Rabbi Yosef "Yossi" and Chana'le Stein want to spread the joy of Judaism in the Altoona area.
The Steins, formerly of Pittsburgh, moved to the area with their two sons this summer to establish a Chabad Lubavitch center at their Duncansville home.
Their goal is to complement activities and programs already available at Temple Beth Israel and Agudath Achim Synagogue, both of Altoona.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) The Yosef “Yossi” Stein family has established a Chabad to offer programs to the Jewish community. They are (from left) Mendel, 5, Srolik, 1, Rabbi Stein and his wife, Chana’le
"We want to serve the people in all types of ways and offer a place for people to get together," Yossi Stein said. "Our goal is to connect with the community, to serve the community in any way we can."
"We don't want to cause any friction. Our goal is to work hand-in-hand," Chana'le Stein said.
The Steins are Orthodox but are not looking to convert anyone and membership is not required to participate in activities.
"We are fully Orthodox and do everything by the code of Jewish law, but people don't have to change their lifestyle. We hope to embrace everyone. If our goal was to make people become Orthodox, we might as well close shop," Yossi Stein said.
Chana'le Stein said affiliated and nonaffiliated Jews are invited to activities at the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Center of Greater Altoona, including a Shabbot service held the second Friday of the month.
Planned activities include Pizza in a Hut to observe Sukkot and Hannukah bowling for children.
Chana'le will hold a Jewish story hour for ages 4 to 7 at Barnes and Noble Booksellers in December and Kids in the Kitchen for 8- to 11-year-olds this fall. Mommy and Me programs also are scheduled. Beyond the children's programs, she hopes to teach women's classes.
"Chana'le is a good teacher, especially on women's topics," Yossi Stein said.
He is holding education classes before holidays including the High Holy Days, Hanukkah, Passover and a summer program. More information about the activities is available on the Chabad center's website at jewish
"It's another door for people to come in," Yossi Stein said about the website. "People can read about Jewish topics and consult the Jewish calendar. There is a lot on the website. It is a big asset for the community."
Yossi Stein first became acquainted with the Altoona area while traveling from Pittsburgh to prisons in central Pennsylvania where he serves as a chaplain to Jewish prisoners through the Aleph Institute.
He was always near or traveling through Altoona on his way to Loretto, Cresson, Huntingdon, Houtzdale and Philipsburg.
"We discovered a beautiful, warm Jewish community here," Yossi Stein said.
He said is it common to establish Chabad Lubavitch centers in communities the size of Altoona.
"It is the largest Jewish outreach in the world with 3,000 centers in 70 countries, operated by 4,000 families," he said.
Lubavitch takes it name from Lyubavichi, a city in Russia where Chabad was first organized about 100 years ago. In 1940, its headquarters was moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., by Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn. His son-in-law, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, encouraged members of the movement not to think only about themselves but the entire Jewish community, Yossi Stein said.
Although the Steins only started the Chabad about two months ago, they became acquainted with the local Jewish community during the past year.
Hazzan Michael Horwitz, spiritual leader at Agudath Achim Synagogue, called them a "breath of fresh air."
"I am thrilled that they are here to offer programs and help us grow and enhance what is needed in Blair County," he said.
"The new Chabad center with the Stein family helps the Jewish people in our community reach out to seek peace and harmony with each other," Horwitz said.
The Chabad is expected to be involved somewhat in the religious school that is a joint effort of the Agudath Achim Synagogue, a Conservative congregation, and Temple Beth Israel, a Reform congregation.
Rabbi Audrey R. Korotkin of Temple Beth Israel said the way the Chabad teaches reflects its perspective (Orthodox). She said at this point she is not sure how it all fits.