BJH: I’m here today with Rabbi Elchonon Chaikin, CEO of Cheder Chabad in Baltimore, ” Rabbi Chaikin, welcome to the interview!
R’ Chaikin: Great to be here!
BJH: OK, let’s get right to it. I understand you came on board at Cheder Chabad recently, is that right?
R’ Chaikin: Yes, I joined two years ago, and it’s been a big z’chus. Educational institutions are really the center of a Jewish community, and Cheder Chabad is no different. It is the breeding ground for future Shluchim around the world and community members who will go out and inspire the Jews around them. To be involved in that, is truly a special shlichus. .
BJH: What are your day-to-day responsibilities at the Cheder?
R’ Chaikin: First off, our staff is amazing, and anything I say that “I” take care of definitely doesn’t mean I do it alone. But officially, all matters outside of the classroom are my responsibility. The building, the staff, the fundraising. And how to fit in the next 100 students that come through the door next year. Things like that!
BJH: That’s a big job! Do you manage to sleep at night?
R’ Chaikin: Sometimes, mostly during sukkos and pesach!
BJH: Tell me, without going into all the history of the Cheder, what’s new in recent years? What’s developing over at Cheder Chabad?
R’ Chaikin: What’s new is growth, physically I mean. In the past few years, we’ve doubled in size. We were always growing, but that was a big climb. It’s a big bracha. We have also made significant investment into our curriculum in all departments.
BJH: Can you tell me more?
R’ Chaikin: We have families in our school with a student in nearly every grade. They are super loyal to us – they love the cheder, and we love them. On top of that, new Chabad families move in and send their kids our way.
On a chinuch level, every department has had an upgrade in the last two years with either additional personnel or resources to provide more tailored and upgraded curriculums and programming. We have also invested more in our teachers with additional training.
BJH: How do you keep up?
R’ Chaikin: It’s really siyata dishmaya, and we work hard. We encourage ourselves — I mean all of the staff — that what we’re doing is our shlichus from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and we are given special kochos from Hashem in order to be successful. We have to find ways to provide the students with whatever they need, no matter how many there are.
BJH: I understand you’ll be launching a major fundraising campaign, is that right?
R’ Chaikin: How did you know?
BJH: You emailed me about it!
R’ Chaikin: Haha, ok good, glad someone’s reading those emails! Yes, we’ve got a big campaign coming, it’s called “Family, Friends, Teamwork.” And it’s a little different than your average campaign.
BJH: How so?
R’ Chaikin: Well, of course, I want to reach our fundraising goal. But a big focus here was the participation of the parents and friends of the school. If we all get together, and work hard on this, and everyone feels like a real part of the school — which they are — I’ll consider this a success, no matter what we bring in. That’s where the name came from, “family, friends, teamwork,” that’s really what we’re going for.
BJH: Is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers?
R’ Chaikin: First off, I’d like to add to you personally that I’m expecting a donation from you!
BJH: 100%! Bli neder, I’m in. How much are you trying to raise with this campaign, and when will it take place?
R’ Chakin: We aim to raise $(500,000) on 2 Kislev-November 15.
BJH: Amazing! Thank you so much for speaking with us today. We wish you tremendous hatzlacha with the Cheder. We’re sure it’s going to be an amazing success!
R’ Chaikin: Amen!