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Cedarburg Jewish Discovery Center aims to share Jewish life and values

Jewish Discovery Center
Eddie Morales
Rabbi Moshe Luchins (left) shows visitor John Dolly a piece of parchment marked with Hebrew letters at the Jewish Discovery Center in downtown Cedarburg.

In downtown Cedarburg, the newJewish Discovery Centeropens its doors to visitors every Sunday, Thursday and Friday.

Inside the center, shelves are decorated with household Jewish items like Shabbat candles, intricate saltshakers and menorahs. There are also displays, artwork, artifacts and more.

Rabbi Moshe Luchins and his wife, Sheina, opened the center in June. Luchins said it’s a project helmed by the Peltz Center for Jewish Life, which serves the Mequon, Grafton and Cedarburg areas.

"That’s why we came out to Cedarburg; to share a little bit more," he said. "Cedarburg didn’t have so much of a Jewish community feeling. There are certainly many Jewish families here to create that feeling."

Luchins is a guide for curious visitors like John Dolly, who made the trip to Cedarburg from Texas to visit his son. During Dolly’s visit, Luchins answered his questions, like how a mezuzah is made.

The mezuzah functions as a faith-based security device. It’s a rolled-up piece of leather parchment in Jewish households that's kept in a slim protective case. Dolly took notice to the distinct Hebrew characters.

"It almost looks like I’m looking at it upside down, or you read right to left or top to bottom," Dolly said to Luchins. "It’s pretty unique."

A scribe carefully writes Hebrew verses from the Torah onto the parchment using a quill pen and black ink. Luchins said there’s no room for error during the scribe’s process.

"In order," Luchins said of the writing. "It has to be exact. If he goes back, no mistakes allowed. No mistakes are allowed when it comes to making the mezuzah."

A clear case near the mezuzah displays several hollow animal horns called shofars. Shofars are instruments typically made from ram horns, and used during Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Luchins demonstrated how the shofar is used to create crying sounds that represent tears of happiness or sadness.

"There’s shevarim, which is three broken up sounds," he said. "When a person is crying they go through those different sounds."

A small, bronze-colored sculpture depicts a soldier leaning against a brick wall. It caught Dolly’s attention.

"Is that also the Wailing Wall, and it’s where they can leave messages?" Dolly asked. "It’s quite a popular spot too, isn’t it?"

Luchins explained how the soldier is at a temple wall; a main stop for people in Israel. He then read a message written on the sculpture, which translates in English to "the idea of that we never forget."

Rabbi Moshe Luchins explains the menorah's meaning during a tour at the new Jewish Discovery Center.
Eddie Morales
Rabbi Moshe Luchins explains the menorah's meaning during a tour at the new Jewish Discovery Center.

Dolly said he enjoyed what the Jewish Discovery Center had to offer.

"It’s a very friendly, helping, nice, atmosphere," he said. "Exposing a little bit to the culture that you might not be familiar with; I like that."

Luchins said the center will open its second floor in September to host interactive classes and meetings. For Luchins, the center will be a space for future generations. He said local Jewish families have shown appreciation for the Peltz Center’s efforts.

"They are blown away," he said. "The fact that this became a reality. Some of them, they’ve told me that this is their dream to have a place, a place where they can be comfortable."

Luchins said the Cedarburg community has been supportive of the center, with locals stopping in to say hi and writing welcoming letters.

"This means everything to them, knowing that there’s a community that is there with them experiencing the same things as them," he said. "They don’t have to go all the way out somewhere. They should feel comfortable being Jewish and be proud to be Jewish."

The center also offers kosher food items from The Deli on Crown in Mequon. The Peltz Center for Jewish Life will host its fourth annual Jewish Food Festival at Mequon’s Rotary Park on August 14 and 15.

Eddie is a WUWM news reporter.
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