By Chabad on Campus
Over 250 People Attend Chabad of Southside’s Groundbreaking Event for New $2.9 Million Dollar Center
This past Sunday, September 18, over 250 people attended Chabad of Southside’s Jewish Life Center for a groundbreaking event that marked the beginning of construction on their new, 10,000 square-foot religious hub.
The Chabad of Southside’s Jewish Life Center, a cultural and religious hub that provides the Jews of the local universities and community of Jacksonville with weekly Sabbath meals, prayer services, and social events, hosted a groundbreaking event on September 18th to mark the beginning of construction of their new facility. Over 250 people came out in the 90°F heat for the occasion, including Republican Nominee for US Congress, John Rutherford, and recently elected member to The House of Representatives, Clay Yarborough.
The 10,000 square-foot structure will be equipped with a student lounge, a library, a full-featured kosher kitchen for Shabbat and holiday meals, a kosher café, a dining hall, an activity room, and a preschool. The center is the first synagogue to be built in Jacksonville in this century and will be the first kosher establishment available to Jewish students. The new building will carry a hefty $2.9 million dollar price tag, and cornerstone donations have been made by couples Lazar and Raissa Finker-Frenkel and Dinie and Ryan Shapiro, who all attended the Sunday event, as well as Moris & Lillian Tabacinic, who were unable to be present. Eugene and Brooke Frenkel, of the Finker-Frenkel Foundation, who have been so instrumental in this project’s success, we’re also in attendance
Part of the necessity for a larger building comes from the desire of Rabbi Shmuli and Chana Novack, who founded the Lubavitch center in 2006, to expand their efforts to reach out to the more-than 1000 Jewish students who attend the neighboring schools, the University of North Florida (UNF), Florida State College, and Florida Coastal School of Law. The Chabad house is the only full-time Jewish center available to UNF students.
Chabad on Campus began through an initiative by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, of blessed memory, to send Jewish emissaries, or Shluchim, around the world. It is a rapidly expanding network of over 235 centers serving colleges and universities globally. It represents the largest network of full-time professionally staffed Jewish campus centers in the world.
“It was my first week of school and I was walking around campus when something caught my attention,” said UNF graduate, Steven Bigio, who flew in to emcee the event. “There were two Jewish rabbis, grilling under a tent, chatting with some people. Even though I was a very shy freshman, I approached them and they immediately treated me as if they had known me for a very long time. That moment was pivotal to my education at UNF and indeed to my future. Looking back at that first kosher BBQ, I am amazed at how it continues to positively impact my life, even 10 years later.”
Said Rabbi Novack: “The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose continuing inspiration is plainly evident here today, met a depressed Jewish world when he assumed leadership. The Nazis had just destroyed one third of the world’s Jewish population and a revival of passionate Jewish Life was seen as fantasy of wild proportions. But the Rebbe was an optimist and used the transformational power of positivity to establish Chabad Centers, like this one, to shift the trend from Jewish apathy to Jewish pride and passion. This event today is another step of the Rebbe’s mission of spreading goodness and kindness in order to create a better, more compassionate world.”
His words had added poignancy when he called attention to Jacksonville resident, Esther Sauer, who escaped the Nazis as a young girl and was present to witness this proud expansion of Jewish life.