The two wanted to share Judaism with other Jews on Capitol Hill and in the Central District, so in October 2015, they began the Chabad of Capitol Hill.
“The mission is to reach every Jew, no matter where they are,” Levi said, adding the organization has seen a mix of Jews who have been active with their faith and others who are just discovering or rediscovering Judaism. Jews of all ages, family units, sexual orientations, and political views are welcome, he says.
“That’s kind of the beauty of what I like about Capitol Hill — the diverse demographics and age groups.”
The Chabad movement has grown to thousands of local groups like the one formed here on the Hill. Its outreach has become a signature quality of the effort to create a worldwide network of organizations and small gatherings to offer humanitarian support and religious, cultural and educational activities. Sometimes, it means little more than potato pancakes.
This Thursday on Capitol Hill, the Levitins are bringing fans of latkeh together to make and eat the fried potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream. People can participate in a latkeh cook-off, judge the best recipe, and eat the results. The Levitins are also planning a community Menorah lighting, but the details are still being finalized. Chanukah begins Saturday, December 24.Each week, the Chabad of Capitol Hill hosts a Shabbat dinner with challah bread. The first course is fish, salads and dips, which is followed by chicken soup. The main course includes a meat dish with vegetables and other side dishes, and dessert follows.
The meals have built relationships between guests, Rivkah said. “We’re creating friendships, which is really, really nice,” she said.
About 15 people attended the most recent Shabbat dinner, Levi said. He was the only native Seattleite, which he said demonstrates the growing Jewish community in the city.
According to a 2014 study Jewish populations in Seattle have increased by 70% since 2001. That increase is one of the reasons the Levitins decided to open a Chabad branch on the Hill. It is one of the five relatively new branches in Seattle, he said.
His twin brother runs the Ballard branch, and their parents actually founded the first Chabad in the Pacific Northwest. There are about 3,500 branches across the world.
“This is something I have always wanted to do,” Levi told CHS.
While there are guidelines to follow, each branch adapts to their neighborhood to meet the needs of the Jewish community there.
“We want to be there for anything that you need physically or spiritually,” Rivkah said.
This coming year, Rivkah wants to start a mommy and me program incorporating Jewish activities and get young children involved in Judaism early.
In the future, maybe not in 2017, but at some point, they would also like to have bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah clubs.
“We’re only a year old. We have plans to do more, a lot more,” Levi said.
You can learn more at chabadcapitolhill.org.
UPDATE: Join Chabad of Capitol Hill at Cal Anderson on December 29th for a menorah lighting ceremony.