced for Pensacola, a third location for Chabad along the Florida panhandle coast was announced, in Panama City Beach.
Rabbi Mendy and Chaya Havlin and their three young sons are moving to the area to establish a Chabad presence, at the invitation of the Achdut Israel community, a small Sephardic Orthodox congregation mainly of Israelis in the area.
The first Chabad center in the panhandle was established in 2013 in Destin by Rabbi Shaya Tenenboim, who was a classmate of Rabbi Havlin. Last September, Rabbi Mendel Danow arrived in Pensacola to establish Chabad there, just days before Hurricane Michael hit the area and caused extensive damage in the Panama City area.
For Panama City, “the arrival of Chabad Shluchim will give strength and support to the local residents,” said Rabbi Havlin.
The three panhandle Chabads are overseen by Rabbi Schneor Zalman Oirechman of Chabad of the Panhandle in Tallahassee.
Mrs. Havlin said they want to start with offering educational opportunities for children. As a former principal of a preschool, she said they want to start a religious school, offering Bar and Bat Mitzvah lessons and the CTeen program. “Our plans are to create a schedule of Torah lessons for the adults, and community events as well,” and they hope to establish a daily minyan.
They also want to serve tourists and businesspeople who come to the area, as well as Jewish students on Spring Break.
“We want to reach every Jew and be there for everyone, men and women, kids and adults,” she said.
Rabbi Havlin is a son of Rabbi Moshe Havlin, the Rosh Yeshiva in Kiryat Gat, and chief rabbi of Kiryat Gat and Sderot, in Southern Israel. There are several groups in Alabama that maintain close ties to organizations in Sderot.
He has studied in Brooklyn and Israel, and taught in Argentina, Israel and Ukraine.
Mrs. Havlin is a daughter of Rabbi Zushe Alperowitz, the Mashpia and Rebbe’s Shliach to Kiryat Gat. While they are from Israel, she said they have a lot of family in the United States, and many family members that have been sent by Chabad to locations all over the world.
They have established a website, here.
In addition to Achdut Israel, which dedicated a mikvah in 2014, Panama City has a Reform congregation, B’nai Israel.