(lubavitch.com) On Sunday, Chabad of Ho Chi Minh moved to a new building double the size of its previous location in one of the city's busiest areas. The new move makes room for the growing number of Jews drawn to Vietnam's attractive economic opportunities and alluring beaches, to participate in Chabad's activities.
Once inflated by the number of Jewish servicemen during the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh's permanent Jewish population is little more than 100 in a city of 12 million people. But increasingly, Jewish tourists and businesspeople flock to Vietnam where Rabbi Menachem and Racheli Hartman host 50 to 60 guests for Shabbat dinner most Friday nights.
Honeymooner Liat Abramovich from Israel took time off from Vietnam's turquoise waters to join Chabad of Ho Chi Minh at its new location.
“We were at Chabad for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and the atmosphere was so hospitable. It's wonderful to find warmth in the middle of nowhere,” the new Mrs. Abramovich said. Her month-long honeymoon in Vietnam that stretched over the High Holidays would have lacked Jewish feeling without Chabad she said.
Chabad's new, three-story, 3,800 square foot location stands on a busy street in District 1, the most populous section of the city. The building appears modest alongside the shiny skyscrapers blooming on every other corner, but is sought out for its unique function—the only Jewish center and kosher eatery in this country.
The Hartmans, directors of Chabad of Ho Chi Minh founded in 2006, are proud of Ho Chi Minh's kosher restaurant, equipped with a professional grade kitchen and a spacious dining area on the first floor of the new building.
The sanctuary on the second floor includes a 1000-volume Jewish library offering books in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Yiddish, and with the luxury of space in the new building, the Hartmans expect to grow the library.
Six children attend the preschool on the third floor. Fifteen students enrolled in Chabad's Hebrew school account for just about 100% of Ho Chi Minh's school age Jewish children, according to Rabbi Hartman.
More than any advertising campaign for the Hebrew school, he said, parents are drawn to enroll their children because immigrants feel like outsiders in Vietnam.
“Even my children who are growing up here and speak Vietnamese are considered foreigners.”
With larger quarters, Chabad of Ho Chi Minh has more space to build a community where every Jew feels welcome.