Second-Generation San Diego Chabadniks
restore Orthodoxy to Downtown area,  Jan. 13, 2005

By Donald H. Harrison

Although he is still working out of his residence in San Diego’s downtown, Chabad Rabbi Zalman Carlebach has little doubt that this revitalizing area of the city someday will support a full-scale shul.

 If he ever had a doubt, all he needed to do was look across the breakfast table at his wife, Nechama Dina Carlebach, who knows from first-hand experience about the growth potential of San Diego—or “S. Diego” as it is called by some haredi Jews who don’t wish to acknowledge inadvertently the Roman Catholic concept of sainthood.

Rebbetzin Carlebach  is the daughter of Rabbi Yonah Fradkin, who came to San Diego as a pioneer Chabad rabbi in the 1970s. Fradkin settled near San Diego State University, opened a small Hebrew school in 1980, and built and built.  The result: today there are 10 Chabad facilities in the greater San Diego County area—the downtown facility being only the latest of them.

The young rebbitzin saw her father nurture Chabad into a network of institutions serving nearly every pocket of Jewish settlement in San Diego County, and even reaching just beyond the county's borders to Tijuana, Mexico, on its south, and the town of Temecula, in Riverside County, to its north.

The original Chabad House near San Diego State University was left under the care of  Rabbi Chalom Boudjnak to serve college students as well as older residents of that area, while Fradkin and the Chabad’s San Diego County headquarters moved to a sprawling multi-million dollar facility in a rustic portion of Scripps Ranch, home of the modern Chabad Hebrew Academy.  Rabbi Fradkin’s son—Rabbi Yosef Fradkin—helped his father transition to the headquarters’ facility.

Financial contributors in other parts of San Diego County have taken Chabad to their hearts. The Lubavitcher Chasidic organization has modern synagogues in the University City area of San Diego and the suburban city of Poway, respectively led by Rabbis Moishe Leider and Yisroel Goldstein. Both these facilities host senior programs operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

Smaller Chabad congregations can be reached by traveling north on  coastal Interstate 5 from downtown San Diego to the picturesque La Jolla Shores, home of the University of California San Diego; to Carmel Valley/ Del Mar, known for its racetrack and beaches, and to La Costa, home of one of the world’s best known golf-courses. These congregations are led respectively by Rabbis Shalom Ezagui, Hirsh Piekarski, and Yeruchem Eilfort.

From downtown San Diego one also may proceed north on the inland freeway—Interstate 15—and soon pass the Chabad headquarters at Scripps Ranch, later the Chabad synagogue and school on the Poway-Rancho Bernardo border, and eventually reach the Chabad of Temecula, recently established in a suburban home by Rabbi Yitzchok Hurwitz.

South of San Diego, there are more Chabad operations.  In Bonita, an inland portion of the suburban city of Chula Vista, the Beth Eliyahu Torah Center—the area’s only Sephardic congregation—is led by Chabad-trained Rabbi Daniel Srugo. Further south, in Tijuana, Rabbi Mendel Polichenco is spiritual leader of the Chabad synagogue housed incongruously at the Centro Social Israelita—the Jewish Social Center, complete with swimming pool and tennis courts.

Although Rabbi Fradkin’s legacy is everywhere around him, Rabbi Carlebach can boast of some well known personages on his side of the family too..  His late cousin, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, was world renowned for his use of music and joy in his services—a legendary rabbi who today has many admiring imitators.

For now, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Carlebach are home shul-ing in San Diego; that is they hold Shabbat services and classes in their  downtown apartment not far from San Diego’s new Petco Ballpark and it 1996-GOP National Convention-hosting Convention Center. The Carlebachs  pass on their address by word of mouth to people who call them at (619) 301-7450 or by email via  

The Carlebachs are making progress in spreading the word that Orthodox Judaism has returned to downtown San Diego after a hiatus of approximately 70 years.

Tifereth Israel Synagogue,
  the city’s first Orthodox congregation—which later became affiliated with the Conservative movement—moved in the 1930s from its home at 18th and Market Street east to a newer facility in San Diego’s North Park area.  It subsequently moved even further east to the San Carlos section of San Diego. 

Carlebach received his smicha in Pretoria, South Africa, and the rebbetzin is a graduate of the Beth Chana Teachers Seminiary in Safed, Israel.  The couple has been involved in outreach work in locales ranging from Nepal to Australia.

This recent Chanukah  provided them opportunities for their first public events in San Diego.  They held a program at City Front Terrace attended by 75 persons, and menorah lightings at Balboa Park, the Civic Theatre and the downtown Horton Plaza Shopping Center.